There is a strange feeling in the air. It's more than just the change of seasons. It feels ominous - like a train barreling down the tracks.
Okay, maybe that's a bit of a dramatization. Perhaps. However, we are looking toward a change in seasons that will bring change on a number of levels, not just the global pandemic. For many underserved and under-resourced communities, this change will bring more challenges.
All of this means we have gone into planning mode. We're planning for several scenarios and considering a variety of options. In Perú, spring has arrived and summer is not far in the future - and with the government moving into Phase IV of the reopening, more people will be out and about.
This means planning for the families in our Ines Project - considering how to keep them safe and supplied with the resources they need. It means building a plan to give the boys in the Casa Girasoles a chance to get out and enjoy the sunshine, without increasing their risk of infection. It means considering how we will continue to build on a Home Learning plan - and give the boys the opportunity for a summer break . . . and fun.
It means planning online trainings - for our emergency medicine, NRP, and the Center of Excellence programs. More than anything else, it means planning for prevention - and, heeding the sound of the racing train by planning for many different scenarios. It means making certain we are proactively (and actively) engaging the communities we serve to find solutions to the challenges facing their day-to-day lives. It means listening to the struggles so many people are facing - and working with them to identify solutions.
Change is coming. It is a core function of all life. Our goal, our role, is to be engaged and attentive to the change. Because in the words of the late great singer songwriter Johnny Cash - "I hear the train a comin', it's rollin' 'round the bend and I ain't seen the sunshine since, I don't know when..."
“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Today is the United Nations International Day of Peace. Strangely enough, the world doesn't feel very peaceful. It feels upended and disrupted.
Just four days ago, UNICEF and Save the Children published a report. It is the first of what will be many reports analyzing the economic and social impacts of the global pandemic. The report noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed 150 million children into the experience of multidimensional poverty. This multidimensional poverty is about not having access to adequate water, food, education, healthcare, housing, and sanitation. The 150 million represents a 15% increase in the number of children living in a deep experience of poverty. The UNICEF report is a call to action. It is a clarion to everyone.
Living in the experience of poverty has dramatic impacts on cognition, brain development, and life-course attainment. Poverty as a station, as a place where people find themselves in a day-to-day struggle and strife, is about more than the absence of resources. It is a loss of hope. It is a dehumanizing experience that strips away basic dignity. It is a form of violence.
Living in the experience of poverty can make a person feel like they have become the object of another's compassion - rather than the subject of their future. Many years ago, a mentor said to me, "one day you will find yourself spending more time in meetings with a suit and tie. You will wonder if you are doing anything to help. You will feel removed from the work of serving others. When this happens - you know you are making a difference."
It took me a long time to understand this statement. Then one day I realized, the people we are called to be in community with - they don't want us to objectify them or pity them, they want us to help them find a pathway to a future. They want us to walk with them to a place beyond the experience of poverty.
Today is the International Day of Peace, and the best way I can see to build a world of peace is through helping people find their futures, their dreams - their lives beyond the experience of poverty. Join us in building a world that assures every child, every family - has access to hope!
Overstating the obvious a bit here - things have been stressful lately. No one is immune to that stress. Some are just better at working with, and through, the stressful events that mark our day-to-day life in the time of COVID.
We’ve been receiving messages from around the world asking how we are doing in the Portland area? Thank you for your kind consideration. As I am sure you are now aware, things are otherworldly in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The wildfires are creating pure havoc. We, the HBI staff that live in the Portland-area, live in the downtown area of the city - so we are pretty safe. However, so many people in our area are suffering. The thick sepia-toned smoke that fills the sky frames an eerily end-of-times feeling.
It feels a bit overwhelming. The challenges just keep coming. It’s when things feel out of place and chaotic that I find it extremely important to find time to quiet myself, and recenter my focus.
I find that prayer and meditation help tremendously. Taking a few minutes to sit with my breath, center my thoughts, and refocus my energies provides me the opportunity to reset. Conscious breathing and prayerful centering gives me a little distance - emotional and mental space - and helps me to recalibrate. And, it is the recalibration that allows me to show up in times of struggle and strife.
If we have learned one thing from these past 7 months, showing up is the most important thing we can do. So, I am taking a deep breath, focusing my thoughts, centering my prayers - and remembering why our work is so important. There are too many people suffering through extraordinarily challenging circumstances for us not to stay committed.
Please keep the people of the Pacific Northwest in your thoughts and prayers.
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.