Planning, implementing, and even evaluating programs is fairly straightforward. In many ways - its a "paint by numbers" process. However, building successful programs is about more than some formulaic approach - its about relationships and the collaboration that comes from strong connections. This week we learned a great deal about growing programs. More specifically, I learned a great deal about putting relationships first.
The anemia project is a collaboration between the Peruvian Ministry of Health (specifically the "micro red Francisco Bolognesi del Distro de Cayma"), St. Helen's Parish (Father Alex and Vida and Compassion), Entia (a U.K. based medical device manufacturer) and Lucky Iron Fish (LIFE B-corporation from Canada). The focus of the project is developing an effective model for addressing iron deficiency anemia in children under 5 years of age in extremely underserved communities.
The story behind why we, HBI, are involved in this project is simple - we were approached by the Ministry of Health to help fund and implement the project in an underserved community outside of Arequipa where we've worked for over two decades. We used our connections to pull together a unique group of collaborative partners. We built a plan for the partner organizations to work together. And, we started the process of implementing our plan. This is where things got a little derailed. You see, the project is a Ministry of Health project - and we were simply asked to help with the funding and the development of the model. We weren't asked to take over the project.
In my excitement for the project - I got a little ahead of myself. I wanted to control all aspects of the project. I wanted to implement "our" project. I forgot about the number one goal of HBI - building bridges of collaboration . . . fostering and supporting meaningful relationships.
Sure, the project is built around a truly important public health need - iron deficiency anemia in children under 5 years old - but for HBI, our role is really about helping to bring the partners together and then evaluating the impact of the collaboration. This is what the Ministry of Health asked of us - and this is what we are really good at doing.
So, as we have progressed further in the planning of the project and our role in the overall project, I've had to refocus my thinking and really dig into the notion of supporting the development of a model that brings together partners from around the world . . . a model that seeks to use the collective resources of collaboration to address one of the biggest public health challenges facing children under 5 years old in the developing world.
My goodness what a great project to be a part of - and what an important model to develop. We are really honored to be involved. And we are proud of our role in helping to build the relationships that will make this project a model of true collaboration.
I was in Arequipa today. I was spending a few days working with Father Alex on some of our joint projects. The time flew by.
This afternoon I joined him for an outdoor Mass. Like many of the outdoor Mass I have attended, it was an odd mix of a comic tragedy and poetic masterpiece.
The Mass, assembled on a concrete soccer pitch in a squatter community outside of the Alto Cayma area, was a celebration for the anniversary of the community. There were about 50 people in attendance – and another 15 dogs. At one point two dogs got into a fight – right in the middle of a scripture reading. The commotion led to the toppling of the makeshift altar. The plastic soda bottles that had been fashioned into makeshift flower vase, toppled to the ground spilling a large amount of water right behind Father Alex.
A group of dogs packed around the spilled water – lapping up the sustenance. All the while, Father was homilizing the scripture reading. Honestly, this was nothing out of the ordinary for a Mass in Alto Cayma. However, what transpired next was truly inspiring.
During Communion, only a few people came forward to receive the host. I thought this was a bit strange, as I was familiar with a much larger participation.
After the Mass Father Alex asked everyone to sit down for a moment. And, for ten minutes, he told them how much they are loved. He told them how important they are and how much they are the foundation of the Church. He said that no one should ever feel they can’t receive Holy Communion – as this is their Church and Communion is their opportunity to connect more deeply with their faith. He said that he was honored to be in service to them and wanted them to know how important and worthwhile every one of them is.
At one point the short sermon became more of a Q&A session with the community. People asked him about whether they needed to pay for Holy Communion and whether or not they could receive Communion if they had not been attending Mass. He told them they could always partake in the service and they are always welcome. He said, “you are good people. Really good people. Don’t every think otherwise. And, you should know that I consider it a real honor to be your priest.”
It was beautiful. A real testimony to this wonderful man.
Afterwards, in the car driving back to the volunteer house where I was staying, Father Alex turned to me and said – “that is what I think evangelism is all about Wayne. In the dirt and with the dogs, this is where God truly exists.”
Today I learned a great deal about serving others. And it happened in the dirt and with the dogs . . . and it was wonderful.
Thank you for all of the ongoing support.
I am back in Lima. I arrived late last night. This was a particularly difficult trip.
I am really missing my wife and our little girl. I'm the type of husband that, even after almost 25-years, really misses his wife after a long day away from one another - and trips can sometimes be particularly hard.
In any event, I arrived in Lima last night feeling a little homesick. I collected my bags and headed for a taxi. After the normal four-phone-calls-and-ten-texts to finalize the taxi pick-up spot, I finally settled into a cab for the 30-minute drive to the HBI office and house.
Not that this next event was in any way unusual, but the taxi driver started to chat. He asked me how my flight was and where I was traveling from. He was a particularly talkative fellow - made a bit challenging for me by my melancholy mood and the late hour of my arrival. I tried to be polite and keep the conversation going.
After the perfunctory "where are you from and how long are you here for" questions were out of the way - he asked me what I was doing in Peru. I'm not sure why I responded this way - perhaps it was because my mind hadn't kicked into Spanish yet, but I said, "I'm in Peru to start a movement." As the words escaped from my mouth I thought . . . oops, that is not such a great thing to say.
What he said next was priceless - "a movement, hmmmm . . . I like to think I am trying to build a movement myself. I think movements are best facilitated through relationships. If you are talking about a movement that is for all people and encourages everyone to find their path and fulfill their dreams - that's the type of movement I am trying to create in my life. I want everyone to know they matter. What type of movement are you creating my friend?"
I was a bit taken aback by his response; and, I had to pause just to catch-up with the translation in my head. He said everything I had been thinking, but didn't express. We went on to talk more about the work he was doing with his Church and I told him about HBI and our work. I told him about the HBI focus of building bridges and creating meaningful collaboration for underserved and marginalized populations.
We talked for the remainder of the ride and he went on to tell me that he felt one of the things missing in Peru was a movement that provides people meaningful ways to get involved. He said, "people need to be involved in things bigger than themselves."
When we arrived at the HBI office I thanked him for his work and encouraged him to stay in touch. His final words were the best - "we are both a part of the movement. This work can't be done alone. We need one another. I know we'll stay in touch my friend."
I arrived in Lima last night . . . and our movement is growing! Thanks for the support. Stay connected.
This spring is an incredibly busy time for HBI. We've got a number of projects going on - from the neonatal resuscitation training program to our emergency first responders training program. As such, we're making a change.
We're changing the annual Bridge to Change Benefit Dinner (held in partnership with Portland's renowned Andina Restaurant) to the Fall. In 2018, the event will take place over the dates of September 25 (Tuesday) and 26 (Wednesday).
Please mark your calendars and plan to join us for one of Portland's best charity events. More details will follow on the HBI website.
Thank you for all of the ongoing support.
We rushed through the workshop yesterday in Moquegua in order to be ready for a van pickup just after noon to haul us the 45 minutes to Ilo. All consumed box lunches along the way as we lurched around highway curves. Little styrofoam boxes full of spaghetti and a rather single large well done (tough) pork chop. Armed only with a small ineffective plastic knife and fork and buffered with a tiny 5 inch square of napkin, I was quite ineffective. I managed to consume the spaghetti but declined the pork chop, needing to keep my dry-clean-only pants presentable for ten more days. The Decana gladly took the chop off my hands. Finger food. Another trick (that I haven’t yet mastered) is drinking juice from small plastic bags. No way in the van. Overall, maybe less than a four star dining experience.
Ilo is about the same size as Moquegua but as one of Perú’s four ports, it’s thrived in recent years as the economy has boomed. Totally different vibe. As we drop into the city, everything slopes toward the water. The fishing fleet is sprawled around the bay, but no bulk freighters at the moment. Ilo is hot though there was a pleasant afternoon breeze off the Pacific. No old colonial character downtown as everything seemed rather new and more prosperous, and also energetic with lots more activity, the Plaza de Armas full of people in the evening. There were even a couple of food trucks outside my hotel. We did our afternoon workshop, starting almost two hours late, in a building that had been closed up for a few days. Though there was a cool breeze in the street it was at least a sweltering 85 inside as all participants wilted and we cut things short.
This morning, Ilo shared its peculiar aroma as the onshore breeze came from the huge fertilizer plant. As a fishing port there is an enormous harvest of anchoveta, a small fish in great abundance in the cold offshore waters, generally used to make fertilizer. Ah, breathe deeply…..Thankfully, essence of anchoveta had dissipated by noon. For lunch we went to a cevicherria (fish and ceviche restaurant) and as our ceviche arrived a couple of guys about my age showed up. They uncased their guitars and rambled through 4 or 5 traditional criolla songs (think plaintive Spanish love song) with masterful guitar work. Much better than my last inebriated restaurant singer a couple months ago.
To return to the airport in Tacna, I was in a little colectivo car, driver and only three others, along the coast highway in the late afternoon. Initially, there were flat deserted beaches almost a quarter mile wide, then long stretches of huge black rocks in the surf, many crowned with white guano and hundreds of seabirds. The marine life in this part of the ocean is incredibly rich, from plankton, little fish, big fish, seabirds, and even an abundance of sea lions. In Spanish they’re known as “lobos del mar,” wolves of the sea. Further south along the beach were expanses of salt marsh and hundreds of pink flamingos, all the while on the other side of the highway nothing but rocks and sand. As we turned inland toward Tacna we passed miles of olive trees again and as dusk arrived, the moon was already well above the south horizon, brightening full.
Planes, trains, and automobiles morph to Planes, colectivos, and taxis. I’ll sleep in Lima tonight, at least for a few hours.
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.