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Though change can never come fast enough for a child still waiting in a Chinese orphanage, it’s felt like we’ve been moving at warp speed since The Rainbow Program was launched on Children’s Day.
For a couple of hours in June, at the Great Hall of the People, we stood still to celebrate what promises to be a whole new chapter for orphan care in China. We caught our breath. We sang together. And then we dove right in. The tough part is just beginning.
After that lovely celebration came the hard work of determining, with our training partners at CCCWA, the very best course for reaching all of the thousands of caregivers and orphanage staff that make up China’s vast child welfare system. Now we have our action plan in hand and the exciting (and, okay, a little bit daunting) task of training every single child welfare worker in the country is underway.
This week, we are co-training 150 welfare workers in Jiangsu Province, the first of six 2011 trainings. Those 150 Jiangsu workers will go on to begin the process of training the staff in their home institutions. Between now and the end of the year, that story will be repeated in Henan, Zhejiang, Shanxi, Hubei and Guangdong provinces. This is just the first stage.
Early next year, there will be follow-up training for each of these provinces and initial trainings in Beijing, Shanghai, Hunan, Chongqing, Tianjin and Liaoning. Over the next five years, each province will receive two major trainings and begin sharing what they’ve learned at home.
We’re also working hard to prepare orphanage directors to assume full responsibility for their Half the Sky programs. This month we’re holding an orphanage directors’ workshop in Guilin and also starting a peer-support group for directors, so that well-prepared leadership will be in place when it comes time for the transition.
Of course, Half the Sky will be there as long as we are needed to provide ongoing guidance. And while we’re all still a little nervous about the financial support the institutions will need to pull this off and how the government funds will be allocated, we’re really pleased with the enthusiasm of orphanage directors for this new undertaking. Most of them are genuinely excited!
And even that’s just a small part of the story. After each Rainbow training, if funds allow, we’ll be stationing a senior Half the Sky trainer, who has years of experience working with the children in our programs, at the provincial training base so that newly trained caregivers will receive follow up guidance and support.
A while back, I told you about 1 Big Family – a global online community that will connect people who care about the kids in China with each other and with the kids and those who care for them in China. Our sister online community in China will be called Yi Jia Ren (one big family) and will offer learning tools, forums, advice, and a connection with you.
It’s complicated and we’re moving a little slower than we’d hoped but it’s happening. 1 Big Family will launch early next year. 1 Jia Ren will follow soon after.
When I’m working in China and I witness the miraculous changes happening in everyday life at the orphanages our work touches, I often think of the amazing community of supporters that makes it possible. I always wish there was a way to bring you into those rooms with me. To show you what we have done/can do together. Now, in a way, we’re going to make that happen.
Whether you’re part of an adoptive family, an adopted teen, have roots in China, or are simply interested in helping make sure that all children have a chance for a happy childhood, 1 Big Family promises to (virtually!) make you part of the lives of China’s once forgotten children.
Don’t want to wait for the launch next year? If you haven’t done so already, send me your e-mail address, and we’ll send you exclusive sneak-peeks as they become available later this year.
And while you’re at it, please send us your Bright Ideas – especially for 1 Big Family! We can’t promise that we’ll be able to realize everything you come up with, but we’ll take on as much as we can. We want everyone in our 1 Big Family to have a voice.
Here are some of our Bright Ideas, already in the works: 1 Big Family will have….
✗ The Lobby - A public place for sharing stories and photos, for asking questions, exploring resources, contributing ideas and engaging in discussions about life in China.
✗ Hometown Families - A password-protected place for adoptive families to ask questions of orphanage directors, meet families, learn about life in their child’s first home.
✗ My Hometown Friends - A password-protected place for adopted teens to meet other kids from the same province. A club with contests and games, chances to learn about life in your hometown, ways to give a hand to kids in China, and even participate in special adoptee-only summer volunteer programs.
✗ Clubs for volunteers and clubs for college students. Plenty of videos and photos and stories from China. And lots more to come!!
So this is our plan. This is the Rainbow over China we imagine.
We know it’s not enough to send toys and blankets to orphans. Sending money to China will not, in itself, change lives. But by providing the best we have to offer – proven training and skilled guidance – committed, well-prepared leaders – and a big, caring global community – we believe we can help to ensure that China’s orphans will never be forgotten again.
We find ourselves at a most extraordinary moment in time. If we (all of us together) make the most of it, we can make a real and lasting difference in millions of children’s lives. This Rainbow truly does have a pot of gold at its end.
With love and gratitude,