Jenny Bowen is the CEO and founder of Half the Sky. A former screenwriter and independent filmmaker, Bowen founded Half the Sky in 1998 in order to give something back to her adopted daughters’ home country and to the many children then languishing behind institutional walls. Bowen recently published Wish You Happy Forever (HarperOne), which chronicles her personal and professional journey to transform Chinese orphanages - and the lives of the neglected girls who live in them - from a state of quiet despair to one of vibrant promise. Bowen is an excellent speaker for universities, libraries, multinational corporations, and women’s groups.
After reading an article about the thousands of baby girls languishing in Chinese orphanages, Bowen and her husband adopted a little girl from China and brought her home to Los Angeles, not out of a need to build a family but rather a commitment to save one child. A year later, as she watched her new daughter play in the grass with her friends, thriving in an environment where she knew she was loved, Bowen was overcome with a desire to help the children that she could not bring home. That very day she created Half the Sky Foundation, an organization conceived to bring love into the life of every orphan in China and one that has actually managed to fulfill its promise.
In Wish You Happy Forever, a fish out of water tale like no other, Bowen relates her struggle to bring the concept of “child nurture and responsive care” to bemused Chinese bureaucrats and how she actually succeeds. Five years after Half the Sky’s first orphanage program opens, government officials begin to mention child welfare and nurturing care in public speeches. And, in 2011, at China’s Great Hall of the People, Half the Sky and its government partners celebrate the launch of The Rainbow Program, a groundbreaking initiative to change the face of orphan care by training every child welfare worker in the country. Thanks to Bowen’s relentless perseverance through heartbreak and a dose of humor, Half the Sky’s goal to bring love the lives of forgotten children comes ever closer.
In 2007 Bowen was awarded the American Chamber of Commerce’s Women of Influence Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Hong Kong, In 2008 she received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, she carried the Olympic Torch on Chinese soil, and in the same year Half the Sky became one of only a handful of foreign NGOs officially recognized and legally registered by the Chinese government. She serves on China’s National Committee for Orphans and Disabled Children and on the Expert Consultative Committee for Beijing Normal University’s Philanthropy Research Institute.
Praise for Jenny Bowen:
“It was a pretty impressive gathering. At one point I looked around the room, and there were all the legends. Gates. Buffett. Branson. Ted Turner. George Lucas. Eli Broad. Mike Milken. Zuckerberg. And the list goes on and on. Our breakout was nothing to sneeze at either. It took a lot of courage for you to walk into that event and represent not only Half the Sky, but social entrepreneurship in general. Well done, Jenny. And thanks.“
— Jeff Skoll , The Giving Pledge
“We are still smiling with joy. Your presence at Fossil was truly a gift. We could not have invited a more inspiring, impactful and authentic social entrepreneur to the Fossil Unbound launch event – thank you!”
— Janiece Evans-Page, Senior Director, Fossil Group
“Congratulations! You did a fabulous job representing our Skoll social entrepreneurs and Half the Sky's incredible work in China. Thank you! We couldn't be more proud of your achievements, Jenny, and so appreciate the time and care you brought to this opportunity; clearly, your messages and story resonated!! ”
— Sally Osberg , CEO, Skoll Foundation
Praise for Wish You Happy Forever:
“Both heartrending and victoriously uplifting, Wish You Happy Forever provides the backdrop on the lives of thousands of orphan girls and their foster grandmothers, teachers, volunteers, donors, and the ever-grateful adoptive parents. This is a must read for lessons on compassion, persistence, and true love.”
— Amy Tan, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club
“Jenny Bowen is a brilliant and amazing person. Her work and writing are great, profound and inspiring.”
— Anne Lamott, novelist and non-fiction writer
“An astonishing and inspiring tribute to the power of human imagination harnessed to passion and purpose.”
— Jane Pauley, television anchor and journalist
“The hopeful smiles of a million waiting children shine from the pages of Jenny Bowen’s writing. This compelling story is a page turning must-read of breaking down barriers as one woman embarks on the monumental quest of building families, forever.”
— Nia Vardalos, author of Instant Mom
“An inspiring story of triumph in the face of struggle, Bowen’s lyrical prose and her remarkable journey transforming Chinese orphanages amidst government bureaucracy, earthquakes, snowstorms, and more, is a testament to the power of perseverance.”
— Dr. Larry Brilliant, medical doctor, technologist, and philanthropist