I'm in the Sacred Valley of Cusco. I have joined a group from St. Olaf College. Students, professors and medical and dental professionals. This is the second year that HBI has been invited to act as a consultant to the St. Olaf Outreach Project. We've been invited by a U.S. based NGO, Andean Community Partners, to help act as constructive consultants to their work.
Before leaving for the Sacred Valley, I was back in Lima for a couple of days. One morning I went for a run along the coast. I've done this run many times. It took me past the area of the beach where a group of men having been living - and where we've provided some minor outreach. As I got to the area where the men are usually camping, I was greeted by a whole new experience. Instead of the makeshift shelters and roaming dogs, I was met with a big green grass field.
As I ran further I was met by one of the men we've worked with in the past. I asked him what had happened and where everyone was now living. He told me that the municipality had come through the area and moved them out. He explained that they were now living in an area not too far from their original community - but were very concerned that they were soon going to be pushed further out. He told me they (the men living on the beach and salvaging scrap metal from the ocean) were "moved by the changing tides." I asked him what he meant and he told me "everything is changing and [we] are just getting pushed along - like the sand on the beach."
Everything is changing. This is especially true for parts of Lima. There is so much development. So much middle class impact. This is good news. And, I can't help but wonder what will happen to the people living on the edges of society. The people like my friends living on the beach.
This week I am in one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are ancient ruins around every corner. The snow capped peaks dart their wonderful spires all over. I am working with an incredibly gifted and motivated group of young people. And, all I can think about is what will happen to the people of this world who may not have the power to stand up to the massive changes that are occurring all around them. What will happen to the most vulnerable and underserved? I'm not sure - but I know one thing for certain . . . HBI will be a part of assuring the marginalized are never forgotten.
Thanks for your continued support!
For the past week I've been on vacation with my family in Perú. It is an odd experience. Especially, because, for over two decades I've been traveling to Perú for work and rarely look through the lens of a vacation traveler.
Our trip has been great. We've visited HBI's partners in Lima, Arequipa and the Urubamba Valley of Cusco. Orechestrated by our daughter Alex, we've brought Lego sets for the children living in the Union Biblica Casa Girasoles, the One for Others Hope House and Father Alex's orphanage in Alto Cayma. Using the Legos, we've found a whole new way to connect with the kids. This has been especially true for our daughter. She has really enjoyed her Lego Adventure.
Something hit me hard yesterday. While horseback riding on a tour with our daughter, the guide told us that there are currently 40 new hotels under development in the Urubamba Valley. I was stunned. You see, there is a new controversial international airport being built in the district of Chinchero (about an hour outside of Cusco). Although the actual construction of the airport has yet to begin, entrepreneurs in the valley are scrambling to purchase land and develop new tourist facilities and amenities.
The new airport, with direct connections from the U.S. and Europe will completely change the landscape of Cusco. No longer will international flights travel through Lima or Cusco to get to the coveted sites of the Sacred Valley. They will fly directly into the Urubamba (Sacred Valley) and on to Machu Picchu. When I asked our guide about the massive increase in hotels in the valley he said the overwhelming belief is "money is guiding all the decisions" - not the longterm considerations for environmental and social impact. He went on to say "the sound of the money machine is more important than the sounds of the nature." It seems almost universal - people associate the onomatopoeia "ka-ching" with the sound of a cash register and the inference of money.
Without a doubt, the ka-ching from the new airport and subsequent development will have profound impacts on the people of the Sacred Valley. The prospects will bring better paying jobs and more opportunities. But who are the people that will be most impacted? The new hotels, tour companies, restaurants - will be looking to hire English speaking personnel. The vast majority of new jobs in the area will be focused on a select group of people. People who have access to better education, better job experience and better connections. This will create a divide. A division that is already vast throughout Perú.
One of the biggest challenges for massive economic growth is the segment of the population that gets left behind. I understand the economic growth occurring in places like the Sacred Valley is needed. I understand that development brings new resources and opportunities. However, it is not hard for me to see a future where more unequal economic growth leads to even bigger health disparities. This is a well established phenomenon.
It will be critically important for organizations like HBI to be mindful to the changes. And ever more considerate to the population of people who are most vulnerable to getting "left behind."
Happy New Year. Maybe I should say - Happy Almost New Year!
In the final days of 2017 I've been spending a fair amount of time planning for a very busy first quarter of 2018. In fact, we hit the ground running with a trip to Perú on New Years eve. Yep, for the first time in a number of years my wife and our daughter are going with me to Perú. It's a big deal. For a number of reasons.
With so much of my life spent in Latin America, it feels weird that Lee and Alex know so little about my life and the work HBI. So, the first thing we are going to do in 2018 is go to Perú. It will be a chance for me to take them around (we're going to Lima, Arequipa, Cusco, Urubamba, and Machu Picchu) and show them parts of our work (we'll visit a couple Union Biblica Girasoles homes and tour the Ines Project; as well as work with Father Alex in Alto Cayma), and enjoy some rest and relaxation with my family.
Immediately after their departure, I will be joining a team from St. Olaf College in Minnesota for a medical and dental outreach project in the Sacred Valley. We'll be pilot testing a new electronic health record system for mobile outreach clinics (just a little side project we've been incubating for a couple of years now). If the mobile EMR works, it will allow outreach clinics to connect around a content access point to share records, tap into diagnostic and clinical support material, and create a virtual network - without the need to connect to the Internet. We're piloting the model, thanks in very large part to support we've received from an Intel technology genius and some donated hardware. If successful - it could be a model for remote outreach clinics to integrate technology to enhance patient care and advance evidence based care delivery.
When I leave the Sacred Valley I'll be heading back to Lima for meetings and then on to Arequipa to rejoin the St. Olaf Team for a week working with Father Alex and the Mission of Alta Cayma.
All of this activity will be taking place against the backdrop of a fresh start for my involvement with HBI. My all in work will be busy - and one of the things I've realized is that in order for HBI to be successful, for me to be successful, we need to work smart just as much as we need to work hard. To this end, we'll be sharpening our focus in 2018 and prioritizing our efforts on a few select programs and projects. In 2018, our mantra will be "prioritize and focus." We will be focusing our efforts to maximize our impact - and I know this will make us successful.
Okay, all of that is to say - stay tuned. This is going to be a great year for HBI. I am excited to share this experience. Thank you for all of the continued support.
I hope you have a healthy, happy and safe New Year's Celebration.
It is so hard to believe an entire year has gone by. And yet, here it is, Christmas Eve 2017. Wow!
We've got a big 2018 planned. One of the first things we'll be doing is a Lego Adventure. Thanks to a number of generous contributors, we've amassed a sizable amount of Legos for our trip. We'll be posting photos and blog updates throughout our adventures in January.
As I look back on 2017 I feel truly blessed. Blessed for all the generosity bestowed upon us. Blessed for all of the volunteers who have participated in our programs and projects. Blessed for the many partners that work with us to build bridges. And blessed for the continued belief in the mission of our organization.
Health Bridges International is fortunate to have such a supportive and engaged community. Thank you.
A blessed and peaceful Holiday Season and a very Merry Christmas.
What does it mean to go all in? This is a question I've been asking myself a lot lately.
You see, 2018 is a big year for me. I am going all in for HBI. For the past 11 years (since we started HBI), I've worked another full-time (plus) job in addition to my role with Health Bridges. This has been tough. Well, this year I'm going for it. I am going to give my time, energy and passion over to HBI.
This is a big deal for me, and a bit scary. It means that I will be learning new things and growing just as much as HBI. One thing I am working on is my ability to act as an effective fundraiser. I've been trying out new skills in my approach to the end-of-year anemia fundraising campaign.
In the past, I've sent one or two, maybe even three, newsletters per month alerting our stakeholders of a campaign. This time I'm sending 14 newsletters in 14-days. I hope it isn't too much. The last thing I want to do is alienate our supporters. And, I know that getting to the next level for HBI will require a new approach to a lot of things - and the anemia campaign is my first attempt at going "all in" on fundraising.
Let me know what you think about our new approach to fundraising and stay connected to the HBI blog as I chronicle my adventures (and learnings) over 2018. This is going to be a big year for HBI - and I am so excited to go all in!
Thank you for all of the continued support.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.