Changing Orphanages in China

In a nutshell, Jenny Bowen literally changed the way China cares for its orphaned children.  She is the founder of Half the Sky Foundation and has received a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.  Her story is told in Wish You Happy Forever,  a memoir of how a Western woman (and former screenwriter) made social change and learned how to make it happen in China. 

To learn more about Jenny's story join her for her book talk and signing at 7:30 tonight at Powell's Books located at 1005 W Burnside in Portland.

In the winter of 1996, Jenny Bowen hardly fit the profile of the starry-eyed, twenty something social entrepreneur:  she was almost fifty, married with two grown children, and established in her film career.  But a newspaper photo of a dying child, one of thousands of baby girls languishing in Chinese orphanages, changed the world as she knew it, completely and forever.

Bowen and her husband adopted a little girl from China, not out of a need to build a family but simply to save one child. Their new daughter came home weak, malnourished, delayed and shutdown – a poster child for all that is wrong with an orphanage upbringing. Just a year later, as she watched her toddler romping around in the garden, full of joy and giggles, looking like she’d been adored from the moment she was born, Bowen was overcome with a new resolve. She must do what she could to bring the same nurturing care and love to those many thousands of children left behind. The ones she couldn’t bring home.

With a few friends and a handful of experts, she created Half the Sky, an organization committed to bringing a caring adult into the life of every orphaned child in China.  Without knowing a word of Chinese or anything about China or government relations or running a nonprofit or even much about child development, Bowen set out to convince the Chinese government to re-imagine its entire child welfare system. Incredibly, she did.

Today, Jenny Bowen is the only Westerner working with the Chinese government to train every child welfare worker in that vast nation, and Wish You Happy Forever allows readers to follow her journey.

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