Right after Chinese New Year, OneSky was at work
in 30 more out-of-the-way, left-behind villages, launching programs for infants, preschoolers, and caregivers.
Hundreds and hundreds more village grandparents caring for children—more people facing the same challenges as Grandmother Zhong—would soon learn new parenting skills to help them with their grandchildren.
If the first four villages serve as any indication, the grandparents who got involved would have some fun, too. So would the babies, as they got special attention from child development experts, and a chance to crawl on the colorful new mats, and reach for irresistible new toys. Thirty new groups of little miracles would be cared for, smiled at, talked to, held, and loved.
For children 3 to 6 years old, preschool teachers, freshly trained, set up their classrooms, with lots of enthusiastic help from the children. Red paper hearts had been hung on the wall, colored blocks were stacked in shelves, picture books—the first most children had seen—lay waiting to be discovered.
In one village, in an extraordinary act of generosity, a village leader offered his old family home, to be turned into OneSky’s new preschool and family center. It required a lot of work, but there was no shortage of enthusiasm and energy among local workers and newly hired village OneSky staff.
Walls were put up and plastered, floors laid, and before long a newly painted, inviting new space awaited the village’s children, who before had had no school at all.
For all it was a positive and meaningful beginning to the New Year.
And not only in that house-turned-preschool. When the first day of school came, this time it came for children in 25 OneSky villages!
In one of the new villages alone, 100 children showed up. They were greeted by newly trained teachers who had learned all about responsive care and were excited to get started—practicing how to listen to the children, identify their needs, and provide the love, nurture, and attention each one deserves.
All of the new teachers were village mothers, who now could avoid having to leave home for a city factory job. One young mother, working as a new preschool teacher, couldn’t have been any happier. “Now I can be near my child,” she said. “When I was away in the city, my heart would ache every time I passed a playground.”
In no time, all the village classrooms—new and old– were buzzing with activity as children played and sang together, tried out the dump trucks, dolls, games, and books. There were a few tears, too, as the young ones adjusted to each other and the new surroundings. Some of the grandmothers hung around and helped. One laughed as she strung huge, brightly colored beads for her granddaughter. One little girl lay her head on the desk and fell asleep.
There were so many lively projects! Making paper masks of favorite animals, creating flowers from construction paper, making up stories, dancing….
When teachers encouraged one group of children to try a little homework project—do a good deed for someone—a spirited little girl named Chungli told the teacher her good deed was to try to make her grandmother laugh. Her friend Fenfang said she had offered to wash clothes for her grandfather.
Both girls smiled, then broke into giggles.
“They are learning how to love themselves and also love their family,” said their teacher proudly.