Happy New Year and welcome to a new decade – OneSky’s third!
If you were around in our early days (see antique Bowen photo above), you may remember some of my frequent and often lengthy letters from China. I dearly wanted to find a way to bring everyone along on the incredible adventure of creating Half the Sky, but back then, there weren’t a lot of options. So I sent long emails. Lots of them!
Today our world is quite a different place. There are zillions of ways to communicate: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, assorted chats and all their offspring. We are swamped with information. But now it comes in bits and bytes—not much substance. I think we could do better by all the good-hearted folks who make our work possible year after year. So I’ve decided to slow down a little and start writing a monthly message to our friends.
Don’t worry—there is still a solid team of fabulously competent people doing the real work that is OneSky. This new chapter will give me a chance to sit back and tell you about them….
About nearly 2,000 women and men working quietly and without recognition to give forgotten children a fresh start. About the transition from Half the Sky to OneSky. About all the changes in China since our early days. About the expansion of our work from orphanage to village to factory zone to urban slum, and from China to Vietnam to Mongolia. I want to tell you more about the children—the many tales that don’t get told. And I want to tell you why I believe our work matters so much…today, maybe more than ever.
Looking back, it always begins with an indelible memory. A room full of sadness like nothing I’d ever seen before. Rows and rows of little girl babies and toddlers lying forgotten in their beds or sitting in little chairs. Eerie silence. No cries. This was how they spent their days. And if nothing was done, it might be how they would spend their entire childhoods. More times than I can tell, I saw those babies over and over again. I saw them in my sleep.
Call it destiny or call it delusional, I knew I had no choice but to try and fix things. I was a writer. I needed to rewrite that story. And so WE have. All of us together. Countless stories that now end with “happily ever after”.
When I took that giant leap of faith 22 years ago, I wasn’t sure what would happen. Now, when I look at what we’ve built together, it’s beyond what I could have imagined. And though our job is far from done, there are a lot of tales waiting to be told.
One of my favorite things about the holiday season is receiving greetings and updates from families and children whose lives OneSky has touched. You may remember this little girl.
Two years after her adoptive family returned her to the orphanage, little Juanjuan spent all her days in a wheelie-chair, going nowhere. We were told she was autistic; nothing could be done. Xiamei, a novice OneSky nanny asked to try to help her.
“I knelt down and softly called Juanjuan’s name, but she had no response. I used a toy to try to get her attention, but she lowered her head even more. I know it will take time for her to feel attached to me and to trust me.”
But after just a couple of months, Juanjuan’s magical journey began to unfold.
And in the course of a year, our OneSky team simply fell in love with Juanjuan—one teacher in particular. And so, Juanjuan became part of her family. They named her Ziyi—”Little Joy”. Last week, Ziyi’s mama sent us this holiday message:
“Our Ziyi is now a third grader and is very popular at school. She’s a good student and loves dancing and ukulele playing. The first thing she does after school is to finish her homework and then immerses herself in music. She knows lots of songs and dance. She keeps her ‘song list” in a little notebook. Like her whole family, Ziyi is an eager volunteer. Her favorite project is ‘Bring Happiness to Left-behind Elders and Children in the Village’ where she performs for the elders and reads books to left-behind children. She is so happy to help others!”
In these times, when our world sometimes feels broken beyond repair, there is no better feeling than watching a hurt child emerge like a butterfly from her cocoon. And Ziyi’s story is only one of many thousands of stories we are rewriting together. How lucky we are!
Our work is about doing what is right and fair for all children, yes. But it is also about the future…the world we leave for generations to come. Like our own children, the children OneSky serves—orphaned, neglected, left-behind—hold our world’s future in their hands. How we treat them today…the kind of start they get in life…will likely echo for years to come. In that sense, they are our children too. And they should matter to all of us.
Stay tuned for next month’s journal. And if, by chance, as you read these tales, they inspire you to send me stories of your own, please do! I’ll be right here, waiting.
With love and gratitude,
P.S. We’re aiming for a more ambitious monthly newsletter; my journal’s only part of it. Please watch for it!