What China’s Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains- a book by Jenny Bowen
Book review by Gail Morton
Last year I had the pleasure of attending a lecture in Washington DC and meeting Jenny Bowen. I feel an affinity to Jenny and her efforts because I have traveled to China with cousins that adopted a 2 year old Chinese girl. This smart, talented and beautiful young lady just told me this morning that she will be attending Elon College in September. Having seen the Chinese countryside and the orphanage where she began, and the future she would have had, I can’t help but feel she was one of the lucky ones. A terrible thing to say about being orphaned. Actually she was not really an orphan but left in a basket on a bridge when she was only several days old. She will never know if it was through poverty or cultural prejudices that her birth family abandoned her, but she was one of a lucky few that found her way into a loving happy family in the U.S.
Most Chinese orphans, girls especially, were not so lucky. Raised under austere and backward conditions in Chinese orphanages, they seldom thrived and futures were as bleak as the present. When Jenny Bowen arrived in China to pick up her 3 year-old daughter, she found Maya sickly, unable to respond to love, without natural curiosity or social interactions. She had never even been held. Maya was one of thousands, strapped for hours each day to a potty chair because there wasn’t sufficient staff to diaper, clean or train the typical potty skills of the average three year old. Rooms were utilitarian and bare with no pictures, toys or activities of any kind. No one held or rocked, sang songs, or played with the children. They were left all day every day with no stimulation, nothing to engage or teach them how to connect, learn or even to care.
Heartbroken for the lost lives she saw before her, Jenny Bowen took on the challenge of thousands of neglected children in state run Chinese orphanages and through time, effort, sensitivity and determination, changed the mindset of the Chinese government. Today, a large majority of the orphanages throughout the vast Chinese county have come under the guidance and partnership of Jenny’s Half the Sky Foundation. Thousands of children have been saved from physical, emotional and intellectual neglect. They move through the orphanage system in facilities filled with light, color, teaching, stimulation, both physical and educational, but mostly having experienced the healing of being loved and mentored.
Jenny Bowen tells her story in the book wish you happy forever, What China’s Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains. And as Ghanian Mothers Hope has found out, those mountains can be as vast as the Himalaya’s, but there is a slow and steady path to the other side. If you have ever said “What can I do, what can one person do?” please read Jenny’s story. She is not typical but only in that she didn’t stop with the question. She was like you and me to begin with. Overwhelmed, set back by road blocks, stymied by government refusals, war, impossible transportation, poor infrastructure and bad weather. The difference is she accepted each of these trials, maximized what she was able to do in the restricted setting and then went back to work seeking the way through by some other means.
I can’t describe in a paragraph how Jenny and Half the Sky transformed a child welfare system that wasted lives into one that now produces vital, productive, happy lives and futures for thousands of orphaned Chinese children. I suggest you hear it from Jenny herself at www.halfthesky.org.
No dream of doing God’s work is impossible. If we can’t do it alone, then we team it. We are not all Jenny Bowen’s, but each of us has a strength. Some can dream, some strategize, some focus, others arrange, implement and achieve. Some give knowledge, some time and some money. Every one of us can contribute in our own way and know that we really do make a difference. I look at my young cousin. She was in the system before Half the Sky was operational. She was one of the lucky few at that time. Now thousands have the benefits she could only find here in the U.S.
I see the same impact on children’s lives and futures in the work accomplished by Ghanaian Mothers Hope. Where ever your passion lies, China or Ghana or the streets of America; children or mothers, young men or the elderly, you can make a difference and if you doubt me, read wish you happy forever. It’s a fascinating true tale about hope and success.
Gail Morton is a passionate supporter of Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope. Gail, an avid reader, shares book reviews with us a few times a year. Many thank to Gail for keeping us all informed.