Saturday, May 31, 2008

What A DAY!

Today we had a GREAT Day!

We got to visit with new friends and do a lot of thinking about Sophie!!

We can not wait to hold her and become a family of FOUR!!

WE LOVE YOU SOPHIE!!!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Clutter Be GONE!


It is 1:32 am on Friday morning and Becca just left my house. Jeni left around 11:30 pm....Rick went to bed maybe around midnight.........Rachel, I bet you are glad you are in Mexico right now, on some beautiful beach :O)
We have had a To-Do List a mile long and now thanks to our friends it is much shorter!

Becca and Jeni have just helped me clean our clutter and I feel so much better. Rick was putting things away in storage, cleaning the bathrooms, etc. The girls also helped me organize our suite case that we started to pack.

We have been working so hard on our house but needed some help to finish. Our computer room is also the guest bed room and "the stack" all junk room/I will get to it later room. Since the girls will be sharing a room we also need to use the closet in there for all of Sophie's clothes.

What a relief!! All we have to do is clean the computer desk pile and straighten up down stairs.

And finish packing of course.

I also am happy I checked my email one more time tonight because I received a wonderful email from Nadine. It touched me. Thank you friend. I think you are right about "God's Tender Mercies."


I better get to bed.

Love you guys!
Update - Just after writing this post I go out side to check the mail. I found a package from Andrea, my sister-in-law. It was two very cute matching summer dresses....I can't wait to see Simone and Sophie together in them! She is so good to our girls.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Received our Consulate Appointment Approval Today

"Hi Michele,

It was the Ministry of Civil Affairs office in Chengdu, Sichuan who told us that due to the earthquake and current conditions in the region they have to suspend the adoption processing temporarily until further notice. The aftershocks in the region also created challenges to the normal operation of their office. And they are doing everything they can to resume the process as quickly as possible.

The consulate did confirm your appointment for the 18th of June this morning. We will hold off cancelling it until the week of the 9th.

Thank you,______"


Having the consulate appointment is good news. Now lets just pray they open back up!! It is also so nice that our agency is respecting our request to keep the appointment for now. I did ask them to Rush us as soon as it is opened back up. Only time will tell.

Interesting

I have gotten two emails from my Chengdu Yahoo group.

One person said they are on hold too because of the relief efforts...The other person said that their Gotcha Day is scheduled for 6/2 in Chengdu and has not heard anything about them being closed.

INTERESTING!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

12th Email Update from Half the Sky

We are blessed with another update from Half the Sky. It looks like Sophie is "seeing" a lot of action going on at her home. The email update is below the photos.

These photos are from Half the Sky and are taken at Sophies Orphanage.

"Chengdu CWI: Even the Chinese military works nonstop for the children! Soldiers helped HTS load into army trucks emergency supplies which would be carried by helicopter to 1,000+ children stranded in Aba"






"Chengdu CWI: HTS erects the first 'BigTop' to help the orphanage prepare to receive newly orphaned children"








"Dear Friends,

First, an update on the air lift to remote Aba Prefecture. No less than 40u niformed soldiers arrived at the Chengdu CWI yesterday to load two big trucks with emergency goods for the 1,000 stranded children of Aba. We’rewaiting now for confirmation of the air drop.
This week HTS also erected a giant Big Top at the Chengdu CWI to aid with in take and shelter for new arrivals.

Ma Lang and Yang Lei, two of our intrepid team members traveled to Leigu, in hard-hit Beichuan, along with some young volunteers from the Jiuzhou Stadium. They knew the situation was dire, as this is the site of one of the “quake lakes” threatening to overflow. But they also knew there weremore than 2,000 children of all ages in those villages and they needed help. I am so happy and relieved to tell you that the mission was a huge success!

I have placed photos of raising the big tent, loading relief goods for Abaand delivery of goods to Leigu on our website. Please visithttp://www.halfthesky.org/work/earthquake08.php
On Saturday, after we complete delivery of balance of requested relief goods, we will erect a second and even larger BigTop tent in the largest refugee settlement at Dujiangyan City, close to the epicenter of the earthquake. This will become a huge Half the Sky children’s activity center for refugee children of all ages, complete with furnishings, toys, computers, areas for art and dramatic play and reading and quiet talk, everything that a HTS center offers. With your help, this center will serve thousands of children as their lives and homes are rebuilt. And ,although we’ve already been busily working and planning, it will mark the official beginning of the second phase of our efforts - addressing the current and longt erm emotional needs of the children.
I want to tell you more about the Sichuan Caregiver Training Project that HTS has launched in partnership with the Ministry of Civil Affairs and theUS-based National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. Thanks to on eof our supporters, we were put in touch with David Schonfeld, director ofthe NCSCB and perhaps the world’s fore most authority on child bereavement. Since its inception after 9/11, the NCSCB has counseled and been are source for governments, schools and organizations, especially those confronted by large numbers of children traumatized by disaster. From hurricanes to wars to school shootings, this organization has a long history and understanding of child trauma, what to expect and how best to respond.
Half the Sky is so fortunate to have the NCSCB’s help as we embark on this journey. There are so many unknowns for all of us - We at HTS have nevertried to provide services mid-disaster - and our advisers from the NCSCB have not much experience working in China. Knowing we can rely on eachother's expertise, I feel confident that HTS, and other NGOs that we hope will join us in this effort, can have substantial impact, both in these early days and down the road as the long process of recovery unfolds.
During the weekend, I toured hard-hit towns, children’s shelters and orphanages with the MCA, trying to get an overview of the situation. HTS’director, child development, Ma Lang has, of course, been in Sichuan since May 16 on our behalf and was able to give us a great deal of information and insight. This week, a team of seasoned HTS field supervisors, one from each of our programs, is doing a more detailed assessment under the guidance of Ma Lang: Zhang Yuxia, Yang Lei, Zhou Dan and Anni Wang. They will give us their full report on Sunday, but here’s an excerpt from Annion the first day of observation. The need for trauma-training for caregivers is immense:
“In the tent school, as I was looking around the room, my eyes caught a little girl who was holding her school bag very tightly. She had one oft he saddest faces I have ever seen and it felt like she didn’t want to be in the classroom. She kept holding her bag and looking at the exit behind, as if she were waiting for someone. When the ‘fun activity class’ started again, she still held her bag, but then later put it down and tried to follow the teacher’s instructions. She was one of the shortest children in class but sat in the back row.
“In the ‘fun class’, the teacher kept saying: “if you are happy, smile….And clapping his hands and he said that a few times walking round the room but the little girl I mentioned didn’t smile. Not even once. I was not sure which of the children in the room were smiling because they were happy or because they were sort of asked to smile. However, I suppose the fun activities will be a distraction (at least for the time being) for children who may have lost a parent or close relative. When I was leaving the room, I waved to the little girl and she sadly waved back.”
On June 2-3, we will host a workshop for all HTS field supervisors, program directors and representatives from the MCA and CAB as well as two expert field advisors who will supervise field work in the next phase. Leading the workshop on behalf of NCSCB: Robin Gurwitch, PhD - Professorin Dept. of Pediatrics at University of Oklahoma, Program Coordinator forthe US National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement; Marleen Wong,PhD - Director of Crisis Counseling and Intervention Services at the Los Angeles Unified School District; and Suh Chen Hsiao, LCSW PPSC -Psychiatric Social Worker, Team Leader at the Los Angeles Unified School District, Specialist in Crisis Intervention.
On June 4-14, with expert advisors - Pi-Nian Chang PhD, pediatric psychologist at the University of Minnesota, Dan Zhang, MD, PhD, psychologist, counselor, Vancouver Community College, worked with survivors of Tangshan earthquake – HTS will commence field trainings for caregivers, coordinated by Sichuan provincial CAB.
Afterwards, Half the Sky will continue to work closely with government and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement to develop along-term plan based both on the NCSCB’s extensive experience with the effect on children of similar catastrophic events and also what is learn edduring the two week period in the field. It is sincerely hoped that, during the next two weeks, many, many children will be reunited with, if not their parents, surviving family members. For those children who,sadly, cannot be reunited, Half the Sky will continue to assist as best asit can to help mitigate the long-term effects of this disaster.
Half the Sky is a small organization. We are limited by our charter to serving orphaned children. We hope that other child-focused NGOs will join us and the government in out reach. There are many thousands of children who have surviving relatives but who are nevertheless traumatized and need help.
Rebecca Chang grew up in an orphanage in China and, with HTS’ Big SistersProgram support, went to university. When she graduated, we offered her an internship in our Beijing office. She has now become a field supervisor in the Big Sisters Program and is helping us now in Sichuan.
She understands the children of this tragedy perhaps better than any of us. She sent us this story:
“The place was so dead when we arrived, everything was still, only wind was blowing. I saw a boy standing in front of the rubble of the school for a long time without a blink. I went up to him and said hi. I asked: which grade were you in? He said quietly: Fourth grade.
I squatted and said: Why are you always standing here? I saw tears coming up in his eyes. He said: My classmates are gone.
Teacher Gao got injured because of me!
I didn’t know what I could say that would make him feel better. I just reached out my hand and held his. His hand was cold, so cold. When I was about to leave, I was trying to hold back my tears and asked: What do you want to do the most now?
He lowered his head and answered in a shaking voice,‘ I want to go to school, but my school is not here any more.’
Thank you!
with love, JennyJenny Bowen"
(After reading this and seeing the pictures I have a better understanding of why our adoption was put on hold. It looks like they are pretty busy at the orphanage. They should just tell us that. I am so glad we learned about this this evening!!")

Adoption On Hold Until Further Notice

This morning around 6:40 am as I was blow drying my hair I started to come down with a migraine headache. I am so lucky I do not get them all the time but they are so painful that I remember what they are like. I think the last time I got one was over a year ago or more. So I go down stairs and take three advil.

Rick had just left and Simone was being SO good eating her breakfast at the table. I told her that I had a bad head ache and needed to go up and finish getting ready. So I did and then came back down stairs. I had to call my teaching partners Jeanie and Amy to let them know I would be late getting to our 5th Grade Track meet by 7:30am. (I think to my self, this is one of my FUNNEST and most PROUDEST teaching days of the whole year and I come down with this headache!)

So as I lay on the couch, Simone snuggles next to me on the couch and listens as I leave a message for Jeanie and tell Amy. She snuggles in more and tells me that she is so, "Happy to be going to see my SISTER!". I told her I just need to rest a little bit before I feel better.

I asked her to get dressed and put her sandals on. I told her that she can get "dressed up" for Sophie's shower today. So she goes into her play room all excited. She comes out with her Dorthy dress from the Wizard of Oz. I just think to myself what her preschool teacher told me a couple of weeks ago that it is not worth fighting with them about what they want to wear and that they see it all. So she puts on the Dorthy Dress. It is too itchy for her so she takes it off. Back into her play room she goes and out comes the Pumpkin Princess. Her smile on her face was so big.

After I started to feel much better and just before we leave I go up and email my case worker. I tell her that I will be gone all day on a field trip and please call me on my cell phone if we get our US Consulate appointment approval back so I can purchase our tickets...I also tell her that we are willing to spend a day or two in the airport in Guangzhou waiting to get to Chengdu.

We leave the house at 7:38 am because I am feeling much better.

I drop Simone off at preschool and then go to the track meet. As I am talking to parent helpers my phone rings. I can't answer it but it is my case worker. The track meet starts and the kids are off to the field events.

I then go behind the stadium and call our social worker. She has bad news, "your adoption is on hold." All adoptions in the Sichuan province are on hold because all paper work is processed through Chengdu and it is "Dangerous" for them to go to work. No work is being done on adoptions.

She told me that when she saw this announcement this morning it "broke her heart" to tell us because she knows what we are going through.

I start to cry and try to pull it together to tell her that now you know why I have been telling you about my gut feeling to get us to Sophie ASAP!!!

Just as I wrap up my phone call I see my friend Sara and talk for a little bit. It was quite refreshing to see a friendly face. As I head to the bathroom I see another teacher friend, Sharon, come out. I start to cry as I tell her quickly and then head to the bathroom by my self.

As I go into the stadium bathroom I just cry. I find comfort in that old bathroom and ruff paper towels, even as the heat is blowing on me and it felt like a sauna int here. I just let it all out. Luckily since the track meet just started there was no one in the bathroom with me. A part of me understood that this would be a good time to just cry. It did make me feel better.

Then I go back to the track meet. I find my self tearing up as I see my students having fun and doing their personal best. I just get tears thinking about it. I have had most of these fifth graders since first or second grade, for 4 or 5 years now. My former teaching partner Lisa had all the kindergartner's and first graders that year. I love teaching these kids and they are off to middle school next year. I am so proud of their efforts today and they have no idea how proud of them I am. I had one of my students who while waiting his turn to run the 50 meter dash plugged his ears with both hands. He tells me, "Mrs. Houston, that gun is loud and hurting my ears." I said, "I know, sorry, keep plugging your ears and it is good that you are in lane 9 not 1." So he kept plugging his ears. I look over to Warren, my teaching partner who was the starter, we just smiled at each other and I think to myself this is why I love kids. Another ah-ha moment is when Cole starts his anchor leg in the 400 meter relay in 4th place. He pours it on and passes the third place runner and moves into a third place win. Another moment is when Micaela tells me that she hurt her ankle but her Dad told her it was ok to run and she was glad she did because she was having so much fun.

The last race was the 50 meter shuttle relay. 4 girls on one side and 4 boys on the other. It is a fun classic and so much fun to watch. My kids were grinning ear to ear! I really start to get emotional when I see Zak and Zephery coming in full speed with smiles on their faces. This is what it is all about. Then I see Jeremy running the anchor leg, in the lead, second and third place pulling in on him, I scream, "push it, there catching you", he digs down deep and delivers. I barely can say to him, you did it, you got first place!!! His face was priceless, I will never forget it.

The track meet went so well. We had so many wonderful Parent and Grandparent helpers. I had fun spending time with my partners, Troy, Jeanie, Amy and Warren. Even one of the first elementary PE teachers was there. His name is Al. Since we all teach in different buildings it was nice to be together.

On the way to my car Amy and I were talking about scriptures and not worrying. She starts saying one that I know and I start to get teary eyed again.......As she walks away I sit in my car and CRY, CRY, Cry. Again.

My friend Jeni calls to check on me. She says, "what are you doing?" I say, "just sitting in my car crying, taking a brake." She asks if I am ok and I tell her I will be.

Then I drive to lunch with my teammates and really enjoy their company!

On the way home I stop by Rick's class real quick to make sure he got my phone message. He had not so I am glad I stopped by. He told me he had a feeling that this would happen.

So we just pray that Sophie and everyone in Sichuan is safe.

This afternoon my work friends are throwing us a shower for Sophie. My friends Jeni, Jessica C. and Sue have all talked with me and told me it was OK for us to cancel but we do not want to. We want to just be with friends and not at home looking on our guest bed at the suite case that we have started to pack or look at our mile long to do list or search the Internet for information about what is going on.......Thanks friends for caring so much and letting me know you care. Can't wait for this baby shower! Thanks Beth for calling me too! Thank you Becca for helping me with emails while I was at work.

I also want to say thank you to our two little angel friends, you know who you are :O) We appreciate all that you are doing for our family and for Adoption.

Hold on Little Girl, Hold ON!

Rick and I are still talking about how to do her middle name. We know for sure Shi Wei (the reason behind her name will be another long post.) But we are still thinking of Hope like Simone but I think it should be FAITH!

We love you SOPHIE!!


Update: When I checked my email this evening after Sophies Shower I found this email from my Chengdu yahoo group. Here is what they were told about the "hold":

"Hello! We are new to the board and hope to learn more about Chengdu. Our DS is actually in Guang'an, Sichuan province- to the east of Chengdu and we were supposed to leave in 13 days. This morning we had a call from our adoption agency and we now have to postpone our trip. We were told the Civil Affairs office in Chengdu is basically closed and too overwhelmed helping with the relief effort to currently do more adoptions. As of yet, they do not have a projected date as of when they plan to resume them either. There is a slim chance that we may still travel on schedule- but who knows? According to the rules, they aren't able to move him to a different province for the adoption so we just have to wait. I was hoping to hear if anyone else is experiencing this as well or any additional info. Thanks, ______"

Makes you think doesn't it...........

***(It is now 11:16 pm and I am doing my work here at home since I was out all day. I received this touching email. It brought tears to my eyes (yes, a lot of tears today) because they were thinking of me. I have to save this for Sophie.):
"Hi Michele, Just thinking about you this afternoon and hope you are doing well. You really hung in there at the track meet after getting the disappointing news. You will be with your little girl soon!! Take care. Mia and Vince ______(Austin & Logan's parents)"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We Received Our Travel Approval Today

Today when I arrived at school I told my principal and two sectaries that I might be receiving a phone call today about our TA (Travel Approval). I asked them to let me know when it comes through. They called me on my radio but I did not hear it so I did not think it was me....a few minutes later I grabbed the radio and looked at it and thought....Maybe I should go check to see if my light was on my phone in my office...So I peaked and it was...That meant that there was a message on my phone. I asked my class to sit down real quick so I could check the message and it was.....I had to wait until class was over to call back!
Here is the first email:
"Hi Michele, We got your travel notice! Please give me a call when you can to talk about the travel dates. Congratulations! "

Then I talked with my adoption coordinator on my lunch. They sent in our US Consulate Appointment request and should find out in two to three days. Then we should be able to purchase tickets although they told us we might have some problems with flights...See the second email below. We do feel blessed though because out of five families only three of us got our Travel Approval today which is not usually normal.
"Hi Michele, I just spoke to _____ and he said SSIT in China reported that there have been many cancelled flights to and from Sichuan. We kindly ask your family to be flexible with the dates as it is possible that the provincial paperwork processing is delayed due to the uncertain conditions in Sichuan – things like your flight from Chengdu to Guangzhou, your consulate appointment and return flight back to the U.S. will be impacted. I also just faxed the appointment request to Guangzhou, will let you know once I hear back from them. Thank you"
We have been blessed today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hold On!

I just can't stop thinking about Sophie!

I worry about her so much. I know they are taking good care of her. I can't stop thinking about what is going on on the campus where she lives. How many different things going on. Wondering if they are still living outside in the tent or is it now safe to go back inside? I am worrying about if their water supply is better, do they have enough diapers, mile, formula, blankets.....Are they warm, are the bugs eating at them......I just want to hold her in our arms and never let her go.

Hold on little Sophie we are almost there. We are praying to see in you a week or two at the most. We just hope and pray!

(I thought this photo would be fitting of Simone holding on to these links a few days after we became a family. This photo was taken around May 1st 2005. These were one of Simones most favorite toys for the first few months with us. Thanks to Bill and Nadine for sharing Lians toys with us. Simone was holding on to these with a firm grip, they comforted her in some way. We plan on bringing these for Sophie.)

In the mean time I found this passage on Shana's blog a couple of days ago which was from her friend Kim. It has been a while since some thing like this has hit me and just fits......I printed one for my purse and one for my office.

Come to me and rest in my loving presence. You know that this day will bring difficulties, and you are trying to think your way through those trials. As you anticipate what is ahead of you, you forget that I am with you - now and always. Rehearsing your troubles results in experiencing them many times, whereas you are meant to go through them only when they actually occur. Do not multiply your suffering in this way! Instead, come to me and relax in my peace. I will strengthen you and prepare you for this day, transforming your fear into confident trust. (Matthew 11:28-30; Joshua 1:5, 9)

That says it all!!!
So I am trying to pray and release all of my worries to God but it is so hard!

11th Email Update from Half the Sky

"Dear Friends,

I want first to give you an update on our efforts to get food and shelter to the 1,000 orphaned and displaced children in Aba. The roads are now closed.

We asked our colleagues at the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) to see if we can possibly bring the desperately-needed goods in by helicopter. A couple of hours ago, moments after the latest giant aftershock, we got good news -a helicopter for Aba tomorrow! More soon -

Yesterday morning, when I arrived in Chengdu, I was invited by MCA to visit some of the hardest-hit sites. We visited Dujiangyan - very close to the epicenter. It was a painful day (I've put a few photos on our websitehttp://www.halfthesky.org/work/earthquake08.php - some just too sad to write about) but I was also heartened to see both how quickly the government has come in and tried to take care of the basics - building thousands of temporary shelters and schools - and how the people have come together to help each other. A sign in one of the tent cities reads, "The earthquake has destroyed our homes but it can't break our spirit."

Today we visited Mianyang Zitong CWI. A 6.4 aftershock struck moments before we arrived at the orphanage. All of the children were rushed outside and, in what's become routine now, they all sat calmly in little chairs.There were 8 new arrivals - all of them had lost their parents.

It seems they are not brought to the orphanages until officials are fairly certain that they will not be claimed by extended family. One little boy told us in a matter-of-fact way that both his parents were killed. Ma Lang, HTS' director of child development, after days assisting the displaced children staying at the Jiuzhou stadium observed, "From the volunteers' and counselors' perspectives, the children's most common signs of being traumatized included insomnia, nightmares, tearfulness, indifference, andr efusing to eat. In the first few days, the volunteers in the stadium's 'inner circle (a holding place for separated children) had to search bathrooms and corridors for children who hid there and refused to eat. Thevolunteers told me it was heartbreaking to see the children's eyes and persuade them that they should eat.

"We visited the "inner circle" at Jiuzhou stadium today. Almost all of the children who had not yet been identified by family members had been transferred to children's shelters. The Mianyang Civil Affairs director told us that many, many children had been reunited - if not with their parents, then with extended families. One of our colleagues at the MCA told us that of the 200 children who'd been brought to shelter at the Chengdu Medical College, only 18 had not been reunited with extended family. Today we met a girl who has become famous in China because she was interviewed on television by Wen JiaBao. It was believed her parents had died. He tried to comfort her. Soon after, her parents were located.

Although they haven't yet been able to get to Mianyang to pick her up, today we met one happy little girl. The media has been making much of the idea of thousands of orphans. Our friends at MCA are not certain this is true and, to be honest, the situation is still too fluid to pin down the numbers. There are certainly many, many children with uncertain status. And they are traumatized and very much need consistent, caring support.

Provincial CAB (Civil Affairs Bureau) has begun the process of sending displaced children to structurally-sound colleges, military bases, welfare institutions, and other facilities. In less-stable areas, where there are fears of flooding and environmental issues, children housed in some temporary facilities are being transferred, yet again. Almost every orphanage has been advised that they should prepare for new arrivals. We met a few sad little faces yesterday at the Chengdu CWI; they are told to expect at least 100 more. The director at Zitong CWI told me the same thing. And so did the director at Guiyang CWI in Guizhou! The truth is, I believe, nobody yet knows.

These past days, the MCA has been working to draft recommendations for the care of displaced and orphaned children. I believe they will release an official statement soon. After two days traveling with MCA officials, one thing is clear - government is extremely concerned that every effort be made to reunite children with surviving relatives before adoption by non-relatives of orphaned children is even considered.

Meanwhile, tent schools are quickly being established wherever children are sheltered. There is a great desire to give the children the comfort of settling into a routine and regular attendance at school is seen as key. I visited a large tent city in Dujiangyan yesterday and the scene at 4:30 pm, with children streaming out of the temporary school toward dozens of waiting parents, was identical to that taking place in Chinese cities and towns every day.

HTS is working hard to complete its emergency relief efforts and turn its attention towards the effort for which it is better equipped - helping orphaned children begin to recover emotionally. By the end of the coming week, with your extraordinary generosity and the help of the amazing crew atGung-Ho Films, we will have purchased and delivered more than 30 tons of tents, medicines, food and formula, children's clothing, diapers and other infant supplies. With the helicopter to Aba and the purchase today of anemergency vehicle to transport orphaned and displaced children for 9 counties and one city, we will have answered every urgent request to take care of the children's basic needs. Now we move on to try to address thoseneeds no less urgent, but more elusive in every way.

Tomorrow (Monday, May 26) Half the Sky will launch its Sichuan Caregivers Training Project. I am thrilled, honored and very, very excited to tell youthat HTS will work under the guidance of the fore most child trauma and bereavement specialists in the world, the National Center on School Traumaand Bereavementhttp://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/svc/alpha/s/school-crisis/default.htm.Based at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, but comprising an international network of child trauma experts, the Center grew from the tragedy of theTerrorist Attacks of 9/11 and has served as a resource during hurricanes,s chool shootings, airline disasters and wars. Together with NCSTB and MCA, HTS will hold a two-day planning workshop, June 3-4 in Chengdu. Three experts from the Center will lead the workshop. Attending will be four volunteer pediatric psychologists and psychiatric social workers, HTS team of 15 field supervisors, our program directors and officials from MCA and Sichuan CAB. That will be the start of what willlikely be a long-term project to help children orphaned by the disaster tore cover and rebuild their lives.

I'll send along further details of the Caregivers Training Project soon. It's almost midnight and I'm exhausted. I've had two days on the road through a landscape filled with aching sadness, determination and hope.

More tomorrow!
Thank you!with love, Jenny"

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tagged Fun Denises Meme and Beccas 4 Things

My new friend Denise has tagged me and since I need a brake from running around, packing and stressing I thought this would be fun!

*For those of you who are not bloggers, you probably don't "get" this, but it helps us all get to know one another. (I also thought it would be fun for Sophie to have this in her scrap book about me, her Mom, boy do I like the sound of that.)

Favorite person (outside of family): Our Dog, does that count?

Favorite food? Italian and Chinese

Quirks about you? I make a mess around the bathroom sink with water.

How would the person who loves you the most describe you in ten words or less? Loyal, friendly, athletic.

Any regrets in life? No. Try not to question why.

Favorite charity or cause? Half the Sky and The American Heart Association.

Favorite blog recently? Half the Sky

Something you cannot get enough of? My running work outs (trying to get back into it. Today I made it to 4.7 and had to walk the 0.3 more to reach five miles, my goal. It has been hard the past three weeks to get back into the groove again so I am so happy that I am before going to China.) And emails from Half the Sky about updates on our daughter Sophie.

What job would you pay NOT to have? Garbage Pick Up Crew

Favorite Bible verse right now? Come to me and rest in my loving presence. You know that this day will bring difficulties, and you are trying to think your way through those trials. As you anticipate what is ahead of you, you forget that I am with you - now and always. Rehearsing your troubles results in experiencing them many times, whereas you are meant to go through them only when they actually occur. Do not multiply your suffering in this way! Instead, come to me and relax in my peace. I will strengthen you and prepare you for this day, transforming your fear into confident trust. (Matthew 11:28-30; Joshua 1:5,

I found this bible verse on Shana's blog. She got it from Kim. It hits so close to home right now!

Guilty pleasure? Blogging, Chocolate, and The Bachelor or Bachelorette (spelling).

Got any confessions? No

If you had to spend $1000 on yourself, how would you spend it? An all day trip to a luxury spa and shopping.

Favorite thing about your house? I feel so blessed with the neighbors that we have. It is such a nice community of people with a school park a bike ride away, walking trail and friends living not too far away.

Least favorite thing about your house? We don't have Sophie here right now with us.

One thing you are good at? Athletics.

If you could change one thing about your circumstances, what? We were in China right now.

Who would you like to meet someday? Simone and Sophies Birth Mother and Birth Father and any Birth Relatives.

Blogger convention anyone? No

What makes you feel sexy? When I an outfit looks good or being with my hubby.

Who is your real life hero? My Dad, My Mom, My Brother and My Husband. Not just for being my parents...My Dad because he is a Marine and for my Mom's commitment to Faith....My little brother because he is a Police Officer, enough said. My Husband for being him.

What is the hardest part of your job? Report card time.

When are you most relaxed? In the morning, after I wake up.

What stresses you out? My To Do List.

What can you not live without? Water and my family.

Do you agree with the recent article that blogs are authored by narcissists? No, just happy to share our life with family and friends that live far away. It is a modern way to scrap book and since most people enjoy technology it works well. See next question for more.

Why do you blog? To record our journey for our daughters, keep family and friends updated that live far away, share our story with others that are wanting/have adopted and to learn from others.

Who are you tagging?
New/newer bloggers-Jenn and Tami

Bloggy friends- Becca, Kimi, Beth and Jessica

Bloggers you'd like to get to know better- Denise, and Kim

Bloggers who you don't think will respond but you hope will- Emily (because I know she is so busy), (Andrea I would be tagging you but we already did this on my other blog), Roxx because I don't think I can leave this comment on your blog?)

Rules:
1. Answer the questions.
2. Link back to who tagged you.
3. Tag 8 bloggers in the above categories to do the same.

Below is a tag that I got from Becca. So I am also putting it on this post.

4 things...
(A) Four places I go to over and over:
1-School (I am a PE teacher)
2-my garage (for the tred mill work out)
3-My laundry room
4-Target

(B) Four people who e-mail me (regularly ):
1-Becca
2-Rachel
3-Jeni
4-Cami

(C) Four of my favorite places to eat:
1-my husbands kitchen
2- Legin's Dim Sum
3- Olive Garden
4- My step Mom Lina's Kitchen which I do not get to do often

(D) Four places I would rather be right now:
1-In Chengdu with Sophie, Rick, Simone and my Mom
2 -On a beach, where it is warm
3-Relaxing
4-Visiting family

(E) Four TV shows I watch over and over:
1-bachelor
2- Learning Chinese with Mei Mei (DVD)
3 - Dancing and Singing With Mei Mei (DVD)
4- Brother and Sisters

Travel Approval (TA) On It's Way?

(I thought this photo would be fitting for this post since we are so close to this step. You can see Rick's thumb print in the red ink and our friend Nadine's putting her thumb print on the adoption papers. We are required to "sign" our adoption paper work in China with a red thumb print as well as sign some. This photo was taken on April 27th, 2008 during Simone's adoption.)

This morning I received an email from my Logged In Yahoo Group and one family received their Travel Approval last night around 6:15 pm. THEY HAVE THE SAME LOA/LOC (LOA/Letter of Confirmation, same thing) day as us, May 1st!!!

I emailed our adoption agency this morning knowing they are out of the office anyways for the holiday weekend and praying that they get my email at home and email me back!!?? If the TA's came yesterday it is possible that ours is there because I was told that the translator was out of the office for the day and we would not know yet or it is possible that they came while everyone left for the holiday weekend....

I was also told that they did hear back from China on Thursday night that China said they expedite Waiting Children already. So that means that our TA would not be rushed. They were going to try again on Monday evening but I am hoping there is no need for that :O)

Only time will tell. Usually the TA's come in groups so we hope ours is there too and things with the earthquake have not delayed ours just because Sophie lives in Chengdu?!!?

Only time will tell.....But we are working like crazy to finish cleaning this house and get things ready!!

I need to get on that treadmill and run five miles so I can calm down....

Thanks everyone for your prayers!
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Friday, May 23, 2008

10th Email Update from Half the Sky

"Dear Friends,

Today we were starting the process of wrapping up the major portion of our orphanage relief efforts. With your help, we have purchased and delivered or are in the process of delivering huge amounts of medicines and medical supplies, tents, cribs, cots, bedding, baby formula, diapers, kids clothing and shoes, rice, noodles, cooking oil, water, powdered milk, bowls, cups, towels, mosquito repellent and much, much more. As we finalized plans to ship, then bring in engineers to erect two giant tents to house hundreds of newly orphaned children, we got an emergency call from Aba Civil Affairs Bureau.

They are caring for approximately 1,000 orphaned and displaced children, most of whom are 7-12 years old. There are over 100 infants. They’d been placing the children in local shelters but had just received news that 70 more children are on the way. There are no more tents and no more beds for them. Further, they urgently need powdered milk and diapers. And they need foods that don’t require cooking as most of their cooking stove sand supplies have been destroyed. They need so much they can’t even give us an estimate.

The roads to Aba are dangerous but the need is tremendous. We have obtained the necessary road pass and organized a convoy of three trucks. Our senior preschool field supervisor, Yang Lei, will be leading the effort along with Aba drivers who are familiar with the dangers. It’s a 3 day round-trip and they leave at dawn. I am so thankful our Half the Sky staff are as tough as they are!

Stop presses! -- Just as I finished writing the above, I received the following email.

The situation continues to be ever-changing:

“While everyone has done an absolutely incredible job pulling this urgent shipment together, it simply cannot leave tomorrow morning as we've all been pushing for. The road between Chengdu and Aba is simply too dangerous to travel, based on all the information we are able to gather. While it hasn't registered on the news, nearly 200 people have died in the last few days along these roads due to mudslides caused by the early summer rains. Communications are, of course, sketchy, and we know Yang Lei has her permit to travel the roads, but all reports are now that it's just too dangerous and too unsure to risk take such a risk. The Director of the Aba Institution agrees and the Director of the Chengdu Institution agrees.

“The efforts you've all put in today on behalf of the babies at Aba will not be in vain. We will monitor the road situation very, very closely. Civil Affairs wants us to get in, we want to go in, and the moment we feel it is safe, we will go in. The good news is we've managed to amasse verything on Aba's "needs list" in one day and it's staged at Chengdu SWI and ready to load on trucks. The items that were scheduled to load on the Aba trucks will stay at Chengdu, ready to travel to Aba when conditions allow. THESE ITEMS ARE NOT TO BE USED FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE IN THE COMING DAYS, THEY ARE TO BE KEPT TOGETHER, AND SEPARATE FROM ALL OTHER INVENTORY, AND WILL TRAVEL TO ABA AS SOON AS CONDITIONS ALLOW. This is a very difficult decision for us to make, but we simply can't risk life to savel ife.”

You can see that the relief effort is not quite over. I will keep you all posted.

Meanwhile, we have spent almost exactly the amount we have raised in donations (just over US $300,000. And we have not yet really begun the second critical phase of our operation in Sichuan: training caregivers and volunteers to care for and address the non-material needs of displaced and newly-orphaned children. There are billions being donated for rebuilding. But we need help putting young lives back together.

Here’s a note from Ma Lang, who was at a “model” relief shelter to day talking to newly-orphaned children: I talked to a junior high school girl. Here is part of our conversation:

Lang: Do you know there are psychologists and counselors there to help people?

Girl: Yes.Lang: Would you be willing to talk to a psychologist?

Girl: Yes.Lang: What would you like to talk about with the psychologist?

Girl: Things that make me happy. Like happy stories and movies.

Lang: What do not you want the psychologist to ask?

Girl: [pause] Do not ask me where my families are!

P.S. There is little coordination among the 10 plus counselor groups at the shelter. One main method they chose their “clients” was to look forsad faces. If a child or adult looked sad, the like lihood was that she would be “counseled” by more than one group of counselors. One concern that I had was that the children (and adults) might be traumatized again by the “counseling” process.And then….“

I met Lei in the “inner circle” at Jiuzhou Stadium. He was a cute and curious second grader who’d lost his parents in the quake. He approached me and asked me what I was doing when I was organizing the pictures I took. We looked at the pictures together, and chatted a little bit. He told me that after the earthquake, there come after shocks, and then comes the epidemic. He said epidemic means you die if you do not wash hands before and after meal. When I asked him what earthquake is, he said if you talk loud, earthquake happens. I lowered my voice and asked him if our voices were loud. He said, I do not know.”

Half the Sky is finalizing plans to work in consultation with an important international resource for children traumatized by crisis. I want to thank all of you who have worked to help us locate Mandarin-speaking childt rauma specialists. I think we are assembling an outstanding team. I will share more details in the next few days. What I hope I can communicate to you all is that our work is really just beginning. We need more help!

with love, JennyJenny Bowen"
Executive Director Half the Sky Foundation
www.halfthesky.org

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More Photos from Half the Sky









We are so blessed with these photos from Half the Sky!!
I can not say over and over again what a blessing they are to the world and our family. For us to see where Sophie is living at the moment is priceless. Thank you Half the Sky!
I can't stop looking at these photos and wonder, pray, dream of our little girl. We will be there soon Sophie and we love you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We pray for Sophie, her Ayi's, the children and everyone in the Sichuan province.

Explanation of Chengdu Institutes

Here is an email I received today in reguards to the last Half the Sky update from my agency. I was confused about so many Chengdu Institutes and this helps us understand:

"Hello Michele,

There is only one Chengdu Children Welfare Institute in the city of Chengdu. The other two mentioned in the email are referring to Chengdu 1st Social Welfare Institute and Chengdu 2nd Social Welfare Institute where usually mostly elderly are residing in.

Hope it helps!"

9th Half the Sky Email Update

"Dear Friends,

Our work in Sichuan is in full swing now and it’s becoming harder to find time to write. Yet I know how deeply concerned you are about thec hildren, so will continue to grab all the moments I can to tell you what we've learned.

Since earthquake statistics are so readily available now, I will no longer include them.

You will see below that there are preparations being made in many institutions to receive newly orphaned and displaced children. There have been numerous media reports about the thousands of new orphans; we have received dozens of adoption inquiries here at Half the Sky (which has no involvement in adoption!)

I really want to stress that many, many of these children you're hearing about will be reunited with family – if not parents, then living relatives. In rural China, especially, workers often leave their children with grandparents so that they can support their families by working in more prosperous areas. Many of the children do have parents – parents who are desperately trying to find their children. The government is keenly aware of this and, while there are many, many media reports of adoption programs and applications submitted for domestic adoption of the children, we don’t believe that any adoption procedures will be put into place before every means has been exhausted to find parents or other living relatives.

We, along with Ministry officials, are meeting with the provincial Civil Affairs Bureau on Monday and may have more information about the plans for transitional care of orphaned and displaced children. We are exploring how we can, working with other NGOs, best help care for the children in the interim and assist the government in its efforts to provide for their future.

Here is the current situation:

Chengdu CWI has been notified to prepare to receive 100 children; they expect that more may follow. At the same time, the orphanage has moved the children out-of-doors out of concern for safety. (photos on ourwebsite http://www.halfthesky.org/work/earthquake08.php) Half the Sky is working with local government and erecting a giant tent that can serve as shelter for orphaned and displaced children for as long as necessary. More news on this early next week.

Chengdu 2nd SWI - 35 senior citizens and 10 preschool-age orphans have been transferred there from Dujiangyan City. 40~50 more orphans will be arriving soon. They are in need of 50 beds, sets of bedding, as well as the same number of clothes for children between 5 and 7 years old. Before the arrival of those 45, the institution had 100+ children and 500+ elderly people already. During aftershocks, they stayed in tents; but now, they have all moved back to the buildings.

Chengdu 3rd SWI – Caring for 30 children, all fine, not expecting new arrivals.

Wenjiang District SWI, Chengdu – Caring for only 4 children, all fine, not expecting new arrivals

Dujiangyan SWI – All of the children are under good care and there is no shortage of food or any daily necessity. 12 new children were recently brought in, but they’ve been having much success in locating surviving family members and have high hopes for these children as well.

Luojiang County SWI, Deyang City – The children are being cared for in a shelter, including 6 new arrivals. They are expecting a 2 year-old and have asked for a crib as well as diapers, powdered milk and rice.

Deyang SWI – Has prepared to receive new children per instructions.

Nanchong 2nd SWI – They are caring for 27 children and are expecting another 20. They are sleeping in tents due to concerns about after shocks. They ask for 10 tents, tarps and beds.

Cangxi SWI, Guangyuan City – They have some building damage. They have been advised that they may be receiving children from Qingchuan but this has not yet been confirmed by the provincial Civil Affairs Bureau. I told you that 13 of the 24 children brought to the Zitong SWI had been reunited with family. Today I was told there were 12. Two signs hang at the institution. One says “There are only 20 children from Xiao Ba Primary School in An'Xian in our institution. There are no children from Beichuan. If you are looking for those from Beichuan, please go to (name) Hotel. If you are looking to adopt, please come in 3 months." The other, poignantly says, "Yan: only her mother was home; XianLin & LiGang are brothers: only their father was home: Cheng: her father is working in Xinjiang; Dan: her parents are working in Zhejiang; Jun: about 2 yearsold, parents where abouts unknown; Zhou: about 1 year old, parents whereabouts unknown. Needs: Books to read; stable place to live. Emotional needs: their family...their relatives."

Mianyang – The Jiuzhou Stadium that houses 20,000 refugees is now, considering the situation, well-organized and, beyond trash bags and disposable gloves, there seem to be no un met material needs. While there were, at first, about 1,700 children staying in the “inner circle” of the stadium (on the first floor inside the building), most of those children have either been reunited with family or transferred to smaller shelters in Mianyang. There are only about 130 children remaining. There arev olunteer counselors and psychologists for these children. The “innercircle” is strictly guarded by police, soldiers, and volunteers. Mr.Liang JianHua, a volunteer leader and veteran, has been supervising care of the children in the “inner circle” from the very beginning, with the help of about a dozen volunteers. According to Ma Lang, he seems to be anextremely competent, kind, and devoted person.

Meanwhile, for children less well-served, Half the Sky is moving goods like crazy and working hard to initiate the next, and most important phase of our efforts – trauma counseling and care for displaced and orphaned children.

Thanks to help from dozens of volunteers, we’ve delivered about 100 of the promised tents, cases of blankets, tarps, clothes, diapers, food and medicines to several institutions. There will be many more arrivals and deliveries over the coming days. We have received permits to enter and provide aid to one of the more inaccesible hard-hit areas tomorrow (Aba County) and are working on helping in Li and Mao counties, also hard-hit.

We have begun the process of distributing to temporary children’s shelters. We give special thanks to the Sichuan employees of Silk Road Telecommunications, many of whom helped us load and unload trucks and have offered to aid in distribution and logistics all around the province.

I’ve got lots more to report but have run out of steam and time. I’ll be back tomorrow with more, I promise.

with love, JennyJenny Bowen"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Requested for TA to Come Faster?

(I took this photo while we were in China with Simone around April 28th, 2005. It is a porcelain piece from Nanchung.)

We requested yesterday that our adoption agency ask the CCAA if we could have our Travel Approval (TA) come sooner due to every thing that is going on in Chengdu and with Sophie's Orphanage. Here is the email that we got back about it today.

"Hi Michele,

We understand your concerns and we see how much you worry about your child in China. I have discussed your concern with our China Program Director __________, but he is very doubtful that the CCAA will expedite the issuance of the your travel notice due to this reason. The entire China including the CCAA is in the midst of adjusting themselves to the disaster and we believe that they will do whatever they can to protect the children and to ensure the normal processing of international adoption.

Sincerely,_______"

We are grateful that our adoption agency is asking them for us even though they are telling us that it most likely will not happen. We appreciate them so much for honoring our request.

We just feel like if we don't ask we could look back and wish we did. I know that they are all doing their best to take care of the children. I do not denied them that. It is just when I read that they are might be staying in tents, there is a milk, diapers, formula, blanket and possible water shortage it just makes us want to bring her home asap.

Well see what happens.....Tomorrow will be two weeks into our TA wait. Unfortunately we had to wait a couple of extra days for two families to turn in their paper work. We understand that things happen it is just hard when you have to rely on other people. Our agency does wait for the whole group and then sends in the paper work for the TA. So our TA count down started around May 7th, 2008. Every day counts.

We should know in a couple of days what the CCAA says about our request. If they do not do it then we should get our TA around June 5th, Beccas Birthday!! Can't say we are not trying!

Praying and trying to do every thing possible on our end to bring Sophie home soon.

Eighth Half the Sky Update

Dear Friends,

As I delay writing this report a bit longer each day, I realize that, like so many, I find it harder and harder to read or write those grim statistics or tell the sad stories. We wish we could be done with this death and disaster and start to move on. But still the numbers come.

There are 34,073 people confirmed dead, 245,108 injured, still more than 35,000 still missing.

Yesterday, after those three silent minutes in Sichuan, people began to call out, "Rebuild! Rebuild!" Today, when I was feeling I couldn't open another casualty report, I read instead a report about new babies born during and right after the quake. They have names like 'Li Zhen'(Earthquake) and 'Born in a Tent' and 'Long March.' They, like all the survivors, will carry these terrible days with them always. But their lives are just beginning. For them and for all of the children who survived, Sichuan will begin to rebuild.

As hope of finding more survivors fades, we find hope in each bit of good news -

During the past week we managed to reach every single orphanage in the hardest-hit areas but one - Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. Today we finally made contact. They said, "The institution buildings are no longer safe to live in. All the children live in tents. The government provides us with enough food and water and daily necessities. Now we only worry how and when we can possibly rebuild."

Of the 24 children (all of whom were from hard-hit Anxian County) who we reported were brought to Mianyang Zitong SWI because they were newly orphaned, I am very happy to tell you that 13 of them were reunited with relatives.

The children of Suining SWI have now been able to move back into their orphanage building.

More displaced children are arriving daily at shelters in Chengdu, but no one is giving up on finding living relatives yet. Yesterday, 70 children were brought to a large hospital in Chengdu for urgent treatment. Some ofthem had joyful reunions with family, but of course, not all. One very young girl signed her own consent form to have surgery on her broken arm. Ma Lang wrote, "She was a sweet and tough girl, and the doctors, nurses,and volunteers loved her very much."

Ma Lang and two other HTS staff are now in Mianyang and we expect more news from them soon. Meanwhile, our relief operation is going into full swing, with tents, tarps, medicines, beds, blankets, rice, diapers, food, clothing and baby formula moving in and out of the Chengdu CWI for immediate delivery to distressed areas.

As we get closer to realizing our small part of meeting the basic challenges of shelter and emergency supplies, it is time to embark ont hemost critical project for the long term - helping the children heal andgoon with life. This is, of course, why Half the Sky exists and how our organization can best help Sichuan's children rebuild. Now we will begin the process of training caregivers, foster parents, shelter workers and volunteers of all backgrounds to work with newly orphaned and displaced children. We believe our long experience working with children orphaned by AIDS and other children who were not infants when they lost their parents has given us a solid foundation for this work. But this week we are recruiting a team of pediatric psychologists, trauma specialsts and social workers tohelp us adjust our training methods to this special circumstance. (If youare, or know of, a Mandarin-speaking professional working in this field who would like to volunteer for this project, please let me know!)

Within two weeks, Half the Sky's entire staff of field supervisors will be working with caregivers and new foster parents all around Sichuan. Ourwork is just beginning. Thank you so much for making it possible!

More news soon.... If you would like to donate to Half the Sky's Children's Earthquake Fundyou can do so through Global Giving:http://www.globalgiving.com/pr/2100/proj2086a.html Or directly to Half the Sky. You can donate by calling Half the Sky(+1-510-525-3377) or on our website:http://give.halfthesky.org/prostores/servlet/Categories?category=Children's+Earthquake+Fund Many companies have announced they will match employee gifts forearthquake relief. Please check to see if your company will double yourgift! If you would like a Canadian tax receipt, please donate athttp://www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=s86248 If you would like a Hong Kong tax receipt, please call us at+852-2520-5266 or online athttps://www.paydollar.com/b2c2/eng/charity/payInfo.jsp?charityId=4947

Thank you again. It's truly an honor to be a part of this.

with love, Jenny Jenny BowenExecutive
Director Half the Sky
Foundationwww.halfthesky.org

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chinese Visa Arrived

We received our Passports back this afternoon with our Chinese Visa's in them!!
What a blessing to have such a big step completed, especially with all of the changing requirements.

Seventh Email Update from Half the Sky

"Dear Friends,

It's Monday afternoon here in China. As I write this, the entire country just held 3 minutes of silence to commence a 3 day period of national mourning. It began at 2:28 pm, marking the very moment the massive quake struck in Wenchuan County, Sichuan. Flags flew at half-staff, the people wore white flowers and, heads bowed, held hands. Across the country, horn sand sirens wailed in grief.

There are 32,477 people confirmed dead, more than 35,000 still missing.

Sadly and predictably, we are getting more information about children newly orphaned. We are now bringing together people and resources to prepare and train caregivers to help children through the next difficult phase of recovery. Unlike emergency relief (not our specialty but we're learning fast!), this is an area where HTS does have great expertise to offer. We will give all we can to these children who have many hard days ahead oft hem. I will be sharing our plans as they evolve.

Meanwhile, we continue to focus our attention on the most urgent needs of affected children - children in institutions and children orphaned or displaced by the disaster.

What follows is our most recent news. I've posted a few photos on ourwebsite:

http://halfthesky.org/work/earthquake08.php

and will update as morearrive.

Ziyang Social Welfare Institution - Building sustained severe damage. They care for 48 children, 20 of them under four years-old. They request 50 cribs and cots, bandages, 10 milk pots, children's clothes, 100 sets of bedding, bowls, spoons, chopsticks, toys and stationary supplies.

Deyang and Nanchong Social Welfare Institutions both have received notification that they should prepare immediately to receive newly orphaned children. All the children are living in tents. HTS will provide additional tents, beds and other requested items.

Guangyuan SWI - The children remain in tents. They were notified that they will be receiving several newly orphaned children (perhaps 50-60) very soon.

Shifang saw many of its schools destroyed, hundreds of children and their teachers buried. They sent us this heartbreaking story during the rescueefforts at Hongbai Primary School:

"'We found him!' Teacher Zhang Huibing's body was finally discovered, frozenin a posture of pushing against the door frame. According to the students saved by him, when the earthquake happened, Teacher Zhang was on the platform of the classroom on the second floor, which was very near the door. He yelled to the students, 'Run outside! Hurry!' And he somehow held the door frame up with both arms as the children ran out, one by one.

Just as all the students were safely evacuated, the building collapsed on him. Teacher Zhang, who was only 30 years-old, had a four-year-old child of his own."

As I mentioned in my last note, Mianyang has become a major refugee center. Of the more than 20,000 refugees in the city's Jiuzhou Stadium, "scores" ofthem are young children. We are told, but this is not confirmed, that the entire center area of the stadium is reserved for toddlers and infants. Most are said to be from Dujiangyang, Beichuan and Mianzhu. Ma Lang is onher way to Mianyang now, so we will learn more soon.

Many children who have lost or become separated from their families are being brought to Chengdu, but not yet to the Chengdu Children's Welfare Institution. Some have been taken to the Sichuan Children's Center (anafter-school and weekend activity center for children.)

About 30 children, from Yingxiu and Dujiangyang, were taken a Chengdu city park, the Qingyang Sports Center, which has been converted to a refugee camp. Some children have been united with family members. We're told that some from the media are actively trying to reunite families. Most of thechildren in this camp who survived were in their teens. They told us tha tmany younger children in their town did not survive because those in the primary schools and kindergartens were napping when the quake hit and couldnot run.

The youngest camp resident was 16 days-old. The military police made aspecial effort to bring her and her very young mother down to the camp fromYingxiu. The baby was only 11 days-old when her daddy perished in the earthquake.

Perhaps today's most heartbreaking story was about some of the 70 injured children who'd been carried down from the affected areas to Huaxi Hospital. Most of the children were reunited with parents or relatives; some were even well enough to leave the hospital after treatment. But a few children remained alone and unclaimed.

They were required to sign their own consent forms so that the doctors could amputate their limbs to save their lives.

Half the Sky spent much of the weekend purchasing requested supplies and shelter, organizing distribution and continuing to assess needs. In addition to the much-needed and wonderfully generous monetary donations fromour amazing community of supporters, we have been flooded with offers of in-country help from from volunteers.

As you can imagine, many requested items are getting harder and harder to come by. Just today we doubled our refugee tent order to 200 - all that was available immediately - and already have requests for more. Shoppers in Chengdu have begun filling a no-longer-habitable room at the Chengdu CWI (Children's Welfare Institution) with everyday goods destined for hard-hitareas. Others around China are working on fulfilling our giant shopping list. Some are flying in to Chengdu, hand-carrying items from our medical wish-list. Our wonderful friends at Gung-Ho Films, a Beijing-based film production services company, are offering logistics support, including shopping, shipping and door-to-tent delivery!

I can't really express how moved we are by your generosity and your trust in Half the Sky to ensure that the children benefit from your gifts. Today 3 more HTS Beijing staffers and 2 Gung-Ho staff traveled to Chengdu to help facilitate our relief efforts. We all feel privileged to be able to help.

If you would like to donate to Half the Sky's Children's Earthquake Fund, it would be great if you would do so at Global Giving as (even though they take 10% for processing and we do not (100% to the kids but at cost to our programs) it allows HTS staff to focus on relief efforts while keeping ourprograms going.http://www.globalgiving.com/pr/2100/proj2086a.htmlIf you prefer to donate directly to Half the Sky, of course that's fine.Here are the various ways: You can donate by calling Half the Sky (+1 510525 3377) or on our website: http://give.halfthesky.org/prostores/servlet/Categories?category=Children's+Earthquake+FundMany companies have announced they will match employee gifts for earthquakerelief. Please check to see if your company will double your gift!

If you would like a Canadian tax receipt, please donate athttp://www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=s86248If you would like a Hong Kong tax receipt, please call us at +852 25205266 or online athttps://www.paydollar.com/b2c2/eng/charity/payInfo.jsp?charityId=4947Thank you so much for your kindness and concern.with love,JennyJenny BowenExecutive DirectorHalf the Sky Foundationwww.halfthesky.org <http://www.halfthesky.org/>

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Package for Sophie

video

On Friday, May 16th, 2008 we mailed Sophie another package.

Small Tiny Cabage Patch Doll
M & M's Candy for Sophie
Two Disposable Cameras
Andes Mints for the Ayi's
One family photo (I added Sophie's photo in with ours and put the words family on it.)
Short note saying, "We love you very much and can't wait to bring you home! Love Daddy, Mommy and Big Sister."
Price of mailing a 1 pound package $45.00 via United States Post Office.
Seeing Sophie opening the package and having photos of her family and friends at the orphanage. PRICELESS

Once again we struggle to mail Sophie another package. Especially after the earthquakes when they are short on diapers, formula, milk, blankets and now in need of Tents. We wish we could just rent an airplane and fill it up with every thing they need. I almost feel bad mailing her these things as I am sure the Ayi's are so busy right now but I feel that if I don't do it for Sophie I would regret it later.

I wanted to say thank you to Jessica (Simone's teacher at the Chinese Library, when we go during vacation) for translating the sentences and short note.

I keep telling my self that God is watching over her and I pray for Sophies safety and all of the people that are in the Sichuan area.

(Simone dressed up as a Mermaid today at Preschool. She informed me that the beauty mark was "not a beauty mark, it is a Princess Mermaid Mark." Some of the boys got "pirate mustaches." That is why she has so much make up on. We appreciate her teachers so much because they are always doing extra things like this for the children! What a blessing that Sophie will get to one day go to school here too!)

Alyson and Olivia from Chengdu

(I received this email via my Chengdu Group.)

"Just wanted to let you know that we made a delivery to the Chengdu orphanage yesterday (Saturday here) of items that will be sent to the stricken orphanages. Most kids in the Chengdu orphanage were now on the 1st floor, though they all looked content. (We had a VERY brief tour.) Near the entrance we took turns holding 7 month old Ling Ling and were thoroughly entertained by Little Miss Miao Miao. If she is heading to your house, you better brace yourselves. She is a director in training and had us in stitches! We also met Tian Tian, who also seemed to be around 2. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the orphanage, but I was allowed to snap a couple of our small entertainment committee!

We did more shopping today and our plan is to deliver tomorrow. Jenny and Richard Bowen are trying to figure out how to get the items to the orphanages, since the roads are now restricted and approval is needed to travel to the stricken areas. Just FYI, the highway to the new orphanage is actually leads to Dujiangyan, one of the areas that initially was in the news, mostly because it is the closest to Chengdu, thereby the most readily accessible.

We are being reimbursed by Half the Sky, so we are putting your dollars into action!

Alyson and Olivia in Chengdu"

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sixth Email Update from Half the Sky

"Dear Friends,

It is mid-weekend now in China so we are not getting a daily call from the ministry. But I do have further information to share with you.

First, children in the institutions are all still well. We have now reached reached every affected institution, with the exception of Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture where the orphanage is said to house 52 children.

We will let you know as soon as we make contact. It turns out the Mianzhu SWI, which we’d had trouble reaching, was leveled in the quake. There was one fatality, an elderly resident. Thankfully,all of the children were in community foster care and all are fine.

As of today (Saturday) there were 28,881 people confirmed dead. There were a very small number of live rescues, but the teams have not given up hope. Cities like Mianyang have become refugee centers. 20,000 homeless who have come on foot from nearby towns are living in the local stadium; many more thousands have no place to go. 4.7 million homes have been destroyed. 169,000 people are injured.

Ma Lang tells us that although the rescue resources keeping coming in, one concern is the uneven distribution of much needed goods. “Counties and townships that have been the focus in media coverage receive more resources (sometimes more than enough); while in some other areas, there is little. In Qingchuan, people are surviving on one bottle of water and two cookies per day.

”In the schools that did not collapse (almost 7,000 were destroyed) the education bureaus are working to care for displaced children. They need tents, blankets, masks, rice, noodles, oil, flashlights, disposable underwear and antiseptic wipes. Many of those items and the items are arer equested by the welfare institutions are no longer available in Chengdu. With the funds you have donated, HTS has a team of volunteer shoppers scouring Chengdu and we have a network of staff and volunteers seeking out needed items throughout China.

Today, with your help, we purchased 100 large refugee tents to house children who are in need of shelter. We have arranged to purchase more later this week but want to be sure we can properly distribute first. Itis not easy to find goods now or to get them where they need to go. But everyone is working together to help the children.

As you have heard, this tragic event has both killed children and created orphans. A group of new orphans has been transported to Chengdu. We expect to have more information soon. Meanwhile, the orphanage in Chengdu experienced a magnitude 5.9 aftershock yesterday (there have been 23 major aftershocks ranging from 5-6.9 on theRichter Scale!) and is preparing, if necessary, to move the children completely out of what was considered to be the most solid building. They have requested tents, which we are providing immediately.

Here are answers to some of your questions, the best we can offer right now:

How can one donate goods? We do not have the means to facilitate bringing goods into the country or distributing them where they are needed. If you are in China and have access to the following items and have means to deliver them to the Chengdu airport, please contact me:

folding cots & cribs, 100 or moreblankets, 100 or more pairs of children’s shoes, 100 or more largetarpaulins, 2 cases or more of children’s antibiotics (Zithromax,Amoxycillin, Penicillin, Klarithromycin, Erythromycin, Augmentin), 2 casesor more of anti-diarrheal meds (Charcoal Tablets, Kaolin), 2 cases or moreof children’s anti-cold and cough meds (Dimetapp, Actifed, Robitussin) and/or 4 cases or more of rehydration salts/liquids (Pedialyte, Gatorade,Gastrolyte, ORS, Pocari Sweat).

Please understand, we appreciate your wish to send items but we are not a relief agency (though we’re startingto feel like one!) and we just don’t have the mechanism or means to move your goods where they will do good. The very best way to help is to donate funds.

How many children will we help? We can’t yet know. There are not yet statistics that separate affected children from adults. There are not yet statistics regarding the numbersof new orphans, numbers of affected orphans, numbers of displaced children who will eventually be reunited with their families. We will provide whenwe can.

How can one adopt newly orphaned children? It is too early to know how many orphans have been created by thedisaster. There is also much desire among the Chinese people to provide loving homes for the children who’ve lost their parents. The government’s first priority is to take care of the children’s urgent needs – to provide them with shelter, food, medical care and a nurturing environment.

Halfthe Sky is doing its best to support this process. There will then beefforts to reunite children with relatives. Eventually, if parents or relatives can’t be located, the children will be placed for adoption. Several hundred Chinese citizens have already submitted applications to the Sichuan Civil Affairs Bureau! Please give what you can to help the children who survive go on with theirlives.If you would like to donate to Half the Sky’s Children’s Earthquake Fund,it would be great if you would do so at Global Giving as (even though theytake 10% for processing and we do not (100% to the kids but at cost to our programs) it allows HTS staff to focus on relief efforts while keeping ourprograms going.

http://www.globalgiving.com/pr/2100/proj2086a.htmlIf you prefer to donate directly to Half the Sky, of course that’s fine.Here are the various ways: You can donate by calling Half the Sky (+1 510525 3377) or on our website:http://give.halfthesky.org/prostores/servlet/Categories?category=Children%27s%2BEarthquake%2BFund

I am told that many companies (was specifically informed about Microsoftand Citibank) will match employee gifts for earthquake relief. Pleasecheck to see if your company will double your gift!If you would like a Canadian tax receipt, please donate athttp://www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=s86248If you would like a Hong Kong tax receipt, please call us at +852 25205266 or online athttps://www.paydollar.com/b2c2/eng/charity/payInfo.jsp?charityId=4947Your donations to support relief efforts for the children have been sogenerous. It is deeply moving to see how many people care.with love,JennyJenny BowenExecutive DirectorHalf the Sky Foundationwww.halfthesky.org"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fifth Email Update from Half the Sky

"Dear Friends,

I dearly wish I had more good news to report. The very best thing I can tell you is that we have not had a single report of injuries from the welfare institutions.

As of this morning (Friday) there were 19,509 people confirmed dead. The State Council today said there will likely be more than 50,000. Today’sgovernment report describes one terrible scene after another: thousandshomeless, thousands missing, thousands injured, thousands trapped orburied alive. Hope for survivors is dimming. There is an urgent call forbody bags to prevent the spread of disease. There have been over 4,400 aftershocks.

HTS Director, Child Development, Ma Lang has arrived in Chengdu and sends this note:

I am deeply touched by your moral and emotional support. I only slept twoof the past thirty hours. The first thing I did after landing was to donate some medicine to the Chengdu Red Cross. It was very much appreciated – exactly what was needed. They gave me a wish list forfurther donations: antibiotics for children and adults, medicine fordiarrhea, cold capsules (not instant medicines that must be mixed in water), bandages, gauze, tape, iodine, cotton swabs, herbal medicine tostop bleeding and some for pain relief. Other much-needed donations include tents, tarpaulins, warm clothes and shoes.

People in Chengdu are doing everything they can to help with the earthquake rescue. I saw all sorts of vehicles carrying things to the donation centers. I registered for blood donation and was put on the waiting list – the blood center was overloaded with donated blood and it’s difficult to transport the blood to the hardest-hit areas.

More to come… Lang Here is the confirmed information we have regarding welfare institutions:

The following institutions not mentioned in yesterday’s note suffered no serious damage: Chengdu 2nd SWI, Chengdu 3rd SWI, Ziyang SWI, Neijing CWI, Chengdu SOS children’s village, Leshan SWI, Ganzi CWI, Guang’an SWI, Suining SWIThe following report damage, but, again, no injuries.

Your generousdonations will help meet all of these requests for assistance:

Bazhon CWI – Severe damage to building; children are fine.

Meishan SWI – Cracks in buildings, have evacuated all children (50+) totents. They have adequate food, water and clothes but request 20 cribsand bedding.

Guangyuan SWI – Damaged buildings, all children have been in tents for 4-5days, often in the blazing sun. They request food, baby formula water,diapers, bedding and other daily necessities. They urgently need drugsand food supplements to protect against disease and heatstroke.

Nanchong SWI – There was substantial damage to buildings, all children(100+, more than half under 6 years-old) are living in tents. They needmore tents, disposable diapers, children’s clothing, wagons, cribs andbedding.

Deyang CWI – Dormitory for school-age children was severely damaged.Although the other buildings seem fine, pending inspection, all childrenand staff have been moved to tents. There has been constant rain and much that was pulled from the buildings has been ruined. They request bedding and children’s clothing. They still have disposable diapers left from our assistance during the winter storms but will be running out of those aswell as infant formula in the coming days.

Mianyang Zitong CWI (update) – Children have been moved back from the military base to a safe building in the institution. There is adequatefood and water but they request clothes, bedding, infant formula, diapersand medicine for colds. They are now caring for 66 children, 23 of themunder 2 years.Sadly, 24 new orphans – earthquake survivors - arrived at the institution yesterday.

We are still unable to reach these orphanages:

Abazhou CWI (52 children)and Mianzhu SWI

Please give what you can to help the children who survive go on with theirlives.If you would like to donate to Half the Sky’s Children’s Earthquake Fund, it would be great if you would do so at Global Giving.

My apologies forgiving incorrect information yesterday; the Ford Motor Company isgenerously matching EMPLOYEE gifts to Global Giving, not ALL! Still, itis an easy and convenient way to make a donation and helps HTS by handling processing of your gifts. Now maybe some other corporation would like tostep up and match ALL donations?!

URL=http://www.globalgiving.com/pr/2100/proj2086a.html

If you prefer to donate directly to Half the Sky, of course that’s fine.Here are the various ways: You can donate by calling Half the Sky (+1 510525 3377) or on our website:
URL=http://give.halfthesky.org/prostores/servlet/Categories?category=Children%27s%2BEarthquake%2BFund

If you would like a Canadian tax receipt, please donate at
URL=http://www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=s86248

If you would like a Hong Kong tax receipt, please call us at +852 25205266 or online atURL=https://www.paydollar.com/b2c2/eng/charity/payInfo.jsp?charityId=4947

Thank you for your tremendous support. Although it is heartbreaking towrite these reports, we are so honored to be in a position to help duringthis terrible time.

with love,Jenny"