Beginning this week, HBI will be advancing a new program with Father Alex Busuttil and the Mission of Alto Cayma. The program, the Guardian Angel Program is a sponsorship program that links children and families in the communities of Alto Cayma (Father Alex's St. Helen's Parish) with international sponsors.
We are very fortunate to be taking over the sponsorship program from a U.S. based NGO (Unbound) that has worked with Father Alex for over ten years. Unbound is consolidating their Peruvian programs to the City of Lima, and this provides a great chance for HBI to be more involved in the compassionate work of Father Alex and the St. Helen's Parish.
Our priority is simple - to continue the high quality sponsorship of children and families in collaboration with Father Alex and on-the-ground staff. To do this, we will be working closely with the staff to develop all the structures needed to maintain the highest caliber of programming.
If you're a longstanding supporter of Father Alex and the Guardian Angel Program, please consider signing up for our new program on the HBI website at: and http://www.hbint.org/guardian-angel-program.html
In light of current weather events around the globe - Hurricane Harvey's unprecedented destruction in the Gulf Coast, devastating flooding and landslides across Asia, wildfires raging near our homes in the Pacific Northwest, and Hurricane Irma's imminent landfall next week - we are suspending our Summer Construction Fund.
Hurricane Harvey has displaced over 1 million people, leaving nearly 50 dead, while over 40 million people in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal are affected from record breaking floods with over 1400 dead. Each of these disasters bring multi-faceted, longterm challenges that require significant attention, love, and financial support - from all of us. This is not the time to be a passive observer while the water around us continues to rise. Heroic acts are not reserved for film and fiction, but rather they begin by acknowledging each other in our greatest time of need and quite simply showing up.
The call for international action swells and we must answer it in kind. HBI is ever-grateful for your ongoing support, and right now, we earnestly ask you to support someone else. We stand in solidarity with the organizations working to stem the tide of destruction and despair across the globe. For a list of trusted aid organizations check out the links below. If you have information to share, trusted organizations to support, or questions of how to get involved - do not hesitate to reach us: Info@hbint.org
We will reconvene our Construction Fund later in 2017 - stay tuned, and thank you again for all of your support.
We're trying something new. We are promoting our programs and projects more. This includes getting really active in fundraising efforts.
We currently have a Summer Construction Fund campaign. The campaign, a 40-day long project to raise $25,000 and generate 25 recurring donors, is focused on raising critical resources for some of our key programs.
How is the Summer Construction Fund different than our previous fundraising and promotional campaigns? It is our attempt to really invite people to participate in the HBI movement.
We know there is so much to do in the world. We also know the truly meaningful work in the world will not get done with less resources. No, indeed - we will only get more done with more resources. So, we are inviting our stakeholders, the community of HBI to participate in a campaign to raise funds for very focused projects.
Please join us. Whatever you can do to support and promote our work, get involved and be a part of the movement.
I've been on the road a lot over the past month, visting both small towns and big cities. I have had the privilege of visiting some really interesting places and programs. I've visited a number of programs working to advance care delivery to underserved communities and populations.
One thing about my travels has really stuck out - a lot of people are deeply hurting. The divide between the rich and the economically struggling has never felt more profound. And, people are really suffering.
Just this morning I went for a run in Utica, New York - a mid-size city 6 hours northwest of Manhattan. The number of closed mills, shuttered homes and boarded-up businesses were heartbreaking. It felt like half the city had simply packed up one day and moved on - and those left behind were faced with piecing the remains together.
In the middle of all the economic fragility, the city has a burgeoning food scene with a number of high-end restaurants and interesting eateries. Amidst the derelict buildings and broken side walks was a whole city-within-a-city for people with means. It was hard to swallow.
One morning I went to coffee and encountered a gregarious and thriving crowd of young professionals. They talked about the food scene and asked me where I dined the night before. Compare this experience to a walk I took another evening. I walked down winding streets to a dystopian inner-city neighborhood. I walked past block-after-block of abandoned homes and broken down cars, people sitting on their dilapidated porches wearing sadness on their faces and empty in their eyes. A look that only comes from a truly difficult, disconnected life. My walk saddened me so much.
What has happened? When did things get so difficult? I'm not sure such questions can be answered in a simple narrative neatly folded into a blog post. Just like there is no easy answer to address how things got to this point, there is no one solution to the immense challenges facing the world. There's no "easy button" that will instantly make everything right. Rather, the challenges we are facing need complex, multifaceted solutions - solutions fortified by collaboration. The type of collaboration that brings groups together around a common, focused cause. The sort of collaboration that requires we set aside our differences of opinion and focus on our shared belief in one another. A collaboration that focuses on a better future for everyone.
I know we can do better. We owe it one another. Let's work together to build bridges so that everyone can find the opportunities they need to build the lives they deserve. Let's work together to build a future for everyone . . . everywhere.
There are some things that are just universal. They transcend geography, cultural differences, and even socioeconomic variables. They are the big, gnarly challenges that policy makers, service providers, and thought leaders wrestle with on a regular basis. The problem, they are not always so readily apparent. They require a deeper level of inspection and understanding.
One big, gnarly challenge is the need for expanded access to evidence based mental health and psychiatric services. This is particularly true in developing and middle income environments where infrastructure development and professional formation have not had the benefit of decades long investment. Please don’t get me wrong, we are far from perfect in the U.S. and Western Europe. When it comes to access to evidence based mental health and psychiatric services, we are no where near perfect. It’s just that we’re about 40-years ahead of the developing world.
One afternoon in Arequipa on this last trip to Perú, I had the pleasure of meeting with a young man who I had previously work with around accessing mental health supports. I will call him Juan. Juan is in his late twenties. He lives with his sister and her family. He is a shy man who can seem to blend in with his surroundings. A few years back, people in the small town in the mountains where Juan lived with his parents started to notice “strange” behavior. They noticed that he would talk to himself and often isolate from others for days at a time. They noticed that he was erratic in his behavior, bouncing between emotions. One day Juan’s parents decided the best thing they could do was get Juan to a major city for help. So, Juan loaded on a bus and took the long trip to Arequipa.
The plan was for him to stay with his sister and find help. However, finding help was not so easy. Advocating into mental health services can be a trying proposition under the best of circumstances. It requires a good understanding and knowledge of health systems navigation and a lot of self-advocacy skills. Juan had neither. Nor did his family. So, for weeks Juan lived an isolated and lonely life in an impoverished community outside of Arequipa.
It just so happened that a group of U.S. physicians working with HBI were in Arequipa. Juan’s sister asked if one of the doctors would see him. They met with Juan and his sister. A plan was set and medication was started. When the team left, they met with Juan and his sister to ensure critical next steps were defined. Everything was in place.
A few months later I was in Arequipa. Juan’s sister asked if I would meet with him. He was not doing well. He was isolating again and she wasn't sure what to do. I contacted a psychiatrist colleague in the States and asked for some advice. She provided a psychiatric assessment tool. We administered the tool with Juan. He clearly met criteria for schizophrenia. The next step was to get him into care. We met Juan and his sister, provided as much information as we could and offered to go to the appointment with them. In the end, it took a few weeks – and a number of meetings – but Juan did get into care.
He is now meeting with a psychiatrist twice per week for therapy sessions. He is taking his medication. He’s been playing football in the community and helping his sister in the kitchen. He is slowly beginning to recapture the life he deserves.
I am, however, left with a deep sense of sadness. Juan is doing great – but what happens to people who don’t have the sort of safety net or support that Juan was able to pull together? Where do they go? What kind of care do they receive? I think the next great challenge for HBI will be collaborating with partners around the world to truly think about how to best help build a safety net to advance access to mental health and psychiatric services and supports. Similar to the work we are doing on the Ines Project, helping families with medically fragile children gain access to the knowledge and skills they need to build their own futures, I think there is a great opportunity to build the kind of bridges that will support better access to evidence based mental health and psychiatric services for all people.
Now, where to begin? It will not be an easy process – though that’s never been a deterrent for us in the past. It is an important one. So we will do, as they say in Perú, Paso a Paso - one step at a time.
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.