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American Mother Runs Torch Relay for 50 Orphaned Chinese Children

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Jenny Bowen, executive president of Half the Sky Foundation, said on Sunday she was running a leg of torch relay in Wanzhou, Chongqing municipality, for the 50 children in Sichuan orphaned by the Wenchuan earthquake.

"My only reason for doing it is running for children, especially for the newly orphaned 50 children from Wenchuan earthquake on May 12. I want them to be part of celebration with all of China. Children who lost their family were not forgotten," said 63-year-old Jenny Bowen, who established the Half the Sky Foundation in 1998 helping Chinese orphans.

"They do not have a mother telling them to stay at school and study hard. For everything they accomplish, they have to do on their own. To make them one of this (torch relay), to be part of China's big celebration is just a wonderful opportunity. It's important for me to be here, to be their voice."

Bowen was selected last year by the torch relay presenting partner Lenovo through internet ballot and selection committee confirmation for special contribution for promoting China and foreign relations.

"When I went to the competition, I don't know the terrible quake in Sichuan. Now, I am running for children in Sichuan who lost their parents. The "Half the Sky Foundation has been working in Sichuan since May 12th with the children. I come now to run for them.

"In the beginning, we provide relief for the children who needed places, food and tents. We spread 30 tons of goods for children all of the province with the help of helicopters from the army and administration of civil affairs," said Bowen.

In the latest 10 years, Bowen and her Foundation have helped 13,000 orphans all over China. The Foundation has been carrying out work in 36 charity institutions in 28 cities in mainland of China, touching upon 4,000 orphans.

The Foundation gets mainly involved in teacher training, teaching apparatus, medical guarantee, cares and concerns delivering.

"In the last two weeks, we started a program to have emotional help for children recovery from earthquake trauma. We just started a five year program. We work in shelters. They are building temporary camps. In each of the camps, there will be a large children activity center provided in big tents. Classes for the children were given in the camp to help them to recover in long term from the trauma," added Bowen.

According to Bowen, They have been working here from 1998, for the tenth anniversary. She and her husband started the Foundation from a small program, a care training for care-givers, let the trainees give the children basic care from food to shelter.

"The government was open to allow us to introduce their program about nurturing and education for the children. Over the years, they are more and more accepting the program. In 2007, the administration of civil affairs invited us a partner with them of the new blue-sky program. We are the first partner of the government to orphaned children," said Bowen.

To the torch relay on Sunday, Bowen brought the 50 children from Sichuan quake region to share the moment.

"I'm really excited, you know we brought children from our program in Sichuan and Chongqing, 50 kids, little kids, to cheer and because I'm running for the children. So I want them to be part of the party. For all of the children, they will stand along the sidelines with their little T-shirts and their banners, be there, 50 pre-schoolers."

Bowen lives in Beijing. She has an office in California and an office in Hong Kong. All of her work is in mainland of China.

"For healthy baby girls, they are probably abandoned, and they are easily adopted. For children of migrant worker, you know they (migrant workers) sometimes have no time to take care of the children and children of disability. We adapted our program so we can provide a wide range of help.

"We added our program and one of our program we added in 2005, the family village program. We recruited parents from the community to raise the children for special needs who have disabilities, we guarantee we will support the children to adopthood if the family commit to raise the children," introduced Bowen.

"We give them classes to care for the children. They are wonderful parents, they usually bring their one child and want to have a larger family. They live just as a family. For those do not considered adoptable you stay in institution and receive therapy from local government."

(Xinhua News Agency June 15, 2008)