OneSky for all children

by Jenny Bowen / Apr 14, 2016

Half the Sky becomes OneSky

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The CLSA Chairman’s Trust has supported Half the Sky (OneSky) in China since 2010.

From the moment I watched my little daughter Maya, abandoned, institutionalized, neglected and so hurt; it seemed as if she might be forever lost. But then, when I saw her absolutely transformed by the power of her new family’s love, my big dream for forgotten children was born. In that moment, I could see a child’s life need not be limited by unlucky beginnings. I could imagine how, if you could reach that child – any child –early enough … how simple it can be to change the course of an entire life.

Why not OneSky for all children? So why not bring that same gift of loving care to the many thousands of little children who languish without love? Why can’t we try to unlock the futures for children the world does not see? Why not? All kids deserve to have big dreams.

18 years ago we dared to dream big dreams and look what’s happened! With the help of a handful, then dozens, and now thousands of caring people that’s just what we did. And in the doing, we learned.

We learned how to build productive and long-lasting partnerships for change. Positive partnerships with government, business, individuals and communities, that, over 18 years of stewardship, have managed to transform an entire country’s approach to orphan care. With our partners we learned how to build local capacity to create simple, affordable models that bring nurturing responsive care to our world’s most vulnerable and most precious human resource, our youngest citizens.

Little children, who, by an unlucky twist of fate, are orphaned, abandoned, forgotten. No matter how humble their beginnings, whether they are nurtured or neglected, they hold the key to our world’s future.

And from those little children, we learned our most important lessons. We learned that our most basic human need – to love and be loved – is absolutely universal. Without love, no child can thrive or reach her potential. None of us can.

Maya was just the first of many thousands who taught me. Like Juanjuan. When we met her, she had been spending her days in a little rolling chair with her head in a tray… for over two years. At three and a half years of age she was the size of an infant. We were told she was autistic.

Then one caring adult came into her life and she was given the one thing that is as necessary to human flourishing as food and water. Love. Thousands upon thousands of young lives changed by something so basic that we forget how much it matters.

The miracles that we at OneSky are privileged to witness every day, are miracles that make perfect sense. We know what we do works. We know that if we can reach children early enough, while the brain is developing at warp speed, the miracles we make by teaching caregivers how to provide consistent, loving, responsive care are almost guaranteed. And we’ve proven, at least in China, that our approach is easy to replicate and scale. Here’s what OneSky does:

We create simple, affordable, scalable model early learning centers for marginalized young children. Centers that provide not just early education, but that offer the consistent nurturing, responsive care that young children need to develop normally. We begin working with them from birth if we can.

And not only children… we pay even more attention to training and transforming grownups. In fact, the changes we witness in children are miraculous, but not more so than those we see in the adults responsible for their welfare. When adults realize they have the power to turn a child’s life around, there is nothing more magical to behold. There is nothing we humans love more than bringing happiness to a child.

So, if we know that what we do works, and if the dreams that we dare to dream really do come true … why not teach the world? That’s just what we aim to do.

We believe there is vast potential hidden in our world’s most vulnerable young children. And we’re going to prove it. We’ve begun by taking our models for change to China’s most impoverished rural villages, where 23 million children under the age of seven are left behind by parents who migrate to more prosperous urban areas for work. By September of this year we will be serving just over 5,000 young children in 46 poverty-stricken rural villages, training 345 local mothers to become family mentors and preschool teachers.

These mothers are learning how to provide for their own villages – offering family skills guidance for caregivers, nurturing preschools, and a community engagement program designed to revive now disintegrating village life – creating a real and loving home in which children can thrive as they grow.

Last month we signed an agreement with the Vietnamese government to develop early learning centers and parenting classes to benefit the small children of workers living in industrial zone tenements who need a safe place to play and learn while their parents labor in the factories that are bringing prosperity to their country.

When resources allow, we will bring our models to more countries. Always working with government and local partners. Always building local capacity. And as we go, we are going to tell the world about the children, about this unmet need, and about the massive untapped potential we can’t afford to waste.

Compared to other international NGOs, OneSky may be small, but that is no reason why, in this global information age, we can’t have a great big voice! So in June 2016 we launched OneSky.org to share the children’s stories. to bring forgotten children into the lives of people who will care.

I say this from my experience and from my heart, when you know these kids, you just can’t help but care.

It’s so easy to make all the difference in such a child’s life. Knowing this, why wouldn’t we try? Why not? For just like your children and mine, she holds the future in her hands.

Please visit www.onesky.org