Today, January 31, Perú re-enters a period of quarantine and inmovilizaciones sociales obligatorias. For the next two weeks, significant parts of the country will be under lock-down orders.
There will be nothing easy about these new restrictions. For many, the simple fact of their lives is this - people need to be out-and-about to make money to feed themselves and their families. For others, the struggle of the pandemic has pushed nerves to the point of breaking. For everyone, this will not be easy.
The new restrictions in Perú, and the continued pandemic struggles around the globe, got me thinking about connections. So much has changed over these past 11 months. The pacing of our lives has shifted. We find ourselves missing out on celebrations, postponing trips and travel, and longing for time with family and friends. Our lives feeling disconnected.
However, despite these challenges - we are finding ways to stay connected and remain hopeful pillars in one another's lives. We're using video calls to reach out across the globe. We're organizing ourselves to accomplish work that prior to the pandemic required face-to-face collaboration. In the midst of great challenge, we are making things happen. Let's keep it going.
The pandemic is far from over, and the next six months will undoubtedly bring a new set of challenges and complexity. For many places in the world, life has been upended. Yes, the global pandemic is far from over - but we are not disconnected. We are a global community of hope.
Let's remain connected. Let's continue to be a part of one another's lives. Let's commit to check-in on our family, friends, and colleagues around the global whom we are called be to in community. Let's reach out and build the bridges we will need to heal one another.
We mark our work in years and decades. This is a slow and steady approach to our work. It means that a lot of what we do can't be measured in a single outcome. Instead, measuring the impact of our work requires a more integrated approach.
There are, however, those times when we can see some degree of immediate results. A few years back, we planted trees at the Casa Girasoles Kusi, outside of the community of Yungay in the central highlands of the province of Huaraz. With the help of a volunteer agronomist, we selected plants and trees that fit a high-altitude environment's challenges. Over three days, we planted a bunch. Then we left. I always wondered what happened to the plants in the back of my mind, but things got busy, and I did not hear back from anyone. That was until a few days ago.
This week I received photos of our plantings. Much to my astonishment, the trees have grown and matured. Now they are bearing fruit. The pictures show a lush garden of plants and trees, a veritable cornucopia of food for the home. Talk about satisfying. It is powerful to be able to connect an action directly with an outcome. And, I guess planting is such a direct connection.
In a lot of our work, however, the connection is not so linear or straightforward. This is especially true when you consider we are an organization focused on integration. We are continuously seeking to meet the needs of the here and now and plan for a more effective structural approach to addressing health disparities, child-empowerment, and learning opportunities for healthcare and child welfare professionals. This more significant impact work, is really tough to measure in years and even decades. But that doesn't stop us from doing the work and quantifying our outcomes.
The Ines Project is an example of work that has been an over decade long pursuit of helping families living deep in poverty with a child living with a disability - find the knowledge and skills they need to build better life outcomes. We've been working with many of the families in the program for years. Sometimes we can point to a data set and say, – look, we are making a difference. And then other times, it's tough to know how much of a significant, more systemic difference we are making in elevating the life course outcomes of children living with a medically fragile diagnosis.
Last week we learned that one of the children in the Ines Project passed away. Her name was Milagros or Miracles, and she was born with cerebral palsy and hydrocephaly. At 10-years old, her life was filled with challenges. For the past few months, she has had repeated respiratory complications. From aspiration pneumonia to COVID, she has been unwell; and our team has been working tirelessly to help the family.
A big challenge for the family is the fact that the father left long ago. His impact – financial, emotional, and social – has been non-existent. Instead, Mom has done it all – raised her two other children while caring for a child living with a disability. Nothing has been easy. Add to the challenge – a global pandemic, and things started to quickly unravel in the household. We worked hard to get the family the support they needed.
Providing financial support, coordianting food, arranging consults with specialists over the phone, paying for transportation, accompanying the family to medical visits in a COVID safe manner. We did everything we could . . . and, this outcome is not the one anyone can accept. It is painful when a child dies. It hurts in the soul.
So, what we do? We keep our focus. We continue to support Milagros' Mother. We help the family financially with funeral expenses and emotional support. We make sure the Mother and the siblings have someone to talk to you. We keep trying to build better connections, better bridges, to someday – help families living in the experience of poverty with a child living with a disability have access to the tools and resources they need to live a life filled with health, hope, home, and purpose.
We don't know what fruits our efforts will bring to bear – we can't say in every situation or circumstance. All we can do is keeping building bridges. This is our committment.
Wow-what a year!
Wait. What? We just started 2021, and it's already been a humdinger of a year.
Not two weeks into 2021, and we've already seen unimaginable increases in COVID cases and deaths, continue downward economic spiraling in many global economies, and a near coup in the United States. I guess 2021 isn't going to be the year for getting back to normal like we were all hoping.
I think that's a good thing.
No, please do not get me wrong - I'm not condoning the horrific violence and insurrection that happened in the U.S. capital last week. That was a misguided, toxically led attempted coup. It was the antithesis of the free expression of democratically held beliefs and actions. It was domestic terrorism.
Equally - I am overwhelmed by the impact of the global pandemic. So many lives were lost, and so much economic and social devastation has occurred. I am not promoting a protracted recovery. I want the pandemic to end now.
I guess what I am saying is this - 2021 promised so much when we peered over the hedges of December. However, this year is proving itself to be a continuation of the lessons we faced in 2020. It is a continued reminder that the work of social justice, economic equity and equality, and health parity are just beginning. It is a call to keep our focus.
On January 13, the Peruvian government announced changes to the countrywide State of Emergency. High-risk areas - Lima-Callao, Cusco, Arequipa, Ica - are under a new curfew and travel and activities restrictions. The government announcement calls for the new measures to be in place through the end of January. We're planning for a more extended period.
We have a structure that allows us to respond to the immediate needs of the communities we serve as the pandemic shifts - and continue our efforts in models of care development. A protracted quarantine and curfew mean putting together plans that will enable us to continue our work on the models while managing emergency support with food, medication, and financial assistance.
We are moving into 2021 with our eyes wide open to an ever-changing landscape of need. A holistic plan includes planning for homeschooling at the two Casa Girasoles, creating a telehealth program for the Ines Project families, supporting weekly food distribution to single mother-led households economically devastated by COVID, and supporting young adults in the Tigre Program transitioning from corrections amid the pandemic.
Wow-what a year! Two weeks in, and we're so much better-prepared thanks to all the support we received and the lessons and learning we gained in 2020.
2021 is not starting as the year we thought it was going to be. That's okay because we're ready!
Thank you for all your ongoing support. Please, stay connected.
On our weekly team call - the mood suddenly shifted as staff began to report the images streaming on their devices of the melee occurring in Washington, D.C. At one point, a team member shared their screen and scrolled through photos of the Capital's insurrection.
Surreal? Oh my gosh, yesterday afternoon felt otherworldly. Perhaps what made it even more compelling was witnessing the events unfolding in the nation's Capital with colleagues from Perú. Over the past 12+ hours, I have heard over and over again - "how is this possible in the United States?"
As one colleague said, "are you certain this isn't happening in Perú?"
Last night, as the day's events started to take a more typical trajectory, I got a call from Father Alex in Arequipa. We talked about the images broadcast on international media. We talked about the impression people in Latin America have of such an event. It may seem hyperbolized to think the United States' image changed forever following the events of January 6th - but it has.
Gone are the days of viewing the U.S. as a fully formed nation. Long gone is the belief that the U.S. has somehow solved the equation for addressing deep inequalities and inequities. Instead, what has replaced our glossy image is one of realism to our faults and shortcomings.
The events that transpired at the Capital of our nation were unconscionable and treasonous. The egregious events are not, however, who we are as a nation or a people.
Through the reactions of our colleagues in Perú, I realized we just took one step closer to more deeply understanding the complex social and political constraints that exist in so many places around the world. Yesterday was an opportunity for us to step a little closer to the rest of the world. It was a glimpse into the struggle many nations have faced for generations. It was a place to gain greater empathy and compassion.
I hope the lessons from January 6th will forever remind us to be better allies, colleagues, friends, and stewards to our brothers and sisters in places like Perú.
Our work is just begininng—time to build more bridges.
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.