Fractals are amazing. They represent a core concept in nature. They summarize all that is complex and poetic about life and the world we live. From the whole are the pieces and from the pieces is the whole.
The concept of fractals struck me today. We have a small neighborhood restaurant just down the block from our home in Portland. The restaurant wasn't open for more than 2 months when the pandemic hit. Within a matter of days, the windows were papered, their neon sign shut off, and an announcement was prominently placed on the front door - "Closed by order of the Governor. We'll be back. Until then, follow-us on Instagram." Just like that - a single handwritten sign brought to an end what was assuredly months of preparation and a lifetime of savings.
The more I got to thinking about our neighborhood restaurant - the more I realized that same story is repeating itself over and over again all around the world. In the last week alone we've heard from a small rehab hospital in a rural part of Cusco that is struggling, a program in Zambia straining to best respond to the pandemic, a feeding program in Alto Cayma remaking itself to deliver food and supplies to people living in extreme poverty, a physician at a major public hospital who is desperate for face-masks and PPE, and the many university groups who've canceled their trips. In every part of this magnificent planet, businesses are closing, dreams are getting diverted, and lives are forever changing. It feels a little overwhelming.
But then I remember - the lesson of fractals . . . from the pieces come the whole. Within everything is a pattern. All the shuttered businesses, all the broken dreams, all the shattered bank accounts - behind every one of them is a person. And people are what matter most.
Things are devastatingly challenging for so many right now - and, the bridges we create will be the healing the world needs. So where do we begin? One thing HBI has done really well is create connections. Our work is about pulling the pieces together. And I guess what I am most realizing from the pandemic is this - the bridges we are best at building in the world . . . they're people connecting to people.
Fractals are created by repeating a simple process over and over. This is the process of creating connections. Our relationships, the connections we have, the partnerships we've assembled - these are the bridges that will help to heal the world . . . and we're only just getting started.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it really hard to stay focused on all the immediate and urgent needs - and plan for the bigger future. This is particularly important when it comes to building opportunities for the older boys who 'graduate' from the Casa Girasoles program. They are getting older - in-spite of the social isolation and mandatory quarantine, and we need to help them build bridges to the next phase of their lives.
Ideally, every boy in our Casa Girasoles Program would apply and be granted a government supported scholarship to study at university. The challenge - not all the boys are best matched to a university education; and, the program is extremely competitive. As such, we face a daunting challenge of building our own graduation program.
We're fortunate to be in partnership with Paths of Hope and their amazing team of Kate and Billy Greenman. Together we're working on a plan for the older boys - but everything has been stalled with COVID-19. So, without a lot of formal programs - we're taking it case-by-case, boy-by-boy.
Yesterday I had a call with a faith-based NGO that runs a program in Cusco. They accept young adults transitioning from orphanages or homes. In addition to helping with school enrollment - university, technical or trade school - they also provide housing, case support, psychological therapy and life skills development. It's a great program. They've graciously accepted three boys from our Casa Girasoles in the Sacred Valley.
Yesterday on our call, the director told me of his hope that all the young adults participating in their program gain access to the skills that will allow them to be successful adults. He went on to tell me each program participant receives a small monthly stipend for basic hygiene supplies. This amounts to – for many – some of the only money they get. During this challenging time, the boys have been donating their money to an NGO working with families living in extreme poverty.
The money they donate goes to purchase food for families that would not otherwise eat without support. The families are also the same families many of the children came from them. This is an amazing story that exemplifies the drawn we all feel to be servants and supporters in the lives of others. It is a story of the power of resilience and growth.
I feel so fortunate to be in this work. It is such a huge privilege to serve the boys in our Casa Girasoles. In the midst of the complexity and challenge that is COVID-19, there are amazing bridges being built.
Things are really tough. I am convinced this is true for all 7.5 billion people on the planet. The challenges are, however, more profound and impactful for the poor of this world. This is especially true for the people we serve in Perú. The families living in extreme poverty with children living with disabilities and medically fragile conditions are really struggling. They are hard pressed to figure out how to make each day manageable.
The boys in our Casa Girasoles homes are safe, well fed and protected, but the challenges of social isolation are starting to weigh heavy on them. For a child who has lived so much of their life on constant hyper-vigilance, always ready to protect themself from injury our harm - the current state of the world can be too much. There are more outbursts. More temper-tantrums for the little ones. More strong words from the older boys. Things are tough.
Sometimes all of this new "normal" feels overwhelming. However, in spite all the challenges and feelings of overwhelm . . . there is so much hope. There is so much opportunity.
Our staff have been amazing. We have daily calls, and I'm so impressed with everyone's continuous ability to stay present. This is not an easy thing. Our staff in Peru are under so much stress. And yet, they continue to show up. I am so proud to be in collaboration with these amazing people.
The future, no one knows. But one thing seems really clear, whatever challenge we find ourselves in - there is also great opportunity. We're capturing those opportunities to better serve the marginalized, underserved, and disenfranchised people living in deep experiences of poverty. We're capturing these lessons to be better bridge builders in the world.
No one ever said life was suppose to be easy. And, now - more than ever we are called to be the bridges that assure the poor, underserved, and marginalized of the world are not alone or forgotten.
Thank you for all of your continued support. Thank you believing in HBI. Thank you for continuing to hold optimism.
It's hard enough figuring out the 6-foot rule that now governors our lives. Let alone trying to determine how to go about life in the age of social isolation, quarantines, and mandatory restrictions. The fleeting moments of "normal" are quickly usurped by the overwhelming realization there is no normal as we have known it for most of our lives.
Finding a new normal is the focus. Finding a new way to connect with the people on our team who are on the ground and facing great challenges in meeting the needs of the families we serve. Helping the staff at the Casa Girasoles find some level of normalcy for the children in our homes. Normalcy that includes laughing and playing, and just being kids.
Most of all it means finding a new normal for operating as an organization Everyday we learn of new challenges. New problems that are devastating the lives of the people we serve. Simple things are no longer simple.
For me, the new normal is allowing myself to step back from the challenges and seek opportunities This is a day-by-day undertaking. Some days - it feels overwhelming. Some days - it feels invigorating.
I am choosing to focus on the ways I can show up for others. Show up as a listening, compassionate partner. This requires me to be more vulnerable; and, in that vulnerability - I am finding hope.
I love that Kafka quote that says: "From a certain point on there is no return. This is the point to reach."
It feels like we are reaching that point. The point of no return to our old "normal." It feels like this is the point where all possibility rests. Man, that sure is hard.
One thing is certain, this is our new normal.
When I was in college, a mentor gave me a book. It changed my life. The book, a Buddhist meditation on building a life of commitment, has never felt more pertinent.
Chop Wood, Carry Water is an exploration of the idea that the most divine moments of life come not in the glamorous and glorious - but in the mundane and routine. It is meditation on finding spiritual awakening through a commitment to the daily experiences of life . . . . chopping wood and carrying water.
Now, more than ever - the work of HBI is about tending to the small tasks. It's about waiting in line at the bank - a seemingly never-ending line - to deposit money in the accounts of the families in the Ines Project so they can buy food for their children. It's about calling organization after organization to see if we can get medications for children in the Ines Project with medically fragile conditions. It's about writing protocols for the Casa Girasoles Programs that will keep the children safe and the staff well prepared. It's connecting as a staff to celebrate our commitment to one another and our work.
When I think about why we exist as an organization - I think about the children and families in our programs. I think about how our work is building a model to shape a way forward for underserved communities. I think about little Marcos - who at 4 years old has finally found a home in our Casa Girasoles program, where he feels safe and loved. For him and for all the people who poverty and a lack of access to resources have made tremendously vulnerable in this pandemic . . . we won't give up. We're committed.
We'll keep chopping wood and carrying water. We'll keep building 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.