Thank you. This past year has been a big success. Thanks to you!
In the past year, we’ve - provided training in the life saving skills of neonatal resuscitation to hundreds of health professionals through a team of trainers we’ve nurtured in our program with the Peruvian College of Midwives, built a model community health program to prevent and treat iron deficiency anemia, prepared a team of volunteer firefighters who are training hundreds of their colleagues in pre-hospital emergency response, supported over 50 families with children living with disabilities to find the knowledge and skills they need to navigate health systems, created an innovative program with a biomedical technology company in England, a medical device manufacturer in Canada and the Peruvian Ministry of Health, organized service learning trips for students from 6 universities, hosted an international internship, developed and taught the first online Global Health course for American College of Education School of Nursing, conducted research with medical students on the definition of wellness for marginalized Andean communities and the challenges and opportunities for expanding emergency medical transport for rural high mountain villages in the southern Andes, organized our annual Team Peru trip – now, well into its second decade – bringing together a team of volunteers from 3 states and six countries, produced the first documentary about our work - Building Bridges; and, oh, there's this little thing called the Casa Girasoles – we took over two homes for over 60 formerly homeless children.
We've done all of this because of you! Thank you.
Join us in 2020 and be the bridge to build healthier futures for everyone. A very special Happy New Year and thanks for all your support.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go
It’s been a long winding road. From the inception of the idea that became Health Bridges International, to the operations of a full fledge non-governmental organization – this journey has been amazing. We could not have done it without the tremendous support we receive every day. For all the ways you have made HBI an organization that is helping thousands of people every year, building model programs that can be transferred around the world, and helping to connect the disparate pieces that exist between health and support – for all the ways you make HBI possible, I am very grateful.
A friend once challenged me to spend a month with the Jesuit spiritual practice of gratitude. The practice, a meditation based on the teachings of St. Ignatius, helped me cultivate deeper gratitude. What I found in the exercise was a recognition that everything is a gift. All around, each and every day, are the gifts of connection, community, collaboration. Through the exercise of gratitude, I learned to tap into these gifts and call them forward in my work. It’s not as a simple as that. I need ways to reinforce the core lessons. I am far to forgetful. So, I learned to cultivate gratitude through a few practices.
One of my favorite things about my role as the executive director is writing notes of appreciation to the many people who support our efforts. I am so privileged to write a number of these notes every week. It allows me to directly connect with you, our supporters. It reminds me how fortunate we are to have so many people who trust us and our efforts. It gives me a deep sense of gratitude.
Another way I have learned to cultivate a deeper personal experience with gratitude is through relationships. So, every morning I run with a dear friend. Our runs are a time of companionship. But more than that, they are a time of connection. A time when I re-remember the important things in life and hold a deep space of gratitude. The early morning runs ground me in gratitude for the many connections of my life
Gratitude is like a mountain stream – you don’t need to know where the water starts or stops to enjoy the babbling brook. To this analogy, I’ve learned to be present to gratitude by taking a few minutes throughout my week to write down the things I am grateful for. This is more than an inventory of HBI’s programs and projects. It's a time when I really seek to define my “grateful moments.” On some days the writing flows . . . and on other days it feels a bit stalled. However the exercise plays its way out, it provides a clear way for me to acknowledge moments of gratitude.
This Holiday Season, I am very grateful for the many ways you support our work and extend your generosity to our efforts. Thank you for sharing the 24 Reasons to be Thankful for HBI. Please join us in 2020 by staying connected to our social media, website and blog. For of all - many blessings for a wonderful Holiday Season!
Serving others is a real gift. It is a practice that invites community and builds relationship. When we give of ourselves unconditionally in the act of service to another, we receive so much in return. This is especially true when the giving occurs in a way that takes us outside of our comfort.
Giving our time, energy, resources, and emotional connections – it’s a simple act. It means we create a space of hospitality and we invite another into that space. Pretty simple. No, not true. Service is so much more than giving. Its also about receiving. And this act of making ourselves open to another feels so vulnerable. Yet, the vulnerability is where the true power of service resides.
Today, the boys and staff from the Casa Girasoles in Ica are going to an impoverished school in a community not far from the home. The community is similar to the sort of place where many of our boys are from – poor, under-resourced, and isolated. It's a lonely place. The boys are going to the school to put on a Christmas party. They’re brining gifts and food. They’ve planned a small work project they can do together to benefit the school. The boys even have activities and games.
The Girasoles boys know this community. They know the adults of this community will recognize them. No, not individually – but they know they’re recognizable as street children . . . as abandoned boys. Rather than feel intimidated or scared that people will treat them poorly, we’ve prepared the boys for this activity by talking about the power of service. We’ve talked with them about learning from the vulnerability. We’ve talked with them about inviting and embracing the new relationships. We’ve assured them we will be with them.
Serving others is a real gift. It’s a way for us to grow in a relationship with others. This holiday season we are very thankful for the many supporters that allow HBI to be in service to others. We are thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow in service to humanity – together.
Some of the biggest challenges in global health are convergence issues. They exist at the intersection of a number of different inter-related challenges. This is particularly true in the child welfare sector. It is difficult to fully determine the number of children living in institutional care settings around the world. By many estimates, the number of children living in orphanages, homes and care settings is in excess of 150 million. Whatever the number, children who find their way into homes like the Health Bridges Casa Girasoles, come from deep experiences of poverty and trauma.
With so many children living in such environments, you’d expect there to be a standardized method for tracking complex needs. There isn’t. This intersection of need is where we’ve used innovation to support better outcomes for vulnerable kids.
In 2015, HBI developed a prototype database. A web-application that tracks the complex needs of children living in institutional care settings. The system – we call it Girasoles Sanos – is designed to identify unique needs and support evidence-based interventions to help vulnerable children. The tool pulls together resources and helps to build a unique strategy for a vulnerable child. The tool helps to build a pathway to a future.
The Girasoles Sanos tool is very much in its pilot phase. We are working to take it to the next level. This is where innovation needs to meet finance. That’s not such an easy proposition.
Not to be deterred, we'll keep focusing on using innovative approaches to advance the care – and outcomes – for vulnerable children. Because we believe the biggest challenges in global health will not be solved with a single solution or idea. Complex challenges require innovative, holistic, collaborative approaches. This is the focus of Health Bridges; and, we are thankful to be working in such a unique way.
“You keep showing up.”
One of the super powers of Health Bridges is our persistence. Our dedication. For over two decades we’ve been working in Perú to advance access to healthcare services and supports for underserved communities. For much of that history - we’ve worked with the same communities and many of the same people. We believe in the power of dedication. We ascribe to the philosophy that slow and steady will win the race. We demonstrate our committed by continuously showing up.
This dedication to continually showing up, it is not only true in the way we run our programs and projects, it is also true of our team. We’ve been fortunate to have the same group of committed staff for most of our existence as a not-for-profit. This is a huge blessing for our work. It means the communities we serve have deep relationships with the staff of HBI. It means our staff are intimately aware of the challenges, opportunities and nuances of working with the people we serve. It means we have deep partnerships.
“I am sorry we can’t make the challenges of your life instantly go away. I know you are really suffering and I’m sorry.” Our Ines Project staff was frustrated and wanted badly to help the family find a better mechanism for serving the complex needs of their child living with a disability. She went on to tell the mother – “I don’t have a solution, but I am going to keep searching. I am going to keep helping.” The mother’s response has become a rallying cry for our work. She said, “I know you care. I feel it. I see it. I know there is no solution that will make everything better. I also know you keep showing up, and this is huge. You show us we are not alone. This is such a gift to my family and my daughter.”
We’ll keep showing up. That’s all we know. We’re thankful for your support that allows us to be dedicated to serving the needs of underserved communities. We’re thankful for perseverance.
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.