Half the Sky is painting a million rainbows across China – one for every orphaned child.
The Rainbow Program, a groundbreaking plan to reach every orphaned child by training caregivers all over the country, was launched on Children’s Day, 2011 at the Great Hall of the People.
To provide more support for the process of transforming institutional care, Half the Sky has also created Seed Sites at institutions who have received Rainbow Training and need help getting their Half the Sky-inspired programs off the ground. Typically these Seed Sites are the smaller institutions across China with limited resources.
Half the Sky also holds national Directors’ Workshops that help prepare orphanage administrators to assume full responsibility for their new and existing Half the Sky-inspired programs.
A New Way of Thinking for the Institutionalized Infant
Babies and toddlers who have lost their families need more than food and shelter. They need consistent loving attention from at least one person they can always count on.
During the early years, when the brain is developing at lightning speed, there is a unique window of opportunity for optimum social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. Young children who do not form bonds, who are not nurtured, will likely fail to develop a strong sense of self or be motivated to learn.
Half the Sky-trained caregivers learn the art of “responsive care” – paying close attention to their small charges' needs and interests, even during the most routine activities of the day. By simply recognizing that even the tiniest child needs human interaction, caregivers help stimulate attachment, growth, curiosity, confidence and a child's sense of how s/he fits in the world.
The little ones in Half the Sky's Infant Nurture Centers make their journey from sleeping infants to lively toddlers with the help of Half the Sky-trained nannies with whom they develop deep emotional bonds. These are the bonds that are crucial for healthy brain development.
Half the Sky’s nannies, workers from the local community, are trained to act as every parent who has fallen in love with a child intuitively acts – they sing, play, cuddle, hug, and generally dote on their charges. In so doing the nannies help babies avoid the problems that are so common in institutionalized children who have been fed and clothed, but not cherished.
The nannies learn to recognize the signs of delays. They learn simple therapies to help the babies reach developmental milestones. They learn the art of responsive care: watching their young charges, listening to them, and providing nurture and stimulation as it is needed.
Preschool Aged Care
As they reach preschool age, young children without families do best when they have nurturing relationships with their teachers. Through an attentive teacher’s words, contact, touch, and guidance, children learn that they are valued, loved, and respected as members of a small community.
In order to best prepare institutionalized children to succeed in Chinese schools and society, Half the Sky-inspired preschools aim to develop the “whole child” - using young children's natural curiosity and zest for learning to foster physical, intellectual, aesthetic, and moral growth, while teaching them how to live in harmony with each other.
Ideally, preschoolers go home to families at the end of each day. While this is not always possible for institutionalized children, every effort is made to create a family-like environment in whatever place a child calls ‘home.’
Encouraging Hope for Institutionalized Teens
Older children in institutional or foster care settings continue to benefit from and depend on responsive caregivers. Institutionalized adolescents, especially, often struggle mightily during their teen years. Without encouragement, many give up on themselves. Half the Sky’s child-centered approach is designed to bring the best out in every young person, despite insecurities and challenges, according to his or her own strengths and interests.
Half the Sky-trained mentors spend time getting to know and developing an individual plan for every child. The plan may include music, art, computer or language lessons. It may include tutoring or sports or vocational training. It may even include college prep and support through university years. The mentors are a constant presence in young people’s lives, providing guidance and hugs as needed, teaching them always that it's all right to have the same big dreams as other children...and to go after them.
From it's inception, this program has turned listless babies into cooing, laughing, cuddling machines. Preschoolers have learned to draw and plant sunflowers, ride bikes, negotiate with their peers for toys, and greet teachers with open arms. Teens have made viable goals for their future and have reached them. To date, more than 70,000 children living in institutions have received the gift of love and nurture through the nannies trained in Half the Sky's program.
If you are interested in helping to provide ongoing child care training and mentoring for China's orphaned children please visit their website and see where you can take action today!