Well, the Year of the Rat is off to another ominous beginning as the coronavirus (covid-19) spreads across China and beyond.
Twelve years ago at this time, the last time Rat appeared in the Zodiac cycle, China was hit with a crippling wave of Spring Festival storms that paralyzed the whole country. Some of you may remember OneSky (then Half the Sky) staffers and volunteers ferrying diapers and baby formula to snowbound orphanages across the country.
Three months later, the disastrous Wenchuan Earthquake struck. OneSky and its amazing community of supporters again sprang into action, delivering supplies and erecting giant BigTops to prove safe spaces for displaced children to play, learn, and receive grief counseling. It was only the 2008 Beijing Olympics that kept that Year of the Rat from becoming a total disaster.
And this Rat year’s coronavirus crisis brings other painful memories to some of us at OneSky. In 2003, we were with a group of volunteers setting up early learning centers in Hunan Province when SARS appeared on the scene. Although such times are scary and sad, China survived then and it will again today.
Right now, as you can imagine, all government orphanages are closed to visitors for the duration. OneSky orphanage program staff are living at the institutions and working in shifts to provide care for the children. Like others, the institutions urgently need surgical masks, protective clothing and disinfectants. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to help; the shortage is nationwide. The situation in Wuhan (where we launched our programs in 2007) is particularly serious, but thankfully, none of the children or our staff are infected. No one risks leaving the welfare institution campus.
Across China, all businesses serving the public (restaurants, cinemas, shopping malls), with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, and others that provide necessities, have been asked to close their doors until further notice.
Aside from the welfare institutions, our OneSky teams in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Mongolia are all working from home. Governments have temporarily closed schools. In China, they are using the time to strengthen professional studies and have organized study groups by region, function and programs. We are very thankful to have developed “1BigFamily” online learning communities wherever we work. Even in times like these, we manage to stay connected.
Meanwhile, in one of Hong Kong’s poorest districts, where we’ve been working so hard to get ready to open the doors of the P.C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development—our new regional training hub and demonstration family center, a safe place for at-risk children and families—opening day has been indefinitely postponed. Still, we forge ahead. With protests and pestilence, we have never felt more needed.
Here’s hoping that the Year of the Rat soon lives up to its promise of prosperity and new beginnings!
With love and gratitude,
P.S. Lately, I’ve been trying to learn how to take a little more time out for quiet reflection. Quiet not being my natural state, I’ve begun to contemplate a new book project. If your child (or YOU) participated in our China programs and might be willing to share the story of what came after, I would very much like to hear from you. Please write to me. Thanks!