I'm back from Rome.
It was a great trip, and I am so happy to be home. I learned a great deal from this trip. The biggest lesson was not so new to me - and, one that I easily forget. The lesson - collaboration is hard. I heard from a number of organizations and everyone (I mean it, every single organization I spoke with) was excited about the work of HBI. Everyone wanted to collaborate. And everyone got stalled around the finances to pay for collaborative projects.
My lesson from Rome: I am not going to let money get in the way of doing good work. Yes - money is necessary. It is a force that has the potential to do so much good in the world. And, there is more than enough money to go around. We just need to figure out how to make it more accessible.
So, I'm back from Rome. I learned a lot. And, the most important thing I learned . . . HBI is desperately needed in the world.
Check out a new video blog at: https://youtu.be/cGLFvC3yvp0
The past 24-hours have gone past at a break-neck pace.
Yesterday morning I assembled with a group of clergy from around the globe at a hotel about a mile from the Vatican. Our task, to walk to a private audience with His Holiness Pope Francis. Needless-to-say, the energy of the group was very high.
Once we got to the Vatican, we were escorted into the back of the City State through a series of medieval roadways and never-ending arches. Finally, we arrived in a beautiful castle-like courtyard. As we waited to be ushered into the room where we would eventually meet the Pope - we were told there would be a slight delay, "as the Holy Father was meeting with the President of Austria and they were about to exit."
Rather than "run into" His Holiness and the President of Austria, we were taken up an amazing staircase to a room that was described as the bedroom of former Pope. It was a magnificent. A priceless view of the city of Rome. Shortly after arriving, the room fell silent and in walked the Holy Father. Amazing!
His Holiness spoke for a few minutes, reading from prepared remarks and adding extemporaneous elements, and then we all had an opportunity to meet with the Holy Father. Feeling a bit awkward, and thinking I would be breaking rules of decorum and respect, I decided to leave a packet of materials explaining who HBI is and specific information about our Ines Project. Roberto would have none of it. He insisted I take the packet. And, after almost all of the other guests had provided their greetings and well wishes to His Holiness, I found myself standing in front of the Holy Father. I told him what an honor it was for me to be in his presence and spoke briefly of our two plus decades of work in Perú. I then handed him the packet of materials and send thank you very much. It was awesome.
Who knows what will come of my brief meeting - but one thing is for sure, I can now honestly say that I have told the Pope about the work of HBI . . . and that isn't such a bad thing at all.
Thank you for all of your continued support - Wayne Centrone
Yesterday I was in a meeting, more specifically a conference (the first of the two formal conferences I will be attending while in Rome), that was truly international in its representation. There were representatives from over 20-countries in the small audience of less than 30. Participants from all of the continents of the planet. It was amazing.
The flow of languages and the ease with which some of the attendees could seamlessly go between two, three and even four different language was awe-inspiring. And, a little overwhelming - as the entire meeting (sans a comment from a participant from South Africa) was in Italian. By the end of the morning session, I was exhausted.
Why is HBI involved in this conference? We are here to talk with priests from around the globe about ways they can partner with non-governmental organizations to expand the social impact of the Church. In fact, I had a very productive conversation with a priest from Lebanon about expanding the Ines Project to his work. He has a small NGO that works with women and children in various places around Lebanon. He was extremely interested in how we might collaborate on an Ines Project. Super exciting.
I’m crazy about art. I am particularly fond of street art. That may come as a great surprise for people who know me – especially given the fact that I have no formal training in art appreciation, nor possess an artistic bone in my body. Nevertheless, I am a huge fan of art. I also believe that art is one of the most underutilized tools in the world of international development and global health.
The thing about art is this – in many ways the concept of art is open to a broad range of interpretations. For some, what is described as art may be unappealing or off-putting; and, conversely, for many the subjective interpretations of art are what make it so powerful. However, whether viewed as divisive or unitifying – art has the ability to spark conversation and bring people together. Few practices in society have similar power. For me, this is especially evident in street art.
As a medium, street art is a means of expression without equal. Rarely do street artists attain fame – and even rarer do they attain fortune - but in many ways they better the lives of everyone. For through their work, they transform landscapes and provide portals for people to interpret their surroundings. Take the work of the street artist know as Banksy. The artist, or artists – because the true identity of the artist is unknown – uses their art to provide political satire and social commentary. The work of Banksy has been seen in cities around the world – and, much of their work has drawn people into a conversation of contrasts.
This morning on a run through neighborhoods outside of the tourist areas of Rome, I came upon some street art that I found particularly poignant. The images were featured on a side street framed by the dimensions of a metal door. True to the work of street art, the images existed in a sort of anonymous way. There was no fanfare, no signage indicating the artist or paying homage to the benefactors. Rather, there were simple images that invited interpretation.
What if art were used to invite interpretations and conversations about the plight of people living in the shadows, the margins of society? What if art were a medium for inviting people into conversations about change? Change that brings greater equity. Change that encourages more equality. And change that offers clearer pathways to futures that all people deserve.
I have a good friend. He is a brilliant academic. An internationally acclaimed public health expert – and one of the smartest people I know. And, he is first and foremost an artist. He merges his art with his public health and social justice work. He uses the power of art to move people into conversations about critically important subjects like gender equality and HIV/AIDS. Over the years he has taught me that integrating art into the work of health equity has the power to transform. He has taught me that art can be a powerful tool for change.
I am very interested in how art can better inform the work of HBI. I am extremely interested in finding ways to blend artful expressions into the projects and programs of our work. I know this is a process. I also know the doorways of opportunity will open where and when they are needed to create such integration. For now, I will enjoy the art I find in the simple places of my life and invite the inspiration that surely comes.
Yesterday was a great day.
Dr. Roberto and I met with the Superior General of a 400-year old religious order working in over 90-countries around the world to advance health for the poor. We met in the headquarters of the Order - just off the Piazza della Rotonda where the Pantheon sits. The headquarters is housed in a giant concrete building contiguous to the Santa Maria Maddalena Church. It was amazing. An ancient building with narrow stairwells and dark corridors. Every wall was adorned with magnificent works of art. Even the portico had a most exquisite fountain. The building was a living monument to history.
Our meeting was an opportunity to introduce the Superior General, the elected head for the entire Order, to the work of HBI. We talked about the Ines Project and our hope for helping communities adopt the program to better support the work of advocating with families who have children living with disabilities or chronic medical challenges. We talked about the philosophy of HBI and our hope for building bridges of collaboration.
Much to my surprise, the Superior General instantly resonated with the work of HBI and our Ines Project. In fact, within the first twenty minutes of our meeting he was offering ideas on how we might partner together to include the Ines Project in specific areas of work for the Order. It was a really productive meeting.
Roberto and I left the meeting exhausted. Although we both felt totally invigorated and excited for the new partnership, the few days we've been in Rome have been filled with meetings and the 9-hour time difference has made our schedule intense. We decided to go back to the hotel and rest.
After an extended rest - what was suppose to be 90-minutes turned into 3-hours - we decided to resume our walking tour of Rome. In many ways visiting this marvelous city for work brings a very different perspective. Roberto and I both decided that one way we could bring a "tourist perspective" to our trip was to take selfie photos wherever we went.
So, while our efforts are squarely focused on building bridges - we will continue the Selfie Tour of Rome over the next week. Stay tuned for more updates - and thank you so much for your continued support of HBI.
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.