Beauty is all around us.
Its striking how often that beauty goes unrecognized.
The other day I was running in Lima. I ran up a long ramp that exits from the beach and ascends 200 meters to the ridge above the coast. The vast majority of the time I am on that run course, I see very few people. In the summer months, January through April, there tend to be more runners and walkers – as vacations abound.
That day, a father and his son were running together. The boy, not more than 8 years old, was trudging alongside his father with a look of pained exhaustion. The father, for his part, had an equally uncomfortable look of frustration.
I caught eyes with the father. I gave him a thumbs up. I said, “Wow, this is excellent. So cool.” His demeanor instantly shifted. He reciprocated my gesture and ran on.
Seeing the father and son on a run. Engaging with the father. It was beautiful. Little things like this give me great reason to pause and re-remember – the most important things in life come from relationship. From connection.
Our work, it’s connecting work. This past couple of weeks we’ve had a group of students from St. Olaf College. We’ve spent time helping them gain an experience through our unique practice of global public health – through the practice of connection. They’ve been immersed in the community of Alto Cayma. They’ve spent time with our partners. They’ve participated in our some of our project work. Whatever they did, we hope they will walk away from their experience with us having a better understanding of the beauty that exists when we invite ourselves to be in connection, in relationship, with others. We hope their time with Health Bridges gave them an opportunity to engage and experience the beauty that exists all around us.
We are in the beautiful Sacred Valley of Cusco working with the NGO Andean Community Partners and St. Olaf College. For the past few years, we’ve been invited to support ACP and St. Olaf on a project they have facilitated in the community of Huilloc. They've been working in the community for almost two decades; however, in 2017 they made the incredibly important decision to really shift-gears and move toward more sustainable models of services. This is where HBI has come in. They've asked us to be consultants to their work, helping to identify ways they can work more sustainably with the community. This is our third year in such a role. It is a very humbling experience. I learn so much every time I am here. Perhaps the greatest lesson is one of humility.
I continue to be reminded that communities are their own best change agents. Every day they live with challenges and constraints. Every day they are faced with finding creative solutions to address or overcome their challenges. It is only through cultural humility and attentive listening that we can best support them to build their own desired futures. This connecting of the dots work, it’s all about humility. It’s all about seeing things through a shared vision. It’s about stepping out of the role of an expert and into the role of a learner.
Yesterday, after a full day of outreach – I decided to run the 12 kilometers back to the hotel. The run, one I have done many times, is one of the most beautiful runs I have ever taken. The landscape is breathtaking. There are trails everywhere. And, if you know the trails – you can run from the community of Huilloc (at almost 12,000 FASL) to Ollantaytambo in a little over 2 hours, all on trails. However, the trails are tricky and hard to navigate. Such was the case for my run yesterday. I started out with the goal of running on the trails the whole way. About an hour into the run I was lost. I found myself on a trial that dead-ended into a field. With no-where to go but back down the trail, I clamored my way to the next trail I could see. The problem – this trail required that I cross a river . . . and, I could not find a bridge or passage any-where.
Serendipitously, I ran into a little girl playing in a field. I asked her how I could cross the river. She replied, with as bewildered look, “on the bridge.” Much to my dismay, I could not find a bridge. I looked everywhere. I once again asked her where is the bridge. Looking a little frustrated at my ineptness, she said she would take me to the bridge. She then led me the 100 meters to the bridge and said, “here is the bridge - exactly where I told you.”
Well, this bridge was really nothing more than a few logs strapped together. I guess I wasn't looking for the right bridge. In this work, the work of global health or community support – I am forever reminded that I need to change the way I see things. I need to re-adjust my vantage point to see the opportunities through a different perspective.
There are bridges all around us . . . they just look a little different depending upon what you are accustom to seeing . . . and how you allow yourself to see the world around you.
After a mellow week between Christmas and the New Year, we are back at it and fully in action. Already, we've hosted a team of volunteer pediatricians and dentists from Andean Community Partners at the Casa Girasoles in Urubamba to provide comprehensive evaluations and care for all the boys. We've also participated in an outreach project with a long-standing partner at an orphanage in Cusco. Dr. Gehringer and team have been busy with NRP trainings and prep. Nurse Karen and team have been crunching the numbers for our anemia project. And, our Ines Project team is back in the swing of things after a break over the Holidays.
Now, our team is meeting in the Sacred Valley to begin a three week service learning trip with St. Olaf College. For over a decade we've partnered with St. Olaf College to help shape their global health experience for a J-term rotation. We will be working with them in a community outreach project in the town of Willoq - and then traveling with the group to Arequipa for an immersion experience with HBI and Fr. Alexander Busuttil in the community of Alto Cayma.
And, this is just the first week of January. This is going to be a busy and very fulfilling year, as we start our Center of Excellence model at the Casa Girasoles homes, refine our anemia projects and use the data for our 12-month pilot project to help shape future public health projects, continue our train-the-trainer pre-hospital emergency response program with the Peruvian Firefighters Association, expand the impact and reach of our NRP lifesaving program, and refine our work with single mothers living with children with a disability in extreme poverty.
Oh yeah - it’s going to be a super year. So, follow along. Stay connected. And, thank you so much for all your 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.