Today is Peru’s Independence Day, Fiestas Patrias. It's a big deal. In any other time, under “normal” circumstances – the entire country is a celebration. A celebration that lasts for days. Its awesome.
Today, however, the country has declared that only July 28th is a holiday. There are strong warnings to shelter-in-place and avoid travel. People are discouraged from holding parties, and the vast majority of people won’t be celebrating beyond their immediate families.
Times are tough enough without having a little celebration. That is why we had a Fiestas Patrias celebration – virtual – for the Casa Girasoles yesterday. It was a chance to celebrate the culture and passion of the boys – and allow them to connect with one another in a fun, safe manner. Through the power of Zoom (how many of us thought Zoom would be so important in our lives and work just 6-months ago?) we set up cameras at the homes in Urubamba and Ica and held friendly competitions for dance and games. We invited a few of our supporters and staff to join and had our own Fiestas Patrias – COVID-style. It was great. Check it out at: Fiestas Patrias Casa Girasoles
Finding time to celebrate and just have fun, that is so important. It is not something that seems to come easy right now. And yet – through all the struggle and strife, really important things are happening. Since we started the Tigre Program for young men aging out of residential and institutional care, in collaboration with the NGO Paths of Hope and Billy and Kate Greenman, we’ve encountered a number of stories worth celebrating – from helping a young man find stability and purpose after leaving prison to coordinating lifesaving medical care for another young person who had fallen through the cracks of societies safety-net. We’re encountering amazing stories after amazing stories. Its really humbling.
Speaking of humbling – a received a note from a staff person the other day. It really touched me. She wrote to say thank you. Thank you for the opportunities that HBI has brought to her life. Thank you for the salary she receives that helps to support her entire family – a family of five people. And thank you for the support she feels in being a part of the HBI family. In all sincerity – it is HBI that benefits so much from our affiliation with her. We are so fortunate to have amazing people committed to this work. Again, its humbling when you think about everything that everyone is doing. It makes me want to celebrate.
So, on this most important day in Perú – please join us in celebrating the country we love, honoring the people who are working so hard to make a difference, and enjoying a pisco sour (or two).
Vive rojo y blanco. Se vive una fiesta en el Perú.
There is a quickening happening in our work. The pandemic has all but mandated we take stock and tighten up.
This process has been really good. A bit on the painful side - but incredibly helpful to the quality of our efforts. Prior to the global challenge - we were an organization with a number of different moving parts. In fact, it was sometimes hard for people to fully understand the "who" and "what" of Health Bridges. Now, more than at any other time in our history - it feels like the "who, what and why" of HBI are fully aligned.
This alignment has come about because of the challenges exposed by the pandemic. We simply couldn't keep doing so many things . . . the quarantine social distancing requirements and travel restrictions made it impossible. Instead, we took inventory of our collective efforts - including a full review of our partners - and honed our efforts. We've focused on helping the families in our Ines Project to have the resources and support to best care for the complex needs for their children living with a disability. We've charged full steam ahead into defining and refining our Center of Excellence model for serving formerly abandoned youth and young adults (in our new Tigre Project). We've curated a list of online trainings to expand the impact and reach of our neonatal resuscitation program and our emergency first responders project.
What we've found in this process is this - by focusing our efforts on expanding and advancing child welfare systems and structures and training healthcare professionals to be better prepared to save lives - we are utilizing the collective talents and skills of our team to the highest extent. Sure, in the face of COVID - we've found ourselves dancing a bit of a dance to help where needed - but one thing has remained clear . . . our dance may change a little, but the songs we are dancing with are the same.
Stay up-to-date on our work by following us on social media and following the Blog. We'll be posting stories about our efforts throughout the next couple of weeks.
Sometimes it just takes a little perspective.
A few weeks back, in response to a pressing need we were witnessing in the older boys who graduated from the Casa Girasoles Program, and were struggling in the pandemic, we started the Tigre Program. The program works with young men transitioning from adolescence and early adulthood into a new phase of their life. Sometimes this is a transition from prison, sometimes it is a transition from a life filled with poor decisions - for most it is a challenging time in their life. One of the young men in the program asked if we could help him connect with books. He asked for the classics. He wanted, more than anything else, to learn and grow.
Of course we responded immediately. We contacted a priest who runs a parish not far from where we're renting a place for the Tigre. The priest opened his library to the young man. In spite all of the challenges of the pandemic and in the face of a massive life change - he wants to read the classics. What a great lesson in perspective.
Last night I received a call from Father Alex. He was calling to talk about our joint work in Alto Cayma in Arequipa. He was talking about the work and the efforts when he suddenly stopped and stated - "oh but this is nothing. A few days ago the water bureau broke a main and no one in the area has had water." Oh my goodness, in the face of a pandemic that desperately requires fastidious hygiene - the water goes off. Yikes. Unfazed, Father Alex went on to say the water "challenge" was really nothing - as it would soon be back. Wow - talk about perspective.
There are so many challenges. Things are really hard everywhere. A little perspective always seems to make things a bit more manageable A bit more possible.
We're in this together. We're going to be stronger and better. A little perspective will help along the way.
Thanks for all your continued support.
At HBI, we talk a lot about building bridges. We've made a huge difference and been able to serve thousands of people, not because of our multimillion dollar budget - but because we are in partnership with so many different groups. These are the bridges that make the difference. These are the points of connection that allow the impact of our efforts to be expanded and multiplied.
Yesterday we received a WhatsApp message from a partner in the city of Ica. She was working at the local hospital and noticed a man living in a tent on the grounds. She asked about the situation and found out the man is from Venezuela He was recently diagnosed with a terminal cancer. He's been living in the experience of homelessness since the pandemic started. A few weeks back, the hospital allowed him to set-up a tent on their property. They've been helping with food.
He told our partner he wants to go back to Venezuela to die. She reached out to us to see if we could help. Immediately our team connected with partners in immigration advocacy, Venezuelan rights and support groups. We also provided the money to help rent an apartment and link the gentlemen into care.
We are going to work with an advocacy group to help him get home to Venezuela - once he is strong enough.
We build bridges. That's what we do. And, whether those bridges are to new knowledge and skills for healthcare professionals, bridges to advance child welfare services, or bridges to opportunities and hope . . . we build bridges.
“Nothing good in life comes easy. All the best things are hard. If they weren't – everyone who have them and no one would want them.”
My father repeated this statement to me throughout my childhood. It became a mantra. I built my entire life around the pursuit of this message. Sometimes, with limited success.
Now, in this time of great uncertainty and many unknows - it’s become a sort of meditation. It has helped me to recognize the importance of the work we are doing and the power of staying the course – in spite of the challenges or complexity.
We have daily Zoom meetings with our team on the ground in Perú. The meetings range from updates and reports on projects and programs to informal mental health support. Over the past weeks the tone of the meetings has shifted. Everyone is tired. The strain of the past 100+ days is weighing heavy. And, it is becoming more and more evident - the hardest part of our work is getting harder. We know this. We expect this. It does not, however, make it any less challenging.
One thing does help to ease the burden and strain - working in collaboration. It's knowing our work is connected to partnerships and a network of collaborative organizations. It's knowing we are building upon one another's efforts. This is a great comfort to our team. There are times on our Zoom meetings when we feel the strain – and then remember the folks who are in the trenches of this work with us. We remember, we’re not alone.
We help to teach a Global Health course for American College of Education (Indianapolis, IN), that brings together nursing students from the U.S. and Perú in a virtual learning space. Last night we brought together a group of nursing students from a university in the city of Arequipa. They're bright, passionate people who participate in the course to expand their knowledge and connect with colleagues from different countries. All the students are currently working in hospitals or clinics. They’re on the front lines of delivering care in one of the worst COVID hotspots in Latin America. They're courageous young people who are doing amazing things. Hard things.
Last night while on the Hollywood Squares of our Zoom meeting, I realized what a profound privilege it is to be in partnership with these amazing people. Here they are – literally caring for people dying from the complications of the virus, and they seek the connection.
Yes, nothing good in life is easy . . . however, it is so much more fulfilling to be doing this incredibly hard work with a team of dedicated, passionate people.
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.