One year after a devastating 8.0 earthquake destroyed so many lives in Sichuan, China, the world is solemnly remembering thousands of victims who lost their lives. Even as we at Half the Sky Foundation mark this anniversary with sadness, we are also marking it with hope and with thanks to Global Giving’s donors, who opened their hearts to the children of Sichuan. Your generous support or our Children’s Earthquake fund has enabled us to make great strides helping the children most traumatized by the quake—children who lost parents, schoolmates, friends, homes, and even the desire to smile--move on with their lives.
In the last year Half the Sky established six Big Top Children’s Centers in Dujiangyan, a small town near the quake’s epicenter that houses 100,000 refugees in temporary camp communities established in the months following the earthquake.
The primary purpose of our Big Tops is to create a safe space, a gathering place for children where they can find refuge from the disaster, express their fears and anxieties, and begin to heal. Our partners at the National Center for School Trauma and Bereavement tell us that these opportunities are critical for the children. The children do receive counseling at the BigTop, but it feels incidental – they come to play and to have a place that is their own and to feel safe.
Our giant “Big Top” tents have proved hugely popular with children and the entire community. The BigTops offer preschools, after-school music, art and sports (ping pong, badminton, martial arts, basketball) and other therapeutic activities for school-age children. Most sites have 6 teachers, two caregivers, two supervisors and security guards, and serve between 500 and 1000 children. The centers offer preschool in the mornings, as well as after school activities, including art, dance, sports, English, games, library, etc.
When we established our Big Tops, we planned on running them until permanent housing was built for the area’s earthquake refugees. We were so excited to learn recently that we may be able to close the Big Tops early because construction of housing for refugees is ahead of schedule. If we are able to close the Big Tops ahead of schedule, we will use the money we would have used to operate the Big Tops to provide additional services for the children most impacted by the quake. We have started working on a plan to ensure that children who lost both parents in the quake (most of whom are living with their grandparents) continue to receive support, and a plan to provide services at newly built schools near the epicenter.
When there is a disaster of such a large scale, there is a moment in time when the world comes together to assist those stricken. There is moment-by-moment media coverage. There is a tremendous outpouring of love and concern and donations of every kind. What we most appreciate about Global Giving’s donors is that they responded so generously to our project that is helping the children long after the world’s attention has moved on to the next story.
We closed Half the Sky’s Children’s Earthquake Fund after we met our fundraising goal, but we are actively fundraising for other projects for orphaned children in China.
We are continuing its work providing permanent foster care for children with special needs who will not be adopted: http://www.globalgiving.com/pr/1500/proj1448a.html
And we are embarking on a new project to provide medical care for orphaned children in China who need specialized treatment: We hope you will be able to help us with our ongoing work to bring the love of family to children who have lost theirs.
Once again, huge, heartfelt thanks to Global Giving’s donors, who have helped so many children in Sichuan learn to play and smile again.
With love and thanks,
Half the Sky Foundation