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Dec 30, 2019

Meet one of our OneSky Heroes!

Student and teacher share a moment.
Student and teacher share a moment.

Every year an American pianist named Ursula visits special friends at an orphanage in southwest China, volunteering her time and talents to give the gift of music to the children. She is one of our #OneSkyHeroes. We hope you enjoy this story about her and thank you for your kind support of the OneSky Approach in China’s orphanages.

Arriving two weeks before their annual music show, Ursula’s task is huge, but her methods are simple. She isn’t there to stand over children as they learn the notes. Instead, her aim is to inspire, to make the children fall in love with the joy of both music and learning. Many of the children she teaches live with foster families near the orphanage and attend classes onsite during the day. 

And before she leaves, the children get a much-anticipated chance to perform.

“Most trainers teach children to pass the piano tests, but Ursula focuses on fostering children’s love and appreciation for music,” explains OneSky Child Development Trainer, Guoxian.

“She lets the children find their happiness and confidence through music, choosing songs according to the different capabilities of each individual.”

OneSky trains caregivers to promote learning through curiosity, allowing children to take a lead in their own development. The OneSky Approach also encourages children to bond with carers. By knowing they are loved and valued, children also learn self-worth and how to form relationships.

Tangtang, a boy born with rickets, which has caused him to struggle with standing and walking, is one such child. He has learned how to love and be loved. Despite his handicap, he is a popular, confident boy that’s happy to be challenged. Playing the piano has become a passion.

For him, Ursula’s visits are long anticipated.

After his first year learning with Ursula, Tangtang was amazed to discover she’d be returning.

“Really?” he told her. “I can learn from you every year?”

She assured him that was the case and Ursula has kept her promise.

Their admiration is mutual.

“Tangtang is very special,” Ursula says. “He’s so friendly, not at all shy. He’s been taking lessons since the first year I visited,” adds Ursula.

During the rest of the year, Tangtang frequently asks his caregivers, “When will Ursula visit?”

It was Ursula, herself, who initiated the now annual lessons and concerts. Since 2014, Ursula has travelled annually from California to China to provide one-on-one piano tutoring.

“I was so inspired by (OneSky founder) Jenny for what she’s done for the children in China, I decided to see if I could do something to make those children happy using music,” explains Ursula.

“I was really impressed with the children studying piano with me, most were handicapped. They worked very hard during the two weeks I was there. I always thought those kids were so talented because they usually had to learn one or two pieces in just 10 days before the concert.”

Ursula’s career has seen her play to audiences in impressive venues all across America. But the gratification she receives from teaching vulnerable children in China is just as meaningful to her as the accolades she gets from performing on stage.

“You could really see from their faces just how happy they were after they learned to play a piece,” she says.

The joy of music!
The joy of music!
Dec 18, 2019

From Village Mom to Family Mentor: Ge's Story

Having fun while learning!
Having fun while learning!

Meet Ge, one of our dedicated OneSky Family Mentors. Thanks to her work with us she is able to remain home with her children in their small rural village instead of leaving in search of factory work in a faraway city. We hope you enjoy her story and we appreciate all your past support of our village program!  

Ge works as a OneSky Family Mentor in a rural village in China. Below is her first-hand account of how she was able to stay at home with her children while helping out other families in her village … 

Up until 2015, my sons Xuanxuan and Chenchen were cared for by their grandparents while my husband and I worked away from our home in a village in China. I came home to visit my sons only once a year for the Spring Festival holiday. When the holiday was over and I had to leave them to go back to work, my parents-in-law had to take Chenchen away because he could not stop crying. Usually, my older son Xuanxuan was able to say goodbye, but I will never forget the day he pleaded with tears in his eyes, “Can you stay with us and not leave?” I told him, “Why don’t you understand? If I do not go to work, how can I earn money for you? Please listen to your grandparents and be a good boy at home.” I can still remember Xuanxuan’s grieving eyes.

At the time I was so focused on earning money for my family that I didn’t realize how harsh my response was. Still, I must have felt guilty because I became very sad when I heard that Chenchen, at the age of five, was asking why other mothers could take their children to school and pick them up, but not his. I was not very busy at work so I asked for a leave and returned home to visit my sons.

During my leave, I learned that OneSky was establishing its village programs so I applied for the job of Family Mentor. I was thrilled to get the job and, after discussing it with my husband, decided to take it so I could stay in the village. The training for my new job combined theoretical knowledge with role play and the topics included Building a Brain, the Responsive Care Cycle, and Secure Attachment.

My training made me realize how important the early years are for cognitive, physical and social-emotional development and how I had fallen short as a parent. For example, my sons were not good at expressing their feelings and ideas, which I realized was closely related to my parenting methods. In the past, I had been very dedicated to arranging everything for my children. When they objected, I blamed them for being disobedient. It was no wonder that Chenchen gradually stopped voicing any objections to my plans.

In 2016 my resolve to change my parenting style was tested when Chenchen’s classmates applied for a summer class under the supervision of their caregivers. I asked Chenchen, “Would you like to apply for it too?” Trained as he had been to defer to me, Chenchen, who was 6 years old, responded: “I’ll listen to you.” But I was committed to following the lead of my child as I had been trained to do. I told Chenchen: “This time, you can make the decision.”

At first, Chenchen stayed silent because he had gotten out of the habit of thinking for himself, but I kept encouraging him. Finally, he said, “Mom, I do not want to go to the summer class. Is it OK?”  After thinking about it for a while, I agreed that Chenchen didn’t have to go to the summer class. Chenchen was so happy he jumped up and down. During that summer, I helped him with his studies at home and he had a happy summer vacation.

This year, going into third grade, Chenchen actually volunteered to go to a summer class in part because he was intrigued by a newly added subject: English. He asked me, “Mom, can you speak English?” I said, “Not really.” Chenchen went to the class happily every day. At the end of the class, he was among the best in all three subjects, Chinese, Math and English.

My relationships with both of my sons have improved since I received training and I’m gratified to see similar changes in other families. In fact, the changes have been so pronounced that villagers who adopted a wait-and-see attitude when OneSky’s Family Skills program was established, now completely accept OneSky’s parenting ideas.

For example, I started going to the mahjong room to talk to one mom Li and her kindergartner. At first, she did not welcome my advice, “I am good at taking care of my child. Lili can play with my cell phone for almost half a day quietly without intruding on my playing mahjong. This is very good.” When I showed her an article about the downside of too much screen time, including TV and mobile phones, she looked shocked, though she stayed silent.

Reluctantly, Li attended a Family Skills session about getting children to listen and follow instructions. One of the main points was “helping children prepare for changes.” At first, the caregivers did not understand, but after some explanation, they started to talk loudly about what they did at home, which was to tell their children/grandchildren to do something right away even if they were interrupting them. This always led to the children crying loudly. Each caregiver shared one of his/her own examples and resolved to change. At the end of the session, Li said, “This advice is reasonable.”

Since Li’s second daughter, Xinxin, who is now 10 months old, was born, she has not played mahjong at all and often goes to the Center to listen to family sessions and participate in parent-child activities and seek advice. She has said many times regretfully, “If the OneSky Family Skills Program had been established earlier I would have taken care of my oldest daughter much better.”

I have the same regrets about how I raised my older son Xuanxuan, whom I forced to attend summer classes, which didn’t help his grades but did make him unhappy and led to his venting his dissatisfaction by throwing things. But like Li, I am determined to do better and I’m grateful for my job and determined to make great efforts to give left-behind children in the countryside a childhood that enables them to feel the warmth of a mother and promotes their cognitive, physical and social-emotional development.

One on one time.
One on one time.
Nov 19, 2019

Helping Women Help Children in Vietnam

Creative play.
Creative play.

As the holiday season is nearly upon us, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you, our dedicated supporters, for your continued generosity on behalf of the children of factory workers in Vietnam. We hope you enjoy this special field report about a few of the women living in Vietnam whose lives have been impacted by our work.  

Young women account for up to 70 percent of migrant workers in Vietnam’s factories.

Their children lack residency status for public preschool or daycare. Where quality local private preschool is available, fees are usually higher than most can afford. Instead, they rely on home-based care (HBC)—many of which have untrained staff. In total, 1.2 million children live in Vietnam’s industrial zones.

In 2017, OneSky opened an Early Learning Center (ELC) for the children of rural migrants in Da Nang’s industrial zone. To help even more children, a year later OneSky provided training to 240 local home-based caregivers. Now, working with the Vietnamese government, OneSky is set to expand this service to 19 provinces across the country.

For this report, OneSky spoke to three women (and a young girl) whose lives have been changed by the ELC:

Anh, Headteacher at OneSky Early Learning Center in Da Nang

“OneSky has changed my own perspective. I used to work for a private kindergarten for 14 years, where moms worked regular nine to five jobs. The ELC moms work night shifts and irregular working hours. It impacts on the activities at the ELC and we always have to keep this in mind.

“They really love it when we do what we can to recognize their dedication and hard work. When they receive things like a little card from their children, they are so grateful. It makes me realize how hard their lives are and helps me appreciate how meaningful our work is here.”

Thuy (mother) and Hong (daughter)

Thuy is a factory worker for a company producing fishing equipment. Her husband works as a truck driver. Thuy’s daughter, Hong, is 3-years-old and started attending the ELC in September this year.

Before joining the ELC, her daughter Hong was looked after for two years by a home-based care center. The HBC she went to had 15 babies staffed by just two caregivers.

“We visited the school with Hong and she was the one who said she wanted to come here. She loved the garden! The whole family was delighted when she was accepted. 

“Now, I see that my daughter is changing every day. She can feed and dress herself – things she wasn’t able to do before. She is so much more confident. I’m very grateful that she was offered the place here. I can’t wait to see how she develops in the next three years.”

Tuyen, ELC Teacher

“Since I joined the ELC, I have found that working alongside female colleagues is a wonderful thing. We share so much in common and understand how best we can help each other. I get so much support from work colleagues. 

“I also love that we are recognized as individuals and are encouraged to build on our own strengths.”


Last month OneSky’s Caregiver training was amongst the winners of the Solve MIT Innovation for Women Prize, funded by the Vodafone Americas Foundation.

* We look forward to bringing you future happenings from our work in Vietnam. To read more stories about how OneSky helps vulnerable kids, please visit the story page on our website!

Good job!
Good job!
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