It's been a month or more since we've heard from the earthquake in China. That reminds me of when Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, after a few months life for others goes on, but for the victims it is just a beginning of a new reality. Here's a letter I recieved to remind us of the pain these people are enduring, yet also a reminder of how many people devote their lives committed to relieve suffering. If only I were 10% as committed as they.
Hello Friends, A little over a month after Sichuan’s May 12th earthquake, we opened Halfthe Sky’s first BigTop children’s activity center (with preschool, artclasses and counseling) in a refugee camp in Dujiangyan, near the quake’sepicenter. In a town that has experienced so much sadness, the opening wasa happy, festive occasion to welcome a new oasis for fun and support forthe children and the community. On hand for the opening were city andministry officials, child trauma experts Marleen Wong and Suh Hsiao Chenof National Center for School Trauma and Bereavement, and psychologistsrepresenting our newest partners in this important effort, the MentalHealth Centre of West China Hospital at Sichuan University. The experts offered some training for assembled volunteers and, as atevery celebration worth its salt in China, a group of adorable childrensang and danced for the crowd. For a brief moment, the earthquake seemeda world away.http://www.halfthesky.org/work/earthquake08-healing.php#part2 Even before the opening the BigTop had become a magnet for children, aplace where they can play and share even their most troubling earthquakeexperiences. A few days earlier, when the furniture was being painted,curious children arrived again at the tent and were disappointed not to beallowed in because of the paint fumes. Half the Sky staffers couldn’t bearto send the children away so they set up a table outside the tent, on theconcrete platform (above the mud) where the children played with bubblesand toys. Three little girls made themselves comfortable and the oldest, anine-year-old, immediately put a plastic doll face down under a toy tableto protect the doll from an earthquake. She told her friends and a Halfthe Sky staffer about the day of the quake, when her teacher ran out ofthe classroom, expecting the class to follow. Instead, the children sat attheir desks until they heard their teacher yelling that they should getout as fast as they could. All three girls then started cooking with toy utensils, chopping up leaveswith a toy cleaver to make soup. When asked why they were only makingvegetables, one girl said solemnly: “Because we are very poor. This is allwe have.” Another girl, around 10, took advantage of the ample art supplies in thetent to draw a girl with pigtails and a rainbow. She solemnly explainedthat she wants to be a mathematician and the drawing was not a selfportrait. It was a drawing of her best friend, who after the earthquakeleft the area and now there is no way to contact her: “I am afraid I’llnever see her again.” While the volunteers and staff at the tent will provide “psychologicalfirst aid” for the children, they will also refer children toprofessionals at the Mental Health Centre of West China Hospital atSichuan University when first aid is not enough. Children like aterrified 6 year old girl who, after 50 hours, was the only survivorrescued from her primary school. Protected by the body of her teacher, shesurvived with minimal physical injuries. But no one could protect her fromthe emotional trauma of waiting for help for so many hours in the schoolwhere her friends and her teacher died and - after all that - learningthat her father did not survive. Of the many volunteers who helped in the tent or attended our trainingsnone is more impressive than a group of eight survivors from the collapsedJuyuan Middle School, where perhaps 900 children died. Whether pitching into sweep rainwater from the BigTop before its drainage problems werefixed, or helping to set up toys on newly painted shelves, or playing withchildren, these impressive, hardworking teenagers have all decided thatthey want to focus on helping others rather than on what they lost on theday their school collapsed around them: “We received a lot of help fromothers. Now we can help. When we help people it helps us,” says one of thestudents, who gathered in a circle in Half the Sky’s BigTop. One smiling boy bears the most obvious scar of that day—a gash that tookfourteen stitches to close. It runs alongside his eye down to his mouth.Like all of the children who survived, he is mindful of friends who didnot: “At first I felt guilty that I survived. Now because I amvolunteering I feel more comfortable.” The students from Juyuan also provide an example of what was perhapsNCSTB’s Dr. Marleen Wong’s most surprising message to the caregivers shetrained in Sichuan. In the midst of the all-too-obvious devastation andpain wrought by the earthquake, Wong introduced new research about aphenomenon called “post-traumatic growth.” A small percentage of children,says Wong, will make positive life changes that are a direct result of atrauma or a disaster. These are the children, says Wong who become “wisebeyond their years, more mature, have a deeper appreciation of life,” inthe wake of a tragedy. “They have new values and life priorities.” One Juyuan student explains that not only has he resolved to volunteer inthe wake of the earthquake, he has also resolved to change his life:“Before the earthquake I was not into studying. Now I think it is the mostimportant thing I can do so I can help my country. I can bring hope to thepeople in Sichuan.” The day after BigTop #1 opened, I had the great honor of carrying theOlympic Torch on behalf of China’s orphaned children, especially thosenewly orphaned in Sichuan and Chongqing. Fifty preschoolers from our Halfthe Sky programs in Chengdu and Chongqing joined me on a rainy Sunday inWanzhou, Chongqing. It was an exhilarating and wacky time. And we didmanage to tell the children’s story – at least to the Chinese media (inthe end, no foreign media was allowed.) We were on the front page of theChina Daily and featured on national TV news. We didn’t quite go global,but it has been wonderful to hear from so many Chinese citizens who wantto help orphaned children. Children in their own communities that theydidn’t even know existed. Half the Sky supporter Anne Chambers has found another innovative way tohelp young earthquake victims. Her company, RED212, has launched anannual Bill and Warren Day (to commemorate the day Warren Buffett pledgedhis fortune to the Gates Foundation) to celebrate business people, big andsmall, as a force for social change. HTS’ Children’s Earthquake Fund is tobe the first beneficiary, by auction of a Monopoly game signed by WarrenBuffett himself! If you or some other mogul you know would like a shot atthis treasure, I’m told there is only one day left!http://cgi.ebay.com/Warren-Buffett-Autographed-Official-Monopoly-Game_W0QQitemZ250260912893QQihZ015QQcategoryZ156999QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem Slowly but steadily, Half the Sky is beginning to find ways to recoverfrom the disaster too. Although we are now firmly committed to helpingthe newly orphaned and displaced children of Sichuan heal and hopefullyfind their own “post-traumatic growth,” we are ever-mindful of the manythousands of children to whom we’ve already made a long-term commitment. Right now, our first Blue Sky provincial training is underway in HubeiProvince. Over 100 caregivers from welfare institutions where Half theSky has no programs are at our model center in Wuhan learning about HTS’approach to providing family-like nurturing care to orphaned children. Weare now offering Blue Sky training sponsorships – a great way to help usreach our goal to put a caring adult in the life of every orphaned childhttp://give.halfthesky.org/prostores/servlet/Detail?no=90 This fall, funds permitting, Half the Sky will open new Blue Sky ModelCenters in Xian, Harbin, Shenyang and Qingdao. We are no longer acceptingapplications for this year’s volunteer build but we dearly hope that youwill consider sponsoring a child or supporting the new model centers inother ways. You have been so tremendously generous during these awful weeks. Now, asthe Sichuan story fades from the news, we are even more grateful that youcontinue to remember the children whose struggle is just beginning. Idon’t know how we can ever thank you enough for all you have done andcontinue to do. I hope that watching our progress as we work to rebuildyoung lives – in Sichuan and all over China – will be thanks enough. Youknow we will always keep you informed! This should be the last of our emergency updates. I’ll now return towriting you every month or two. Of course, if you don’t wish to receivefurther updates from Half the Sky, please unsubscribe by sending a blankemail to firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like to donate to Half the Sky’s Children’s Earthquake Fundyou can do so by calling Half the Sky (+1-510-525-3377) or visit ourwebsite:http://give.halfthesky.org/prostores/servlet/Categories?category=Children's+Earthquake+Fund If you would like a Canadian tax receipt, please donate athttp://www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=s86248 If you would like a Hong Kong tax receipt, please call Half the Sky – Asia(+852-2520-5266) or donate online athttps://www.paydollar.com/b2c2/eng/charity/payInfo.jsp?charityId=4947 If you’d like to view previous earthquake journal entries:http://www.halfthesky.org/journal/ Thank you! with love,Jenny Ps – For our many new friends - Half the Sky is a global NGO thatestablishes and operates programs that provide emotional and educationalsupport for orphaned children living in government-run welfareinstitutions in China. Half the Sky does not operate orphanages. It is not an adoption agency.We exist for China’s children. Jenny BowenExecutive DirectorHalf the Sky Foundationwww.halfthesky.org Half the Sky was created in order to enrich the lives and enhance the prospects for orphaned children in China. We establish and operate infant nurture and preschool programs, provide personalized learning for older children and establish loving permanent family care and guidance for children with disabilities. It is our goal to ensure that every orphaned child has a caring adult in her life and a chance at a bright future. Want to receive our free Half the Sky newsletter, full of stories and photos, via regular mail? Just go to our website www.halfthesky.org and click on "Join our Mailing List."