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 Children  China Project #21864

Help a village care for its left-behind children

by OneSky
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Help a village care for its left-behind children
Left-behind children are at risk. OneSky can help.
Left-behind children are at risk. OneSky can help.

Left-behind children—such as those we serve in China’s rural villages— have increased risk of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, conduct disorder, substance use, wasting and stunting, as compared to children of non-migrants.


That was the conclusion of a major new study released last year in The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, which is among the world's oldest, most prestigious, and best known medical journals.

Its findings include the recommendation:

“Parental migration is detrimental to the health of left-behind children and adolescents, with no evidence of any benefit. Policy makers and health-care professionals need to take action to improve the health of these young people.”

This was the largest and most comprehensive study to date to assess the impact of parental migration on all key areas of child and adolescent health across low-income and middle-income countries.

The report funded by the Wellcome Trust outlines:

“In China, where the most research has been done to date, studies have shown poorer nutritional, developmental and mental health outcomes in left-behind children than children of non-migrant parents.” (Read the report in full here.)

OneSky’s approach to working in China’s rural villages offers an affordable and replicable approach to mitigating the damage done to young children left behind by parents who have migrated away for work. In fact, at any given time, up to 85% of the parents are away.

We offer parenting skills and responsive care training, benefiting infants, toddlers, and their preschool-aged siblings, delivered to grandparents, parents, or other primary caregivers, with a focus on providing nurturing care in daily life, with an emphasis on attachment and bonding, brain development and stimulation, and on fostering early communication.

We also offer programs promoting community engagement, geared toward strengthening now disintegrating rural communities and providing a nurturing home for young children despite parental absence by offering trainer-facilitated village gatherings, monthly community projects (community garden, field trips and treasure hunts with preschoolers, etc.), and cooperative childcare to give weary grandparents regular respite.

Read about OneSky’s work with left-behind children in China’s rural villages.

Learning to jump is an important milestone.
Learning to jump is an important milestone.

Thank you for supporting our continued efforts in China’s rural villages. We hope you enjoy this report from the field about our work measuring the development of left-behind children.

Can your four-year-old catch a ball? How about hopping two meters? Or pedaling a tricycle?For most children, these successes over time would represent natural development. Before the first birthday, a child should be able to roll over. By two, walk without support. By three, go downstairs unaided…

But for children who don’t receive all the love, care and stimulation they need, development can be delayed.That’s frequently the case for millions of children in rural China. Last year there were almost seven million “left-behind children” in China.

In villages where OneSky works, as many as 85 percent of the parents have left to find work in cities. The vast majority of children left behind are cared for by grandparents. These elderly caregivers, frequently exhausted from daily farm work, often lack time and energy children require. But without that time, energy and attention from caring adults, children’s development may lag.

Measuring Children’s Progress

That’s one of the many ways OneSky is helping children and grandparents in rural villages. As part of its Family Skills training and support, OneSky family mentors help grandparents measure progress of the children in their care. By 6-years-old, for example, it’s hoped a child can use chopsticks skillfully.

When children struggle, the list helps grandparents and mentors identify problems early. They can encourage children to try new activities, develop new skills, and help them meet new milestones. The aim is to help each child gain confidence and skill at their own pace.

Their Most Important Teacher

“While the checklist gives us a good snapshot of progress, it’s important that we don’t compare peers,” says Alice Wong, OneSky Senior Director, Global Programs. Instead, she explained, each child’s accomplishments are measured from one period to the next.

Thanks to OneSky trained mentors, grandparents are now learning how to help every step of the way, offering love, encouragement and celebrating progress.

“Engaging grandparents in the process not only raises awareness of typical milestones,” adds Alice. “It also reinforces their role as the child’s most important teacher.”


OneSky-inspired program models in China’s rural villages are designed to teach communities and caregivers how to mitigate the damage done to young children left behind by migrant parents who have moved away to find work in faraway cities.

*Find out more about OneSky’s work helping left-behind children in rural China.


It truly takes a village to help raise a child!
It truly takes a village to help raise a child!

Thank you for supporting our village model in rural China! We hope you enjoy this report about a little boy named Linhao. Like so many in rural China today, Linhao’s grandparents had the double burden of trying to survive on near-worthless land while struggling to raise an active toddler whose parents are far away from home...

When Linhao’s grandma got sick and died, his grandpa was faced with a terrible dilemma. Might he have to send his little grandson away? But as China now tries to improve the situation for grandparent-caregivers and the children of migrant workers, OneSky is becoming part of the solution...

Stories like Linhao’s are all too common in China’s rural villages today. Grandparents have the double burden of trying to survive on near-worthless land while struggling to raise active small children whose parents work in faraway cities. Many age and die prematurely, in some places up to 10 years earlier than their urban contemporaries.

China is now trying to improve the situation for grandparent-caregivers and the children of migrant workers by establishing “children’s homes” in rural villages. These are not orphanages, but rather more like village community centers where children and their families can receive support services. Happily, OneSky’s Village Model already features a Family Center, a community gathering place for children and caregivers.

Now, thanks to the visionary support of a corporate sponsor and with the help of our dedicated donors, we’ll be able to work toward meeting both the government’s goals and ours, by expanding the Village Model to more villages in more provinces over the next few years.

Linhao’s future is already looking brighter!


*Linhao’s name has been changed to protect his privacy. His story is based on the experiences of children OneSky serves. To view a video about his story on our website, go to this link:

Life is not easy for this little boy.
Life is not easy for this little boy.

Thank you for supporting our village model in rural China! We hope you enjoy this report about a little boy named Xiaoming, who has had to grow up way too soon. His parents are not around, and his aging grandparents have a hard time caring for him. But, thanks to his OneSky trained teachers, he is now getting some extra attention and looks forward to preschool…

Xiaoming is a 5-year-old boy who is short for his age. When Xiaoming first joined OneSky’s preschool, he was timid: while the other children in class talked and laughed, he sat alone quietly and was often sleepy, no doubt because he already had adult responsibilities on his thin shoulders.

Since he was a baby, Xiaoming has been taken care of by his grandmother Fen, who stepped in after his mother abandoned the family because of their poor financial situation. Xiaoming’s dad Dahai is rarely at home because he has to work outside the village to support the family, just as his father, who died of tuberculosis 18 years ago, did.

Sadly, Fen has suffered from serious rheumatic disease for almost three decades—her limbs are completely deformed and it is very difficult for her to walk and get dressed and undressed. Her rheumatic disease has also resulted in other chronic conditions that cost several thousand RMB a month to treat.

At first Fen planned to raise some chicken and ducks to help support the family, but her worsening health meant that she could not get out of bed let alone raise chicken and ducks. Still, she tries to make breakfast and dinner for Xiaoming every day, though recently she had to spend a week in the hospital after she cut her hand accidentally and developed a dangerous infection.

Despite his small stature and young age, Xiaoming volunteered to step in for his grandmother just as she stepped in when his mother left. Xiaoming feeds the chickens and ducks each day after school, helps his grandmother take her medicine, get dressed and undressed, and he also empties her bed pan. Xiaoming’s constant refrain to his grandmother is, “Grandma, please relax. I will take care of you.”

Sometimes Fen’s elder son’s wife helps by giving the family food and washing their clothes, but she recently had major surgery and is still recuperating. In addition, her family’s financial condition is also not good and she has to take care of her own family first. Unsurprisingly, with a sick grandmother and a little boy doing the best he can, the rooms are dirty and messy and the courtyard is messy as well.

Though his daily life is challenging at home, at school, Xiaoming is faring extremely well. After observing Xiaoming’s situation for a period of time and learning about his family issues, his teacher Yan came up with a plan she hoped would result in his becoming as lively as the other children. First, she made sure to play and talk with him often. Then gradually, she guided him to express his ideas and encouraged him to play with other children. The big breakthrough came when Yan learned that Xiaoming loves to paint and is good at it. After learning about his love of painting, she often praised him and encouraged him to draw freely.

All of the teachers at the OneSky preschool pay special attention to Xiaoming as well. After seeing that his school bag was quite old, they gave him a new bag and new pencils and notebooks. They also gave him shoes and clothes that their children had outgrown. The teachers thought these gifts were just trivial things, but Fen did not: “I am so grateful to my grandson’s teachers, who brought things to my home again and again even though it is not their duty. My grandson is very lucky to have such good teachers, who care about him more than his own mother.”

Thanks to the individualized attention he received from teachers who care about him, Xiaoming gradually became more talkative and started to socialize with other children and play games with them. When he encountered difficulties, he asked the teachers for help and took the initiative to express his wishes.

Though he is still only able to come home a few days during busy farming seasons, Dahai makes sure to tell his son how impressed he is with his progress at school and faithfully escorts him to and from school every day he’s home. Like Fen, he also takes every opportunity to thank Xiaoming’s teachers, though his regret about not being able to spend more time with his son also means he can’t help reiterating his plea for them to continue to try to make up for his absence. “I cannot be home for him. Please pay attention to my son as much as possible.”

For more stories about our Village Model, check out this link!

Preschool is a safe place to play!
Preschool is a safe place to play!
Yutong doing what she loves!
Yutong doing what she loves!

Thank you for supporting our village model in rural China! We hope you enjoy this report about a young girl named Yutong, who we’ve been following for some time. Read on for a special tale about a little girl who loves to paint and dreams of birthday cake...

Yutong’s parents did not come home for the New Year holiday.

Nor did they come home for the spring harvest. Despite Teacher Li’s best efforts, Yutong began to struggle in school and spent more and more time alone. When the summer holiday came, Yutong reminded her grandpa that he’d once promised to take her to Shanghai. Grandma’s health was getting worse; perhaps a summer away would be a good thing.

So Grandpa called Yutong’s father and asked if she could spend the summer with her parents. Yutong’s father said it would cost too much money. And what if Yutong decided she liked living in Shanghai and didn’t want to leave? Grandpa said maybe it’s time for Yutong to have a relationship with her parents. “She really misses her mama.”

Finally her father said, “Yutong, bring your school books with you. If I have time, I will help you get ready for first grade.”

And so, the next morning, Yutong and her grandpa boarded a bus for the two-day trip to Shanghai. The plan was to stay for the whole summer, but in the end, they stayed only ten days. Yutong’s parents were away at work until late at night and left early in the morning. Finally Grandpa suggested they go home. Yutong’s mama cried when they left.

When Yutong started first grade, no one had remembered to buy her a new book bag, so Grandma washed the old one and her beloved OneSky Teacher Li bought her a pencil box, some pencils and notebooks.

When Yutong’s first grade teacher handed out the new textbooks, she wrote her name on every one. Though the books were a little difficult for Yutong, that didn’t stop her. From the start, Yutong was very serious about her schoolwork—even practicing characters while the other children played or napped.

Teacher Li also decided to help Yutong thrive in grade school by working with a social worker to create an art class for her and other village children passionate about art. On the first day of the class, Yutong introduced herself haltingly, but with the help and encouragement of her teacher, she said: “I am seven years old. I like to draw pictures and I am very happy to attend this art class.”

Soon Yutong started sharing her paintings with the other children. One day after she created a painting she was particularly proud of, Yutong said, “I drew this picture very well.” All the children applauded her. Perhaps best of all, Yutong stopped watching TV and drawing pictures alone at home, preferring instead to play with her friends from art class.

Again, OneSky stepped in when Teacher Li learned that Yutong’s secret dream was to have a cake for her birthday — we decided to make that dream come true!

On the big day, our staff found Yutong playing in the Children’s Park on the square with her friends. After changing into a dress for the party, Yutong took them to her home where her grandmother was harvesting peanuts. Yutong best friends arrived and sang Happy Birthday for her. Then for the first time, Yutong made a wish before blowing out the candles.

After giving some birthday cake to her grandparents and friends, Yutong sat next to her best friend Tian Tian and started to eat. Teacher Li playfully put some cream on Yutong’s face, making her look like a cat. Yutong laughed happily and put some cream on Tian Tian’s face. Yutong’s favorite birthday gift was a bicycle, which she rides every day, rain or shine.

Though she doesn’t see her parents often, Yutong is determined to make them proud. And thanks to the adults who have stepped into her life to support her and her grandparents, she is making her parents proud by becoming a self-confident, joyful little artist who, despite their absence, knows she is loved.

Be sure to check out this link for more stories and videos about the Village Model on our website!

Yutong gets her cake!
Yutong gets her cake!

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Organization Information


Location: Berkeley, California - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @oneskyorg
Project Leader:
OneSky for all children
Berkeley, California United States
$2,605 raised of $25,000 goal
65 donations
$22,395 to go
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