Skoll Foundation


My Visit to Half the Sky in Beijing

November 29, 2012 by

By Joy Zhang

In between visiting my folks in Shanghai, I took a couple days to hop up to Beijing where I spent an afternoon at one of Half the Sky’s programs, the China Care Home. Babies and young children from orphanages all over China (HTS and non-HTS) come to the Home for medical care not available in their hometowns.  It’s a unique program in the Half the Sky umbrella, with only one location in Beijing.  The Home is discretely tucked away in a high-rise apartment building where one floor of apartments has been converted into a nursery and pre and post-operative care facility.  Most of the apartment’s residents probably have no idea what they’re riding past on the elevator every day!

The babies were just waking from their afternoon naps when I arrived, rubbing the sleep from their eyes and stumbling around in onesies.  Most are recovering from surgeries for birth defects such as cleft lip, spina bifida, hydrocephalus – dangerous but treatable.  The nannies, who are there 24/7, call them individually by name, talk and play with them and encourage the toddling ones to take their first steps, while nurses come by on rounds to make sure recoveries are on track.  China Care Home is set up for 70 babies at any given time and hasn’t had to turn anyone away.  While the number of children in orphanages is on the decline in China, the majority of “orphans” now in institutions have disabilities or disorders that the families are unable or unwilling to treat. The government, through its Tomorrow Fund, now pays for many of the surgeries that these children require and then works in partnership with Half the Sky to provide the post-operative care.  Indeed, much of Half the Sky’s success in China can be attributed to its ability to partner with the government, to deeply respect and respond to the culture and inner workings of the country.

The China Care Home is only a sliver of what Half the Sky does, but I got a sense of the kind of care ingrained in all HTS-inspired homes around the country.  The nannies for the most part don’t have professional backgrounds in nursing or childcare – because you don’t need a degree to know how to love.  They are nurturers by nature.  And the babies blossom under their care as a result.


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