Bridging Oceans to Help Children
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When investors think about China, they see a booming, vibrant economy that is an integral supplier of goods to the United States. They see Chinese oil company PetroChina (NYSE: PTR) gaining access to oil resources where other oil companies have failed. They watch Chinese Internet giant Baidu.com (Nasdaq: BIDU) beginning to assert its dominant position by offering listings for other search engines. Investors have rushed to put money into individual stocks as well as mutual funds, such as the China Fund (NYSE: CHN), that focus on Chinese companies.
Yet there's another side of China that many people don't see. Much of the wealth resulting from China's economic success story remains in the hands of a tiny fraction of its 1.3 billion people. Moreover, because of China's policy of allowing couples to have just one child, parents simply abandon many unwanted children and leave them to the care of government orphanages. A traditional preference among the Chinese for male children led to more girls going into welfare institutions.
It's because of the experience of one adoptive family that one of this year's Foolanthropy recipients, Half the Sky, came to be. When they saw the transformation that resulted in their little girl simply from giving her personal attention and care, they undertook the task of providing similar nurturing for other orphaned children. Through several different programs that focus on children of various ages, Half the Sky has already helped thousands of children in its short history.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Half the Sky is the way it has reached out around the world to gain support. A registered charity in the U.S., Canada, and Hong Kong, Half the Sky works directly in Chinese communities with local teachers and care providers to help children get the tools and attention they need to gain self-confidence and a desire to learn and thrive. It has also successfully made agreements with the Chinese government to open centers in state-run institutions, and it hopes to work more closely with the government as it considers expanding the level of care it gives its orphans. In addition, because of its use of local workers, Half the Sky is able to stretch every dollar it receives to get the most value for the children it supports. With program and administrative expenses of less than $2 million in 2005, Half the Sky, taking advantage of lower labor costs, employs more than 800 local workers in China.
Although Half the Sky does not itself provide adoption services to prospective parents, its work is crucial in setting the stage for other programs that help parents through the complicated process of adopting a Chinese child.
With political tensions between China and the U.S. likely to continue in the future, the best way to bridge the differences between American and Chinese cultures is to take advantage of every opportunity to increase personal interactions among American and Chinese people. If you agree that the power of children can overcome the challenges of international relations, please give to Half the Sky. You can make a donation by using this link.
All of the five charities selected by the 2006 Foolanthropy campaign are worthy causes. We appreciate your generosity and support.