My Long Goodbye

So let me begin with the hard part first.

On December 31, 2020, I will officially retire as Chief Executive Officer of OneSky for all children.

You might ask, what took me so long? After all, I’m 75 years old. And my stated goal from the day I started Half the Sky almost 25 years ago was to put it out of business—its mission accomplished. Alas, we’ve only partially succeeded. The goal posts have moved.

I made a promise back in 1998. If I could find a way to change the lives and prospects for China’s orphaned baby girls, I wouldn’t give up until every single one of them had a caring adult in her life.

Back then, nobody was doing anything like it. I had to try.

All these years later, we haven’t quite reached all the kids, but we have definitely found our path. Despite politics and catastrophes, despite obstacles great and small, Half the Sky (now OneSky) has opened a clear and reliable pathway to transforming lives and unlocking potential in vulnerable young children who are all too often forgotten in our troubled world.

Along the way on this most incredible journey, we have used what we learned in China’s welfare institutions to bring the OneSky magic to fragile families whose children are left behind in rural villages or migrating to factory towns that do not always welcome them. Our approach, based on solid scientific principles of child development, is embraced by governments and researchers and ordinary people like us because it works.

Still, there’s no end of need. Truly, most of the time it feels like we’re just getting started. Where have the years gone?

Seems like yesterday that I first walked into a room crowded with rows of squat wooden cribs, two or three tiny babies bundled inside, inexplicably tied to the railings. Eeriest was the silence. No cries for help or comfort. There was none to be had. That’s the day I made my vow.

In just the blink of an eye, how things have changed! Today, our “little sister” organization in China, Chunhui Children, provides child development training and oversight for 112 government orphanages in all 31 provinces and municipalities across China. Chunhui offers medical care for orphans and vulnerable children with life-threatening conditions. Where they are able, local governments pay for Chunhui’s services. How far we’ve come!

In impoverished rural China, together with Chunhui, OneSky works to give the very youngest left-behind children of migrant workers a fair start in life by training entire villages how to meet their needs for nurture and enrichment. In the poorest districts of urban Hong Kong, we train struggling families how to help small children thrive despite difficult circumstances. And now, of course, we go beyond China, doing the same work to benefit migrant children, from birth to six, in Vietnam, in Mongolia, and soon, we hope, in other developing countries across Asia.

There is so much to be proud of. And so much to be thankful for. I’m thankful to my colleagues wherever in the world they work, devoting their days to improving the lives of children they will never meet, to the caregivers and families and government workers who have opened their hearts to a new way of seeing and embracing the potential in all children.

And I’m deeply thankful to you, our supporters, the ones who continue to believe in what we do and stand by us, through whatever storms and struggles we must brave.

The journey’s far from over, but now, it’s time for me to step back, breathe a little easier, and allow my younger colleagues to lead the way.

Of course, I will always be OneSky’s Founder and “Mama”; she will always be my baby. Be assured, I will continue working to build a brighter future for children with unlucky beginnings for the rest of my days. But quietly. I plan to write another book, perhaps a sequel, and move into a senior advisory role, watching over OneSky with our incredible board and (hooray!) our new CEO, Morgan Lance.

Having worked by my side for the past few years as OneSky’s Chief Development Officer, I know Morgan’s boundless passion and drive will ensure that we stay true to our mission and firmly on the path that has brought new hope and new beginnings to tens of thousands of vulnerable children. I am truly excited and optimistic by what the future holds for OneSky under Morgan’s leadership and with our deeply committed staff in the United States and Asia.

From the very earliest days home from China with our little daughter, Maya (now a PhD candidate in Child Development!), it has always been the children who were our best teachers. They show us what they truly need. I am confident that with Morgan at the helm, the needs of young children most at-risk will continue to be OneSky’s North Star.

I dearly hope you will continue to provide Morgan and her team the same phenomenally generous support you have always given, especially when we needed you most. Nothing feels better, as we struggle to best serve the children, than knowing you have our backs.

My deepest thanks for all you have done and will do for the children.

With love and gratitude always,

Jenny Bowen

Founder, OneSky for all children