Yesterday we officially launched our fall fundraiser campaign Our goal is to raise $100,000 by October 30. Certainly, this is an ambitious campaign - we get it. We also know we've got some of the best supporters. We have so many dedicated people that have helped us grow our impact from periodic short-term outreach campaigns, to a full fledged NGO with almost 50 staff and a number of ongoing programs and projects.
It is with the memory of the hundreds of people who have supported our work with donations of time, energy and money over these past 20-plus years - that I feel confident in our goal of reaching $100K by October 30. I don't think anyone would have imagined we'd be where we are today when we started almost three decades ago.
Check out our campaign, and consider getting involved in one of our simple activities. If you've got a few minutes or a few hours, we've got options on how you can help HBI. Thank you. Thank you for all the ongoing support and trust.
I am a bit out of commission. Nothing catastrophic, just a back injury that keeps me from sitting for more than a few minutes. It means I've been missing a lot of our meetings and less involved in the day-to-day activities of HBI. This is a big shift - as COIVD has ramp up our work exponentially and our whole team has been meeting in program related Zoom calls, multiple times per day.
From our program directors to our coordinators to the staff working directly in the Ines Project and Casa Girasoles homes, everyone - I mean that - everyone is going above and beyond to ensure we are doing everything we can to support the people and communities we serve. This has meant delivering food and medication to a families in the Ines Project. Its meant spending hours upon hours fielding calls from concerned families and helping them sort through their fears around COVID-19 and the safety of their children. Its meant coordinating online trainings for hundreds of participants - and delicately completing a research study from a computer screen thousands of miles away.
The thing is - this team, the HBI family, is so dang competent. Whatever comes from the pandemic - one thing I have learned very clearly, we have an amazing group of people working with our NGO. I can't be more proud to affiliate myself with such a committed, compassionate group.
Who knows what the future will bring, but one thing is certain in my mind - this is an amazing team and a committed group of change agents. I feel so fortunate to be a part of a family of so many great servants.
Yesterday, President Martin Vizcarra announced a return to quarantine and mandatory social immobilization for a number of regions in Perú, including Arequipa, parts of Lima, and Ica. President Vizcarra noted the increasing cases and the challenges the health system is having containing the pandemic. He said, "It is preferable to go back a step to generate the responsibility of all."
This is a sound public health decision. It is a decision that puts the health and welfare of the Peruvian people above politics. It is, however, a decision that will have continued devastating impacts in the lives of people living in the experience of poverty.
It has been over four months since the first declaration of a national state of emergency and corresponding lockdown measures. The pandemic has had profound impacts in the developing and middle-income world. This is especially true in the Peruvian economy and society. People who were vulnerable before the pandemic, are literally falling through the cracks of the social safety nets in Latin America.
For Perú, in an economy where over 70% of the workforce is employed in the informal sector – if you work you get paid and eat, if you don’t work you go hungry - people are struggling to gain access to their basic life needs.
According to a UN special report released in early July, the coronavirus (COVID- 19) pandemic, has led to worst recession in the region in a century, causing a 9.1% contraction in regional GDP. Fears are this recession will push the number of people living in poverty up by 45 million (to a total of 230 million) and the number of people living in the experience of extreme poverty by 28 million (to 96 million in total).
Latin America was already, well before coronavirus, one of the most unequal regions in the world - and the differential impacts of COVID-19 are making this situation much worse. The sharp drop in economic activity – tourism, exports, taxes - is expected to lift the unemployment rate from about 8.1% to over 13.5%.
COVID is having particularly devastating impacts in the lives of women. Women run households are disproportionally represented in the experience of poverty in Latin America. For every 100 men between the ages of 25 and 59 living in the experience of poverty, there were 113 women in the same situation.
The pandemic is exacerbating existing food insecurity. Latin America has seen an almost three-fold rise in the number of people requiring food assistance. According a UN World Food Program report - around 1.9 million Peruvians suffered from moderate food insecurity prior to the crisis. No estimates were available for severe food insecurity – it is clear the pandemic is having devastating impact on people living in the experience of extreme poverty and estimates now show that 12.62 million people are moderately food insecure and an additional 3.56 million are severely food insecure - bringing the total number of estimated food insecure people in Perú to over 16 million – nearly 50% of the total population.
If food insecurity is not enough experts estimate the global fatality from COVID-19 will reach between 40 and 60 million people. This will inevitably leave many children without a parent or caregiver. Child welfare experts fear the number of abandoned children in response to the pandemic will overwhelm care settings and lead to even more uncertain futures.
This is a crisis situation, and it is - by every measure - devastating. It is a time for action.
So where do we start? We working in the nexus of short-term response and the long-term solutions. We've increased our efforts to bring direct food, health and social services relief to underserved communities. We're providing more direct assistance to the families our Ines Project. We're working with a number of partners on the ground to be a safety net for marginalized populations. And, we continuing to build the structures that will help to fortify health services delivery for underserved populations well into the future.
One way we are planning for longterm, sustainable impact is with our Girasoles Center of Excellence Program. Let me tell you the story of a boy who came to live in one of our Casa Girasoles homes during the pandemic. By all accounts, Alex (not his real name) had a hard life even before the pandemic. Food insecurity and economic poverty plagued the family. Adding the pandemic to baseline economic fragility and under-diagnosed and untreated mental health conditions in his mother – and his family situation went from bad to worse very quickly. When he came to live with us - the first photograph I received was of a shy boy uncertain where to stand or look to have his picture taken. What I later found out was this small boy had come to our home under terrible conditions of abuse. The coronavirus crisis had stretched what meager coping skills the mother could recruit in her life – and she broke. She beat, burned and tormented Alex.
Look Alex's coming to us – it is the start. It is the start to develop a pathway to the life he deserves. It is the start of ensuring he has the support he needs to build the resiliency and attachment that will guide him forward in his life. But you see, our work – it can’t stop with Alex – we have a responsibility to reach further . . . to build bridges of support to help his mother – his family – gain access to the knowledge and skills they need to foster better relationships and create deeper attachments. We have a responsibility to help families living in the experience of deep poverty find the wholeness they deserve.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed all the terrible inequality and inequity in the world. People who, before the pandemic were suffering to gain access to the services and supports, they needed are now desperate and in deep trouble. Poverty should never separate a child from their parent – and yet, the profound economic impacts of the global pandemic are separating thousands – hundreds of thousands of children – from their families.
We can help. We can make a difference. We can change the life of Alex. We can help his mother find the services and the supports she needs to rebuild her life and the lives of her children. This is the work we are doing in developing a model program that works to provide evidence-based services and supports for children living in orphanages and residential care facilities - and builds bridges to prevent family breakdowns by helping build the core skills to foster healthy attachment in all homes.
Our Center of Excellence program is a bold undertaking. It's a multiyear commitment that brings together a number of child welfare specialists, researchers, and care givers. It is an undertaking we are 100% committed to developing and facilitating – and, it takes a lot of resources. It takes people. It takes time. That is why we are launching - starting next week - a 6-week campaign to raise $100,000. We know, with resources and support – we can and WILL change the lives of thousands of children like Alex.
This is an incredibly challenging time. This is a long, winding road. We have no choice but to work together to ensure every child, every mother, every person . . . has access to the opportunities they need to build the futures they deserve.
In the coming week, please stay tuned for the launch of our campaign - and thank you for supporting of our mission to change the world by building bridges of collaboration and service.
I've been wrestling with writing this blog post. Wrestling because the last thing I ever want to do is misrepresent a child or harm their dignity. I am very sensitive to objectifying the lives of the children we are called to serve. This, however, is a story that must be told.
In many parts of the developing and middle income world, the impact from the pandemic has been completely devastating. It has prematurely ended lives, disrupted economies and forever altered societies. This is particularly true for families who - even before the great challenges of COVID - were barely finding the services and supports they needed.
Families living in the experience of poverty with a substance use disorder or mental health condition. Families living day-to-day with limited access to opportunity. Families without support. Many of these families now find themselves thrust into home schooling, scrapping together a meager income through day labor work, and struggling to feed and care for their children.
Through this breakdown - we are witnessing an increase in the number of abandoned children. We're receiving increased requests to place children in our two Casa Girasoles homes. We're seeing an increase in children experiencing abuse and violence. We are witnessing an unraveling of the social safety nets.
We welcomed a new boy to one of the Casa Girasoles in the midst of COVID-19. I will not mention the home or disclose any identifying information. I owe him his anonymity. He is 8 years old. He comes from a rural community high in the mountains. I received a photo of him along with a short note. The photo shows a shy little boy who seems uncertain where to stand or how to pose for his picture. The house director, who sent me and other members of our team the photo, mentioned - "we now have a new family member."
The photo is jarring. Not for what it shows - but for what it doesn't. The hidden story. Separate from the photo sent to the team - was a message and photo sent only to me. It is a terrible photo. A photo of horrific abuse. It is a photo that tells the story of unspeakable trauma. The photo shows burns - third degree, disfiguring burns over the lower extremity of a small child. The photo is of the 8 year old boy we welcomed as a new family member.
The story is complex. The family has been deeply impacted by COVID. Without work, food, or support - things have been desperate for everyone. The boy was bed wetting. The mother, unable, incapable, unwilling - burned the boy in an attempt to stop him from bed wetting. The burns are horrific. It is a photo a person can't unsee. It is a photo of pain. It is a photo that represents too many nameless, faceless children who are truly suffering.
A recent study by the World Health Organization estimates that globally, one out of two children experience some form of violence. That is an incredible statistic. An equally compelling report from the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General, finds the impact of violence against children will worsen under COVID-19. Worsen! It is not an exaggeration to say there is a crisis going on.
This is why our work is more important than ever. We are developing a multi-year research study to define the best practices, supportive services and areas of knowledge that can help child welfare workers, residential care facility caregivers and families end cycles of violence and build better pathways to attachment and resilience. Our hope is to research the model, codify our findings, demonstrate the impact of our efforts, and help to change child welfare services. It is an ambitious project. And, it is a desperately needed model.
There are literally millions of children impacted by abuse and violence everyday. The COVID-19 global pandemic is making things far worse. We must work together to end the victimization and traumatization of children. We must build better services and supports for the most vulnerable, precious lives in our communities. We need to assure the safety nets of our communities have the strength they need to catch everyone.
We must do better. We must do more. We owe this commitment to our new Casa Girasoles family member and the millions of children suffering in the shadows of this pandemic.
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.