The following is an ongoing journal* from HBI's Dr. Roberto Tarazona, Physician Lead for the Ines Project for Medically Fragile Children.
“We stand up to grow in humanity”
I.- To see and embrace all that is human: a necessity for our continued existence.
He was a small, playful boy, a little over 4 years old, his face was burned by the Sierra sun, and from his lips flowed huaynos - songs that his parents taught him. He was the first child for a couple of young migrants who left Ayacucho (The "Corner of the dead" in Quechua) with the illusion of finding a better life in the great city of Lima, especially for “Carlitos”. Now 10 years old, Carlitos is enrolled in HBI’s Ines Project for medically fragile children.
The family settled in one of the poorest areas of southern Lima. Like all the poor migrants who invade the peri-urban foothills, without any services like water nor light, they sowed into the arid soil the seeds of the new life they wanted to grow and unfold. They recently welcomed their fourth child. A beautiful baby who continues to fill Carlitos’ precarious house with joy, hope, and life. Everyone is very happy, including Carlitos. The life of a baby infects all of us with more life, and a newborn possesses the promise of a new and better world.
Carlitos stopped walking, laughing, and singing. In such an abrupt manner, as when a bird’s wings are clipped, or worse, when it is enclosed in a small cage. He suffers from one of the 7,000 rare or orphan type diseases that exist and affect at least 8% of the world's population. In Perú, there is no official registry of patients with rare conditions, since they require the latest technological instruments and a large number of specialists that the Department of Health (MINSA) still does not have to diagnose them.
According to official MINSA estimates, it is believed that at least 2.5 million Peruvians suffer from one of these diseases. They live realities intertwined with poverty, social exclusion, ignorance, and little appreciation and fulfillment of human rights, especially the right to health. Perú is a multicultural and multilingual country, with high internal migration, which configures new cultural realities yet to be studied.
Many of the rare diseases, like the one suffered by Carlitos, are simply not accounted for by the health system, they are "lost cases where nothing can be done." Parents, family, and even the community see these diseases as the product of "harm" or "witchcraft." In more dramatic situations, many like Carlitos are abandoned by their own family waiting for them to die. Under the Ines Project we find them in very poor places - malnourished, skin and bones, rigid, and with a gaze that questions our humanity.
II.- Get up to play!
"Panchito" is 4 years old and the third brother of Carlitos. In full view of HBI Perú staff, he interrupts Fany's (HBI's Nurse Care Coordinator) evaluation and says with great courage: When will you stand up Carlitos? Now with our new little brother we could play soccer. Let's get up! Carlitos listens and smiles. His eyes awaken with joy, we would also like them to awaken with hope and a new life.
Today we meet with all the Health Ambassadors to continue monitoring the lives of each of these children who make up the great family of the Ines Project. We are present to our limitations. But more than our limitations, we are alive with the real possibilities that exist within the Ines Project. We are alive with the promise to help families stand with dignity, with hope, with justice - as men and women who share their lives with modesty and generosity. We are alive with the passion to utilize the Ines Project to help people stand as true pillars of a new humanity - one where human life is respected and protected.
*translated from Spanish
I’ve recently been re-introduced to the work of Father Richard Rohr. I say re-introduced, because I’ve been a fan of Father Rohr for years – I just forgot to apply his wisdom in my life recently.
Father Rohr speaks eloquently about the concept of stumbling over the stumble stone. In his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, he talks about the importance of stumbling stones as metaphors to help us connect with our purpose and meaning. He talks about the power of “stumbling downward” in order to really move upward. Father Rohr describes the stumbling stone as a “rock that can bring you down into a larger freedom from your small self.” In essence, Rohr is calling us all to a transformation. A transformation that will bring us to a place to deepen our work. A place to deepen the expression of ourselves. I feel like HBI is at a place of great growth and change – and the stumbling stone for us in moving upward is deeper understanding of the true impact of our work.
We started HBI with the hope, with the intent, of creating an organization whose mission is to help build connections. Our goal, from our inception in 2006, has been supporting our in-country partners to identify the resources they need to do the work they are charged with doing. In some instances, this has meant identifying and securing financial resources. In other instances, supporting our partners through training and subject matter expertise. And, in even others – we’ve been a collaborator to walk alongside our colleagues in the work they do.
All of our efforts have been predicated on the belief that the best way to make a difference in the world is through deep collaboration. I believe this wholeheartedly. And, for HBI this has meant a focus less about “doing” in our work and more about supporting the doing of our partners. This support is strongly predicated on relationships.
The other day an HBI staff sent me a link to a blog post. The post, written by an evangelical missionary in Cambodia had a big impact on me. In very eloquent terms, the author discussed the conundrum that exists when people want to “change the world” – but aren’t fully mindful to the impact of their efforts. He talked about the secondary effects of flying halfway around the world to deliver direct services in developing countries, without addressing the need for training in-country professionals to do the same work you are doing in your outreach efforts. He talked about the seductive allure of “doing stuff” and the need to strategically consider how our “doing” can actually have a greater impact when it is linked to local initiatives and in-country organizations. Most of all – the article was a wake-up call for me to reconsider how we support and collaborate with our in-country partners. It was an opportunity for me to reconsider the “doing” of HBI.
While I agree with the author, I am left feeling there’s another way to think about the challenge. To borrow from Richard Rohr again - we need to break from dualistic thinking or the notion that there is any one right or wrong approach to anything. Rather, Rohr points to the enormous “both-and” opportunities that exist all around us. This leads me to the belief that there is another way to think about our role in international development: Yes, we must be focused on preparing and advancing local capacity. This means training the next generation of change agents. It means looking to local leadership over international consultants. And it means partnerships. And it means investing in relationship development. And it means connecting through shared experiences.
Time and time again the element that makes programs and projects most successful is not technical expertise or sophisticated staffing, or even money (as strange as that may seem). The secret ingredient that makes international projects most successful, sustainable, meaningful is relationships. Deeply developed, mutually respected relationships. And the act of cultivating and nurturing such relationships takes a great deal of investment . . . and a fair amount of strategic “doing.”
In addition, this relationship doing takes time and money. It takes long plane rides and extended periods away from home. And, the question I wrestle with . . . is it the best use of our, HBI’s, resources? Again, I don’t think the answer is a simple yes or no.
Rather, I think the efforts behind relationship development and facilitation serve a significant role. They allow us, HBI as an organization and our staff – as well as our partners and the communities we collaboratively serve – to validate our experiences together. The act of traveling and working together is a rite of passage that solidifies our shared investment and changes our thinking. However, we need to continuously re-examine that role and the costs associated with facilitating such a role.
His Holiness the Dali Lama once said, “Learn and obey the rules very well so you will know how to break them properly.” There are no rules for the work HBI does. Certainly, there are best practices and years of research to support certain interventions over others; but the simple fact is – there is no one way that is the best way for international relationship development and social justice work.
So now, as I consider who HBI is in the next phase of our development, I am reminded that stumbling over the stumbling stone is an opportunity to truly grow. I am drawn to really consider how we can use our resources to the betterment of the in-country partners we support and trust. And I am re-reminded that sometimes the “doing” of our service is more about supporting others to do and walking alongside them as they request.
Thank you for your continued support of HBI.
It's that time of year once again when we are planning our biggest event - the A Bridge to Change benefit dinner.
This years event will once again take place at Portland's highly respected Andina Restaurant and features an exquisitely prepared Peruvian meal uniquely designed for Health Bridges International.
The event takes place over two nights - Monday, May 8 and Tuesday, May 9. We invite you to attend the night that works best for your schedule. For more information on the event or to register to attend, please see: A Bridge to Change
From the sand and dust of Alto Cayma, we are pleased to post an Easter message from Father Alexander Busuttil. Father Alex is a long standing partner of HBI and a true champion for peace and social justice in the world. He is one of our favorite people on the planet. Now, the Easter message from Father Alex:
"I am sure that it is not the first time that we heard the statement “God is love.” Probably we take it for granted that it means that God loves us. For me it is by far deeper than that. In fact for me God is Love, one and same thing. No two sides of one coin but the metal that makes the coin, the very fiber.
We speak of God being almighty, meaning that nothing is impossible for him, and his love being infinite and has no limits and breaking all barriers. This “no limits” does not limit itself to how far his forgiveness can reach, it means also surpassing all limits of science and is able to surpass also the impossible. This means that love being a spiritual reality (non-material), can become human and that is the incarnation of love in the person of Jesus. Love becomes human. The resurrection of Jesus is the surpassing of human limits in the almightiness of the Almighty: Love that cannot be subjected to death.
It is so significant that in the story of creation, while everything is created by an order: let there be…, in the creation of the human being there is a direct intervention represented by the breath of God. That breath is what makes us human beings what we are, human beings. God being Love in itself, one and same thing, means that our fiber and substance as human beings is love. In fact I think that we should not be called human beings but loving beings, because it is love that makes us who we are through the direct infusion of Love in the moment of our creation. God / Love who communicates himself to us so we can have life, and life to the full.
This is the meaning of the resurrection, our own resurrection. It means to dig deep into our roots and rediscover the life that flows out of the love we all bear inside as “human” beings, or better still “loving” beings. It means to let our lives be lead by the spirit of love and let power of God / Love be fully alive in our own life. This is what it means that Jesus’s resurrection is also our own resurrection.
This concept is so inclusive and outreaching that there are no limits whatsoever as the only condition to benefit from the fullness of life is to let one’s life be lead by Love, the source of life itself. This explains why people of different creeds or no creed at all can achieve life to the full, because they let their life be lead by Love. Tough the concept of God / Love being the same and one thing may not be clear, the life that flows from Love cannot be limited to human reasoning and therefore still gives life and life to the full. The deeper one realizes this truth, the fuller the life one can live.
My message this Easter is to encourage each and everyone to ask a fundamental question. Do I let my life be lead by Love in whatever I do or say? To die with Christ means to pass through the pains of the transition of letting one’s life be lead by whatever, to a life be lead by Love. Those who experience this death to the old self with Jesus on the cross will resurrect with him to a new life: to start living instead of existing; to be born again; to live life to the full. This is the true meaning of freedom. A freedom that comes from inside and lets you love and be loved as a loving being. This freedom does not result from rights given by human beings or by imposing laws and giving sanctions to those who do not comply. True freedom is a free decision to let one’s life be lead by Love. Love expressed through respect to everyone and everything that has life. It is so inclusive to respect humans of all creeds, color, ideas, or whatever differences we may think of. It means respect to all that exists, including nature in all its diversity, shape and form.
Finally I would like to say that in a world of so much confusing ideas, poverty and death, we are to be heralds of Love and Peace. We should never be indifferent to what goes on around us or far away anywhere in the world. Our legacy should be of having lived a life to the full as loving beings. This is the way to experience our own resurrection when we decide to start all over letting our life be lead by love.
For me as a Catholic the best way to be guided through this process of my resurrection to fullness of life is found in the Word of God, (Love itself that teaches us the way to go), and more over through the sacraments and especially the Eucharist (Love that gives life as in the moment of creation once again). This is a personal experience and is definitely not the only way. Let us just be lead by Love and thus let God be God in our lives, and be open to let what we always thought was impossible, happen. There are a lot of surprises out there and Love is almighty.
United in one mission of building Peace on Earth through Faith and Service may you have a Happy Easter and enjoy your resurrection. Welcome to a new LIFE TO THE FULL!
Fr. Alex Busuttil, mssp"
Although the rains have greatly decreased and/or stopped in many parts of Peru (the north is still considerably wet) the work of helping communities and populations impacted by the flooding is only just beginning.
Tremendous appreciation goes out to everyone who has donated to the flood relief efforts in Peru. There has been an outpouring of contributions from around the world. For HBI, we are focusing our efforts on helping our in-country partners and the families enrolled in the Ines Project.
In many communities where we work, people have been cutoff from basic services - as the floods have wiped out roads and infrastructure. In the communities of Alto Cayma outside of the city of Arequipa, roads have been washed away leading to further runoff and erosion.
In the coming weeks, our Peruvian staff will work with our partners to define how we can best support them and their efforts to serve the needs of communities dramatically impacted by the floods and rains. We will work closely to compliment the efforts of the Peruvian Government, who have done a tremendous job responding to the disaster (the photographs below highlight some of the governments efforts to shelter and bring temporary resources to communities most impacted by the flooding).
Stay tuned for further updates; and, once again, thank you very much for all of your generous contributions.
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.