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Caring for Orphans in China

How much of a difference can one person make? In the late 1990s, Hollywood screenwriter Jenny Bowen learned of the plight of Chinese girls abandoned by their parents in a society that was limiting couples to one child. Most couples wanted a boy. “We thought the thing we could do is save one life,” Bowen said in a 9-minute news video prepared by correspondent Fred De Sam Lazaro for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a source for cutting-edge reporting at the intersection of faith and culture. “We went to China to save a life,” Bowen said. But when she got there she saw the terrible state of Chinese orphanages. Many of the abandoned children had special needs or serious medical conditions their families could not afford to treat. Children were often tied to their chairs, or left lying in beds, not receiving any attention. In fact, the Bowen’s first adopted daughter did not speak when she was adopted at age two. “No one had ever talked to her,” Bowen said. “Language develops when people talk to you. That’s how you learn to speak, so she had no language at all.” 

Unable to forget the children she had seen, Bowen took on the Chinese bureaucracy and raised millions of dollars from her Hollywood friends and the parents of other adopted Chinese children. She founded Half the Sky Foundation, consulted with experts in child psychology, and secured permission from the Chinese government to begin training caregivers and transforming China’s orphanages.  To date, the foundation has trained 12,000 teachers and nannies in 27 provinces across China. For a biblical reflection on how to make a difference close to home, read our feature article “A Hard Word to Hear This Winter.” You might also want to explore the resources in our article, “Best Resources for Community Engagement,” and “7 Ways Congregations Can Embrace People with Special Needs.”

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