Children dancing in Half the Sky's BigTop in Sichuan
This morning as I write, typhoon winds batter Hong Kong. Yesterday there was a 6.0 quake in Sichuan and we received an urgent plea for flood relief assistance in Chuzhou. By any measure, 2008 is not turning out to be the year we imagined.
Instead of 10-year anniversary celebrations and joyous Olympics parties, we’ve had disaster upon disaster. Half the Sky has done what it had to do — we turned our attention and gave our all to children in urgent need. During this past month, even as we’ve raced to create safe havens for hundreds of displaced children traumatized by catastrophe, created programs for them and hired and trained caregivers for these new “BigTops” in Sichuan, we have somehow managed to continue smooth operations in our 37 centers across China and also further our plans to create Blue Sky model centers in four new provinces this fall.
We have managed because we have an extraordinary, truly dedicated staff. And because we have you – simply the most amazing, caring community of supporters any organization could hope to have.
Thanks to you, we raised $1.4 million US dollars to help the child victims of the Sichuan tragedy. We spent $375,000 on direct relief – food, tents, medical supplies, clothes, blankets, beds, etc. We will spend $136,000 to create, equip and operate each of our BigTop children’s activity centers for two years and additional funds over five years to provide special training for doctors, teachers and caregivers in helping grieving children to develop resilience. It’s a huge undertaking, but it is well worth it!
Just take a look at what’s happening for the children at our BigTop #1 in Qinjian Refugee Camp: http://www.halfthesky.org/work/earthquake08-bigtop.php#part3. Five more BigTops are underway already. We hope there will eventually be 10.
Each BigTop offers a preschool and afternoon and weekend activities for school-age children: art, music, dance, sports, games. The idea is to create safe spaces for traumatized children to just be children again. Our partners at Huaxi Mental Health Centre of Sichuan University and at the National Center for School Trauma and Bereavement tell us that this is a critical first step toward healing. The children 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.
Down the long road to recovery, we hope we can further help the children of Sichuan by creating permanent community centers in the hardest-hit towns. We have learned that the healing from a disaster of this scale must go on for years, some say generations.
In this terrible year of earthquakes and snowstorms and floods, we put aside all our usual efforts to raise funds to support our programs. We even let go our annual Children’s Day Challenge, the fundraiser that traditionally pays for the creation of new HTS Children’s Centers each fall. In a year where we’re still committed to opening new Blue Sky Model Centers in four cities, this was no small sacrifice.
But ten years of bucking the odds, doing what we’re told is not possible, and watching miracles unfold in China has taught us that we can make just about anything happen if we’re determined enough and if we have this great community behind us. We will keep our promise to the children. A corporation will underwrite the costs of our new center in Qingdao. A family will sponsor the startup of our new center in Harbin. And now, one super Dad with a beloved daughter adopted from China has offered us a $75,000 challenge grant to help us make up the shortfall.
So we’re launching A DADDY’S CHALLENGE. If you give an unrestricted gift of any size between now and the end of September, you can help us double that $75,000 gift. http://give.halfthesky.org/prostores/servlet/Categories?category=A+Daddy’s+Challenge. With one Dad’s help and yours, we can still keep our promise this fall.
You can also help by sponsoring a child in one of our new centers. Or by sponsoring a permanent loving family for children with severe special needs in our Family Village Program. Or by sponsoring training for caregivers at orphanages that have no Half the Sky center through Blue Sky Training Sponsorships. http://give.halfthesky.org/prostores/servlet/Categories?category=Annual+Sponsorships
I know this is a tough year for a lot of people, not just those of us living in disaster areas. You can help our work in non-monetary ways too. You might contribute an item to our upcoming auction or organize a fundraiser or simply help spread the word about Half the Sky and the impact we have on children’s lives.
Beyond the thousands we help in Sichuan and the hundreds of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Henan, Half the Sky currently serves about 4,500 orphaned children. This year we will offer the loving care of HTS’ four programs to over 700 more children living at our newest Blue Sky sites: Guiyang, Xi’an, Shenyang, Harbin and Qingdao. There are many, many ways to help HTS reach its “impossible” goal of providing a caring adult in the life of every orphaned child.
Thank you for whatever you can do and for all you’ve done already. I’ll let you know how A Daddy’s Challenge goes.
With love and gratitude,
ps - Here’s one piece of great news: On July 4, Half the Sky became one of only a tiny handful of foreign NGOs that is officially registered by the Chinese Government. Those who work in the nonprofit world in China will know what a tremendous honor this is. We are aware of only two other foreign organizations that have been recognized in this way. We are very proud!
Pre-school in a BigTop in Sichuan
A game of ping pong