10/09/2013 03:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Half the Sky's Village Raises Zhenhao

Half the Sky

2013-10-08-zhenhaoartist.jpgThe African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," is an apt description for Half the Sky Foundation's "Village" where more than 70,000 children have been nurtured and raised by 2000 trained caregivers scattered all over China.

As a member of Half the Sky's Village, I have witnessed thousands of children transformed after they were enrolled in our programs. Nine-year-old Zhenhao, who has been part of Half the Sky's Village since he was four months old, represents all these children who have either been adopted or are leading a better life in China.

Zhenhao was an unfortunate child who was abandoned by his parents because of his severe medical conditions including developmental dysplasia of the hip. Had Half the Sky not intervened, Zhenhao would likely have laid in bed for the rest of his life, receiving attention only when he was fed and changed. With that kind of care, Zhenhao would have become less and less responsive to outside stimulation and developed more and more physical and cognitive development delays. Instead, Zhenhao participated in five Half the Sky programs that have transformed his life.

2013-10-08-zhenhaowithnanny.jpgZhenhao's fortunes began to change when Zhenhao started receiving care from Mrs. Huang, his trained Half the Sky nanny. When Zhenhao underwent his first surgery to remove a tumor in his spinal canal, his loving nanny provided doting post-operative care that spurred his recovery. Despite his physical pain, Zhenhao learned the most important lesson a child needs to learn at that age -- that he was cared for and loved.

After two years, Zhenhao moved on to a Half the Sky Little Sisters preschool. Because of the trust he had built with his nanny, Zhenhao easily adapted to his new preschool environment. He engaged in daily activities to explore the world around him and started showing an interest and talent in art. His teachers nurtured that talent and his social, emotional and cognitive skills as well. He learned not only that he is valued but also that he is competent!

2013-10-08-zhenhao.jpgIn 2007, Half the Sky opened a Family Village Program at his orphanage, which enabled Zhenhao to start his family life with foster parents and siblings. For the first time Zhenhao experienced the security of living in a family. From then on, Zhenhao's schedule was like that of children in loving families all over the world. His parents sent him off to preschool during the day. He returned home after preschool for weekends and holidays with his family filled with lots of fun activities and outings.

When Zhenhao was old enough for our Youth Service Program, Half the Sky provided him with an art tutor who challenged him to advance his skills. Zhenhao's art became more sophisticated, so much so that he has won many awards in local, national and even international competitions.

But Zhenhao's medical challenges were not over; in the last few years he has had to endure three surgeries. Zhenhao's recovery from each surgery was slow and painful. When some of his scars from previous surgeries became severely infected, he developed a high fever and couldn't eat much. Zhenhao's mom and dad took good care of him day and night -- Zhenhao was fighting for his life with his parents beside him.

2013-10-09-zhenhaoandfamily.jpgOf course, the entire Half the Sky Village was also at his side. Despite his weakness, Half the Sky did not give up on Zhenhao, but instead enrolled him in our China Care program so that he could have surgery at one of China's top pediatric hospitals in Beijing. Zhenhao stayed at our China Care Home for three months where he received post-surgery medical care and doting nurturing from our nannies and preschool teacher.

After he recovered, Zhenhao was ready to go back to his family and start school! Zhenhao has grown up in Half the Sky's Village and our staff has grown with him. Through Zhenhao, we have learned that indeed it does take a village to raise a child. It is a simple and profound concept that everyone in Half the Sky's Village who has met and nurtured incredibly resilient Zhenhao can never forget.

-- Wen Zhao, Senior Professional Development Director, Half the Sky