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Expat mum closer to running torch relay
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Jenny Bowen, an American living in China, is one of the eight Lenovo expatriates who have a high chance of carrying the Olympic torch next year. And this takes her one step closer to her dream.

"I want to run for the children of China," Bowen said when applying online in hopes of becoming an expat torchbearer for the 2008 Beijing Games. She topped an online vote through, one of China's official English-language websites, and an organizer of the contest.

Jenny Bowen is seen with her adoptive daughters, Anya and Maya in this file photo. Bowen, an American living in China, is one of the eight Lenovo expatriates who have a high chance of carrying the Olympic torch next year.

Bowen owes the number of votes to her charity. The mother of two adoptive Chinese girls has helped more than 13,000 children so far through he orphanage organization Half the Sky Foundation, which she established in 1998.

Half the Sky works with 36 welfare institutions in 28 Chinese cities. Approximately 4,000 children are active in the program, which provides trained staff, educational tools, medical support and nurturing love to orphans.

"Our programs [grow] out of a fundamental understanding that what every child needs to develop normally is loving care and individual attention," Bowen explained. "All programs are designed to replace or feel like a family environment."

It is her first adoptive daughter Maya that inspired Bowen to establish Half the Sky.

In 1997, Bowen and her husband Richard adopted two-year-old Maya from a welfare institution in south China. At first Maya suffered from both physical and cognitive development delays, and was shy, scared and devoid of emotion.

The couple spent a year, with their parental love, transforming the introverted child into a lively one.

"Almost exactly a year later...I looked out my kitchen window. There was our three-year-old who looked perfectly normal, romping around with her friends...completely full of joy," Bowen was quoted as saying.

She believes that this individual love, care and attention was what her daughter needed -- and that all children need this, especially orphans. This belief spurred her to do more.

In 1998, Bowen established the Half the Sky Foundation, which is named after the Confucian saying popularized by Mao Zedong that "women hold up half the sky". Ninety-five percent of the healthy children living in China's orphanages are girls.

"Our mission has always been that every single child should have a loving adult in their life, and that's what we're trying to do."

When Lenovo launched a torchbearer nomination campaign for expats in early October, Bowen saw it as an opportunity to draw more attention to orphaned children in China. Her efforts proved worthwhile.

And her application moved many netizens. The mother's votes outnumbered the second winner by nearly 900 before she was shortlisted by a panel made up of Lenovo Group officials and China Daily executives. Meanwhile, her charity also gained support from around the world.

"On behalf of my niece, Hava, I thank you and wish you to run with HTS children! My niece is a former HTS child and I know how important this program is! Keep up the great work!" a voter named Jerry & Maryann says on

According to Olympic organizers, candidates were selected based on an online vote, committee selection, their "love of Chinese culture and history" and interest in "communicating information of the real China to their native countries". The final list will be decided in early 2008, upon approval by the Beijing Olympic Committee.

Each runner will carry the torch for 200 meters on Chinese land.

(China Daily November 14, 2007)

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