PICTURE GALLERY: The little flowers growing, blooming and enjoying the sunshine in rural China

Much of the world has spent the last year indoors, but for China’s left-behind children lockdowns have meant even greater uncertainty.

In China, almost seven million children are classed as “left-behind” with both parents absent. Most of those are in rural areas, with parents often making it home only for the Lunar New Year holidays. During the pandemic, periodic lockdowns also meant traveling has, at times, been impossible.

For the most part, these kids have been left in the care of grandparents living in poverty, where life is a daily struggle just to provide for basic needs. Finding enough time and energy to also devote to quality child care can seem like an impossible challenge.

But, spring this year has arrived with hope. The days are longer and sunnier, flowers are starting to bloom, and vaccination programs that are rolling out in major cities are expected to reach rural areas soon.

For children, it also means finally getting outside again for play after winters as cold as -10F.

OneSky’s Village Program is there to help, with family mentors providing parenting training and helping to pull communities closer to benefit all the local children.

This week the little ones have been making willow crowns; a favorite seasonal pastime. Elsewhere, children have begun fishing for the tadpoles that can now be spotted in local streams.

From hopscotch in the sunlight against a backdrop of bright yellow flowers to the pet rabbits available for the children to stroke, there are plenty of activities to inspire the children’s budding creativity.

Together they make picture books of all they see. OneSky’s mentors know that by getting the children into a communal setting they also unite those caring for them. Weary grandparents and other caregivers also get a break and the chance to meet with friends and to reflect on the challenges they’ve faced.

It’s been a difficult year and a hard winter, but sunshine, flowers, and little smiling faces are lifting moods across the village.

How you can help provide community support for weary grandparents caring for left-behind children.