More work with the Colegio Nacional de Obstetras del Perú training newborn resuscitation trainers in Perú. In order to get to the city of Andahuaylas in the mountainous state of Apurimac, I flew into Ayacucho. Andahuaylas has a small airport, served by a single carrier that had declared bankruptcy the previous week, so we opted not to risk a cancellation. As the crow flies between Ayacucho and Andahuaylas it's only 66 km, but traveling by car is 248 km, at least 4 hours plus through the mountains.
In a colectivo with three other passengers we departed Ayacucho in the late afternoon. I had the shotgun seat in front, probably undeserved gringo privilege. The highway is new, but with constant curves (I mean CUUURVES), as our driver, Percy, drove aggressively, but well. He was a twenty-something guy with a scraggly little goatee who seemed to enjoy listening to traditional criolla and altiplano music. As we ascended, the sky turned a gorgeous orange with the sun dropping behind the distant cumulus clouds at the horizon. No rain, but cloud lightening popping intermittently. Other worldly snapshots.
We rose above the tree line, finally cresting the pass at 14,000 feet, surrounded by scattered rocks and tufts of coarse dry grass, darkness taking over. With little traffic and good highway, Percy accelerated on the way down, curve after curve after curve. Two hundred meters was probably our longest straight stretch with only the next switchback curve sign to focus on in the darkness.
The next 2 hours plus into Andahuaylas was a study in acute motion sickness, semi-circular canals going crazy. My car mates just slept, uninterested in my distress. I’ll spare you the graphic blow-by-blow but in the final 2 hours of the trip I stopped 5 times as Percy wanted to keep the car clean. It brought back less than pleasant memories of the spinning teacup ride at the Douglas County fair outside of Omaha.
Next time I’m committed to flying directly.
All too often it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. The “To Do” lists and endless array of errands and “got to get done” tasks. They fill our days to the point we get lost in a mindless routine. I know this all too well.
Perhaps the best way I have found to re-center, re-focus myself through this “forest and tree” interplay - is with the stories of the people we have had the pleasure of working with and serving. Stories that punctuate remarkable human spirit and relentless resilience, but always seem to be rooted in a heartbreaking level of trauma and tragedy.
I can get just as narrow focused as anyone – AND, when I allow myself to remember that everyone has a story that sits behind the “curtain” of their trials, tribulations and troubles; I can really tap into the soul of the work that we are all called to do everyday.
The work of HBI and the people we serve is a kaleidoscope of stories. Each story mixes a bit of tragedy, a sliver of triumph, and a significant amount of hope. Hope that comes through relationships. Hope that comes through compassionate caring. And hope that comes from another human being during the darkest of times and most difficult of challenges.
In Latin America when a person makes a presentation, accepts an award, or is showered with accolades – they will often say . . . “I come to you in the name of . . ." – signifying the collaboration that often seeds any activity.
Well, I come to you in name of the “shadow people” of our society. People who have for so long been without a voice. People who slip below the radar screens of our lives. People who often live in a somewhat hopeless desperation. I come to you - to empower their voices. To let them know they are not alone. To insist that their lives matter.
And most of all, I come to you in the name of hope – a hope that is grounded in the belief that we (working together with our collective talents, skills, resources and passions) can ensure that no one will ever be forced to suffer in silence. No one will be plagued by the desperate fear that comes from feeling cast out or forgotten by society.
I want to leave you with one challenge. A simple challenge, that is anything but easy. A challenge that asks you to push your personal boundaries. A challenge to consider one thing (one act, one contribution, one event, one interaction) that will you will take on this week. Maybe its volunteering your time in a social outreach project. Maybe its becoming a mentor to the next generation of social justice leaders. Or maybe its just remembering that many people in our communities are riddled with the burdens of mental health challenges, substance use disorders, and economic injustices.
My challenge may seem simple – but my challenge comes with a hidden agenda. For you see, I believe giving is more about receiving than an act of service. I believe when we allow ourselves to move outside of the day-to-day comforts of our lives, we learn more about ourselves than we could have ever imagined. I believe the best way to change the world for people living on the streets or suffering in extreme poverty is through changing the way we view this world. I truly believe we are all connected, inter-dependent . . . united.
I come to you in the name of the sex workers of our communities who live in fear and suffer from the ravages of abuse and addiction. I come to you in the name of the immigrant day laborers who struggle to navigate a world so foreign to their own. I come to you in the name of the young adults suffering through the experience of homelessness and searching for answers in their lives and struggling with an addiction to heroin and an abusive relationship. But most of all - I come to you in the name of hope. Hope that we can, and will, change the lives of these beautiful and important people – through our collective, compassionate efforts.
It's Sunday morning in the City of Lima and the staff of HBI are coming together for our annual retreat.
Every year about this time, we meet (usually in the City of Lima) for two days of review, planning and strategic discussions. It's one of my favorite times of the year. The retreat is a chance to reflect on our accomplishments, develop a strategy for the coming year (and beyond) and join together as a team to support one another.
This years retreat comes on the heels of the "Adventure Run" trip to the Sacred Valley of Cusco, a full docket of activities in the City of Arequipa for our Anemia Prevention and Treatment Project and planning for a strategic summit with the Neonatal Resuscitation Project.
I am so proud of the HBI team. They are a great inspiration. So much of the bridge building we do happens outside of the lights of notoriety. Just this week, our Director of Nursing, Ms. Karen Falkenstein, made heroic efforts to save the life of an 18 year old girl forgotten by the medical system with a complex form of cancer. She, by building bridges with partners and allies, helped to create a safety net for a young adult with little support. The future is still unclear for the young woman, but one thing is certain - she knows she is loved and Karen has helped to create a care plan that will give her the best chance of a future.
I'm so proud of who we are and what we are doing in the world. This next two days is a great chance to celebrate our successes and build a plan for our future.
I've been thinking about water lately.
I guess that's not surprising, given that I've been on the panhandle of Florida helping my mother in the wake of Hurricane Michael. The impact of the hurricane is devastating. My hometown of Lynn Haven is just obliterated, with the mayor reporting 80% of the homes destroyed or completely uninhabitable. My mother lived in Lynn Haven, and although she has an unlivable home - it can be repaired. That's not true for so many people in the area.
Thanks to the generosity of Christ Episcopal Church in Lake Oswego, OR, I had over $2,000 in medicine and supplies. I spent a few days helping my mother and the people in her neighborhood with water, ice, food, basic medical care and home care supplies. I traveled around to other parts of the county - and, the devastation is speechless. It's horrible . . . and, the massive outpouring of support was awe inspiring.
From a dentist I befriended who started a makeshift emergency reposes area in the parking lot of his destroyed clinic, to a group of churches that banned together to serve 10,000 meals a day on borrowed BBQ grills - what I witnessed over and over was an amazing community.
I witnessed people caring for one another in deeply compassionate and connected ways. It was inspiring to know that during times of deep struggle and tremendous strain - people truly come together. And, this was especially true in watching (and participating) in water distribution and ice distribution. Water, a precious resource, made even more important in the wake of Hurricane Michael as the temperatures on the panhandle have been unseasonable hot (it was 97 degrees in my mother's house) was a way for people to connect and care for one another.
The devastation in Bay County is unreal. Unimaginable. It will take time for the trauma and wounds to heal. And, the people of the panhandle are resilient. They will recover. They will rebuild. They will continue to band together to show one another deep compassion.
I learned so much over the past few days. I learned about the power of people. It was truly inspiring. Please keep the panhandle of Florida in your thoughts and donate to disaster response efforts.
A few photos from the first couple of days of the service learning trip with nursing students from Universidad Cathólica Santa Maria (UCSM) in Arequipa, Linfield College School of Nursing and HBI.
The team will begin shadowing in health clinics focused on underserved and marginalized populations this week. We'll post more photos.
Thanks for all the 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.