Team Visit to OneSky’s New Hong Kong Centre
Last week, the Banyan Workspace team had the privilege to visit the new P. C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development. Banyan Workspace has been closely aligned with OneSky from the very earliest days of its inception, as our founders Amy and Rasheed have been longtime supporters of this amazing charity. As one of our four local NGO partnerships, all Banyan Workspace members have the option of choosing OneSky as a recipient of their 2% members rate donation each month. It was therefore fantastic to see the incredible space that they have created in the heart of Sham Shui Po and to chat to them about the hopes they have for it in the months and years ahead.
OneSky was founded by the remarkable Jenny Bowen in 1997 after she visited China to adopt an abandoned baby girl from a government-run orphanage. Jenny and her husband Richard were struck by the sheer numbers of unwanted and abandoned babies and children, particularly girls and the physically impaired, and the tragically unsuitable environment in which they were kept. Lacking any sort of human interaction beyond basic feeding and cleaning, the babies were developmentally challenged and emotionless. It took many months before the couple’s new adopted daughter began to respond to the love and care they devoted to her, but when Jenny saw her happy, romping toddler running around their garden a year later, she was struck by how she had emerged from her shell like a butterfly. Surely all every child needed was love, care and devotion?
Jenny was inspired to return to China with a mission to help every child in need, working within the existing system by providing specially-trained nannies who devoted their time to interacting with the babies in their care, providing them with the loving bond that they so desperately needed. The success of their programme was noticed and impressed the Chinese government so much that, within ten years, the OneSky approach had become China’s national standard of care for orphaned children. In 2011, they entered into a groundbreaking partnership with the Chinese government to train every child welfare worker in the nation. Since then, the charity has expanded their horizons even further, working with the so-called “left-behind children” of China’s vast migrant worker population and introducing its childcare training system to other vulnerable communities in Mongolia and Vietnam.
A Vision for the Future
Their latest project in Hong Kong is designed to be a jumping off point to expand the OneSky model throughout Asia, sharing their learning and model with others in order to create even greater impact. The new Global Centre for Early Childhood Development will act as a training hub for caregivers in Asia, enabling them to train others in turn through their “Training of Trainers” (TOT) programme, while simultaneously benefiting the vulnerable children of Sham Shui Po, one of our poorest areas. It can often come as a shock to people that in Hong Kong, one of Asia’s most prosperous and glamorous cities, one in five children live below the poverty line. Without intervention, they are unlikely to grow up to realize their full potential. At this new centre, they will be given an opportunity to have an equal start in life.
As we were shown around the new space, the Banyan team were all struck by the care and thought that had gone into every detail of the design. The indoor educational playground, with its tactile range of (mainly natural) materials designed to stimulate developing senses, peaceful play and learning areas, challenging jungle-gyms and sensory play areas encouraging confidence and physical dexterity, were all so appealing that our own older children, who had enthusiastically accompanied us, couldn’t resist trying them out!
But despite offering a quality of facilities and experience that many wealthier Hong Kong families would happily pay to have their own young children enjoy, the OneSky centre is exclusively a community gathering place for children and families in need. As well as training care-givers, they are able to host facilitated play sessions and offer consultation and referral services for free to local qualifying families, thanks to the various foundations, corporations and individuals who donate to the charity. We all felt incredibly proud that, through Banyan Workspace’s partnership with OneSky, we had played a small part in the creation of this incredible initiative that will bring so much benefit to Hong Kong and to Asia.
To find out more about OneSky and the new centre, click here
To find out about Banyan Workspace’s partnership programme with local NGOs, click here