On Thanksgiving

At this time of celebration and thanks,

I figured this would be a good moment to share some of the many hundreds of notes of thanks I received in response to my “Long Goodbye”. But as I read them, I became even more aware that these thanks are really not just for me. What we have done together is what makes the magic happen.

There’s our incredible Staff, of course—the ones who do the real work. And our passionately steadfast Board and Advisors—the ones who keep us on mission and out of trouble. And then there is YOU… The kindhearted ones who helped us get started and the ones whose support keeps us going. The ones who told us about places where help was most needed. The ones who found urgently needed medical help for children in desperate need. The ones who volunteered on our builds, worked long days, grimy and paint-splattered but never complained.

And all the ones who simply believe that every single child’s life matters, that all children have potential, and that it must not be wasted.

Here are a few of your kind messages, edited for brevity. It’s just a sampling but will give you a sense of our good fortune. We never need walk alone! With love and enormous thanks to you all.

Dear Jenny,

I view many things in life through the prism of leaving only one meaningful thing behind upon my passing – my children.  They are truly the only thing of importance that will continue when I’m gone. Your work has blessed our family tremendously through our now 15-year-old beautiful, wonderful daughter from Beihai. Everyone wants, one way or another, to change the world.  You probably have done more to accomplish that than anyone I can think of.  Where I have only three children to pass along to the world, you can rightly take credit for changing the lives of thousands.  I’m sure “credit” was never your objective, but the world, particularly China, has been forever changed by your tireless work and vision. I’m proud to be counted as a supporter.  It is one of the best investments I could ever make.
– David Cox, Texas

As always you write in such a heartfelt honest way that we cannot help but all feel we are part of your team, your vision. I wanted to write to wish you well in your step back (although I fear it’s a minimal step!) and say how excited I am to read what you do next. Your incredible energy, enthusiasm and can- do approach gave me such hope when I was setting up Box of Hope in Hong Kong, and I’m immensely thankful.  You truly have touched the lives of thousands, possibly millions, and that is really a life well- lived. I hope you continue to inspire us all with your wonderful down to earth, no fuss, no ribbons approach!
– Nicole Woolhouse, Hong Kong

As one of the “originals” and I think someone who helped with your early questions about adoption, you have been amazing. Making this group happen and a success has made those of us who are lucky enough to have a child from another country, remember just why we made that move. My daughter, Nikki is 25 and a thriving TV producer in LA. With hopes you remember me,  [Sure, I do!]
–  Susan Winston, California

We have always encouraged our children to give back to our community and Hailey started by asking that instead of presents at her birthday, that she would prefer a small donation of money that she could collect for other causes. Her favorite Charity was Half the Sky. In eighth grade, her school required all students to give a speech on any topic to the whole middle school. Hailey gave a speech describing all the different paths your organization had taken over the years and why it meant so much to her.  She described our visit to her orphanage when she was 10 and got to tour the Half the Sky classroom in Fuzhou.  It was amazing considering how painfully shy she was. She encouraged every student to find their own way to give back.  The teachers around me were in tears knowing how hard it was for Hailey to be up there and yet her fear dropped away and she spoke with such passion. She got the only standing ovation of all the students and was voted best speech almost unanimously.  You have been such an inspiration impacting lives of children in China but also far beyond!
– Sharon Donohue

I just finished reading your book, Wish you Happy Forever, and I am in awe of everything you, ZZ, your husband, and everyone else has done to help the orphans in China. To have found your place and your purpose in this lifetime is truly a gift, and it brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story, your gifts and your innate talents. I adopted my daughter from Nanjing, China in 2010, after waiting 7 years. She was in one of your orphanages. I am so grateful for all that you have done.
– Tracie Sipple

Personally, I’d like to thank you for the inspiration you have given me over the years. You have helped me to realize that anything is possible so long as we are committed and unwavering.  I often cite you as a wonderful example of someone who is not an expert on a subject, was inspired to do good and went out and did it. OneSky and Chunhui have helped me to invest some of the money that I have made wisely in helping to make the world a better place. In the meantime, thousands of children have been raised with love and compassion and they and their children will echo your goodness for generations. The love that they will pass along will be your greatest legacy.
–  Joe Tatelbaum, Massachusetts

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You saved many lives at Huazhou in Guangdong.
– Rose Duhaime

I had the great honor of meeting Jenny at one of her book readings in Portland many years ago. Shortly after I lived in China for two years and learned first-hand that navigating that government and culture is not easy. Jenny, you created a remarkable program and touched so many lives. You gave the greatest gift ever to these children.
– C. Louise Benson

Thank you, Jenny. Half the Sky gave my oldest the best launch in her circumstances. She came to me healthy and able to attach and we have three precious photos from those early days. She has grown into an incredible young woman who is applying to colleges and has a passion for equity and equality. I know that the care she received in your program gave her a solid foundation that we built upon. Will always be grateful to your organization and to your vision!
– Kimberly Pollinger, California

It’s nothing short of amazing that you could go to China and create so much impact, transforming the lives of so many children, when many others have struggled in such a challenging environment.  It speaks of your great entrepreneurism, tenacity and drive. And then to take it to Vietnam and beyond…. I can only wish for more people like you in this world.
– Laurence Lian, Singapore

Thank you for all you’ve done. You changed my daughter’s life in the Chuzou SWI. She would not have been as prepared for me if you hadn’t set up the school for the children. You’ve earned your retirement! Thank you so much.
– Mary Agnes Ledbetter

Thank you so very much for the work you began and continue to direct. While my daughter was not directly impacted by Half the Sky (from what I know), you have allowed us the privilege of sharing our love and resources in a way we know will impact those in need!
– Lori Deacon, Ohio

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping my daughter get the heart surgery she needed in 2004. Without your efforts I would have been heartbroken forever. You are the source of my double happiness.
– Michele Levin, Pennsylvania

I still think of you often with such warmth. My time in Beijing with the opening of your pre and post op surgical home for medical needs children was a highlight of my life.
-Teresa Weidenbacher. RN, Minnesota

We are committed to continue to support and being part of the OneSky family!  What you have done in the past decades inspired and touched us deeply, and children are better off with OneSky in this unfortunate time globally.
– Simon Hsu, Hong Kong

Our son came through OneSky and he is amazing. The difference you and the nannies make in these children’s’ lives and for families is immeasurable. The imprint of your work will have ripple effects for generations.
– Nina Dharmasaroja

My daughter benefited tremendously from the love and care she received from HTS in Nanjing before her soul found mine. Thank you so much, Jenny, from the very depths of our hearts.
– Trisha Willis Ranes, Missouri

Thank you for everything you have done for the children. We are lucky enough that our son was one of yours.
–  Angelia E Sucipto

Thank you so much for all you did that resulted in my sweet daughter experiencing a beautiful homecoming. Her transition into our family was seamless and it makes my heart so happy to know that my baby girl was loved and nurtured during those years when I was half a world away.
–  Jill Kynaston

Thank you so much for creating Half The Sky/OneSky, and allowing us to work with you as volunteers in China. It was, as you may remember, the first all- Canadian crew…we worked hard and played hard and we are still all in touch with each other! You and ZZ took great care of us and without the opportunity of working with you and your amazing crew, we would have missed out on learning where our children came from and how your program created a nurturing environment for all the children to thrive
– Tannis Shaw, Canada

You have created a wonderful legacy off love, for so many around the world.
–  Evan Wish, California

Thank you very much for what you have done for all children
–  Ling Zhu, New Zealand

The groundbreaking work of one woman, Jenny Bowen, is my favorite story to tell & refer to OneSky and Wish you Happy Forever! Lucky kids that one woman across the pond, read a paragraph in the Sunday paper that elicited a personal response and changed so many lives! Be well & look forward to the sequel!
–  Sandy Forseth, Minnesota

Thank you for the fantastic work Jenny! We are proud parent to a Half the Sky- babie, now 16 years old!
–  Birgitta Norberg, Sweden

Our child is the light of our life, blessed to be a Half the Sky kid. You are much his mama as his China caregiver and my wife. May the torch always burn bright for this beautiful organization you brought to reality. Enjoy a well-deserved step back. One Sky is always in our hearts.
– Troy Perry, California

What a proud legacy you leave, Jenny!
– Patricia Lee-Hoffmann, California

Thank you for all you have done for China’s children. You have truly made a difference in this world! Your legacy will live on through One Sky as well as the impact you have made on those of us who have had the honor of getting to spend time with you.
– Kathryn Liska, Volunteer Trip 2009, Urumqi

You will always be a part of how our family became what it is today. Thank you for all that you do.
– Karen Lindberg Beattie

As we waited in the room in China back in 2009 to meet our daughter for the first time, we watched the van pull up and a lady got out with our daughter. Our guide/translator was surprised that it was not her “mama”, but another nanny who had brought her to meet us. The nanny later told our guide that if her “mama” had brought her to meet us, our daughter would never have let go of her. That is how much she was loved…because their SWI was a part of Half the Sky. Thank you so much, Jenny, for heeding the call when you saw the need.
– Sharon Keyes Grace

Jenny Bowen, for all you have done for my daughters, thank you. For what you have done for China’s sons and daughters, THANK YOU. This photo taken of my daughter just six months after she arrived home (2011) says it all about the work you have done. We found her staring at this image of her with her nanny. When we handed her the picture she pointed and kept saying “mama”. Then she did something we couldn’t have expected, she kissed the photo. In that moment I knew that she was loved while at the SWI in care of this woman and for that I will always be grateful to you and your work. Best of luck in your next chapter.
– Trisha Willis Raine

I adopted two girls from China back when they were left in cribs all day and had very little physical cuddling. This profoundly affected their emotional and physical development. This is why I have supported OneSky. Your child care education has, and will help so many children throughout their lives. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.
– Karen Hunt

And thanks also to the many, many more who wrote. Wish I had more room!

Elizabeth Ann Margaret Ayer, Illinois Amanda Beall, California Kim Berley
Theresa Musheno Bradburn, Pennsylvania Marie Coco Brannen Rich Brubaker Bob Calvin, Illinois
Kris Parent Christensen, Michigan Coleen Colbert, New York Darryl Conklin, Montana Kimberly Harvey Cristofoletti
Layne Dalgetty-Rouse Stefanie Davis, California Mary Ann Gossman Day, Florida Dave Dodds
Suzanne Eisenberg, California Deborah J. Ferguson, Iowa Siobhan Flynn Evelyn Garstang
Merryl Goldberg, California Cheryl Craven Graham, Tennessee Lisa A Rasinski Green, Maryland Marcy Gregory Gross, Kentucky
Heidi Gullion Madella Harrison, Kansas Gayle Hawley, New York Jeanie Hazel
Nancy Hemenway Angela Hindman Tim Hornung, Wisconsin Yong Huang, Texas
Connie Darnell Johnson, Kansas Carol Jones Fliss Patrick LaRosa Elisa Mercogliano Lamonica
Marcy LaRont, Arizona Lisa Lenig, Virginia Sarah Loten Sara Lyle
Sharyn Marcuson, Oregon Kelli McDermott Karen McGinley Sandra Moats
Jill Nemiro Mai-Britt Nielsson, Denmark Vivian Pan Ann Peace
Mary Fran Prevost, New York Jayme Reimels, Maine Susan Reitano Rizzo Kelly Stem Rumbaugh, Maryland
Kaysie Plummer Rusk, Arkansas Mary Jo Savageau, Hong Kong Trish Henry Schuster Donna Verlotta Schaefer, Illinois
Andrea Thaggard, Mississippi Molly Thomas, Kentucky Amy Treadwell, California Sylvia Trevitt
Jeanne Turner, California Carrie Mathis VanGeertry, Illinois Shirley Wetherald Michele Wield, California
Pam Thorpe Williams, Henan Kristen Zens Robin Magana Karin Taylor
Megan Donovan Ryder Trisha Willis Ranes Lisa Larson Kym Gentry-Peck
Maryellen Pengelly Geiger Lori Axelson Heidi Speakes Fenton Roberta Forseen
Jaime Butler Joy Beck Altman Rae Timko Sharon McCaffrey
Cheryl Davis Clement Doreen Kerner Luanne Roberts Billstein Dave Woodhouse
Faith Shaw Winstead Erin Valentino Calvin Marr Wanda Binford
Shelbi Allen Susan Sachen Linda Austin Heidi Ann Eckert
Jane A. Liedtke Lisa Gulino Anita D McClellan Bj Newman Stocker
Carolann Butler-Poole Dawn Alexander Roberts Nancy Kohn Hoppa Eve Adelson
Deb Kane Cindi DeLaney Carroll Roblin Michael Richard
Janis Brown Christine Sauer Catherman Lisa Haydel Eva Wallace Green
Margarita Mandoki McClain Jennifer Muccioli-Hamilton Liz Kilby McClure Claud Blass
Kay Cannon Warner Kathryn Liska Stephanie Jean LeeAnn Reksten York
Sean Rowan Amy Binin Maggie Jarvis Liz Kilby McClure
Lori Dubbs Ruth Elizabeth Sheree Jones Christina Tinna Ljunggren
Kathleen Long Mary Hopfensperger Rhame Karla Sonnichsen Lara Peterson
Debbie Udycz Carole Manheim Cynthia Gould Brown Gemma Yarger
Megan M Mayer-Shorb Pamela Neail Thomas Sarah L. Whitehead Janice D’Amico, Rhode Island
Carol Schram, Pennsylvania