We’re nothing without our team. In the last installment of this series, meet the people behind true change, and learn from them as they share their Health Bridges International (HBI) journey and how they’re working for a healthier future for the most vulnerable children in Perú.
Srta. Lidia Nancy Cari Ruiz, HBI’s Partner-in-Collaboration
Srta. Lidia Nancy Cari Ruiz possesses a gift: she’s an incredible gatherer of people and partners. More than 15 years ago, her heart for meaningful relationships led her to volunteer in NGOs because sharing cultures, exchanging ideas, and learning different perspectives inspires her. Her fluency in both Spanish and English only enhances her relationship skills, allowing her to build trust with teammates, volunteers, and supporters.
Today, she serves as Project & Program Administrator for all of HBI’s major programs. More than coordinating, implementing, managing, following up, and monitoring projects and program partners simultaneously, she’ll say that her work is centered on being a good friend, colleague, and leader. In her eyes, good relationships with participants or partners cannot exist without first ensuring the same within one’s organization.
“There is no perfect organization. Work environments everywhere, not just in Perú, are subject to disunity, professional suspicion, and a lack of camaraderie among staff. So it takes work, but I believe we do a good job in building confidence among the staff because we lead with honesty and we communicate everything, even difficult issues. I believe that everyone at HBI is on the same page, and I love it.”
Srta. Lidia believes that HBI’s work culture is one of the reasons why local and global organizations trust them in building safe spaces and caring homes. She shares the story of Julia*, an 18-year-old girl whose supposedly simple medical check-up revealed a very rare cancer spreading aggressively fast in her body. Julia’s life and priorities changed drastically overnight. She started to work closely with HBI to learn more about her cancer, consider potential treatments, and explore how to improve her standard of living. Using HBI’s international network, Julia sought second opinions from cancer specialists, asked for advice on treatments, and gained deeper insights on her case. Despite her fear, she knew she wasn’t alone in her fight. Through HBI’s support, knowledge, network, and the synchronized efforts resulting from strong partnerships, Julia continues to face her cancer fearlessly today, and Lidia will continue to work for patients like her.
“My job is to ensure the work between HBI and our partners is beyond satisfactory; we have to keep learning from each other and improving so we can positively impact the children in the communities we serve together. Without these good partnerships, we wouldn’t be able to achieve our goals.”
Srta. Carmen Elena Zavala Thompson, A Woman of Vision
If there's one thing Srta. Carmen Elena Zavala Thompson represents, it’s a strong sense of purpose. Having a clear view of the impact she wants to achieve keeps her on track despite her packed schedule and fuels her to make a marked difference in the many lives she touches.
Working with HBI for more than 10 years, Srta. Carmen understands more than most that changing systems to better serve vulnerable communities takes consistent steps forward, no matter how small. As HBI’s Perú Project Coordinator, she spends most of her day visiting communities. Though some of her visits have shifted to phone and video calls due to the pandemic, she still spends hours taking public transport to visit and coordinate between patients. She regularly engages with mothers caring for medically fragile children in their homes, accompanies obstetricians as they travel long distances to care for patients in rural areas, and coordinates with the Casa Girasoles team to monitor the progress of formerly abandoned boys.
Her reward is in the little things: when a mother is calm because she knows she has the medicine her child needs, when a health professional expresses gratitude for a course that taught him new techniques and improved his practice, or when a boy from Casa Girasoles proudly shares his grades. These victories may be lost on others, but not on Srta. Carmen.
"I see each day as a new opportunity to choose hope even when the losses are very real and sad. Today’s challenges are greater than yesterday’s, but we are a people forged to create, imagine, and take action," she states, remembering a mother named Isabelle* from the Ines Project. Isabelle knew from day one that her child’s life would end, down to the date. The terminal diagnosis devastated her, straining her relationship with her family, husband, and community. Grieving, Isabelle looked for hope and entered a new community with HBI. She eventually found her sense of worth, strength, and courage to reach out, live, and rebuild relationships. After working on her own family and marriage, she now supports other families who are experiencing tragic circumstances. And there are many more like Isabelle who continue to step forward even after so much pain.
"It’s hard work, but it’s work that brings me joy. The sad moments make HBI’s mission resonate even more in my heart. Our programs have evolved so much, but we have not lost the vision that started it all: we are a supportive community helping others feel that they have a place to belong and can run towards their dreams, because even though the world is uncertain, they have family by their side."
Whether working for a decade or newly recruited, the HBI team is driving true change by connecting vulnerable children and families to healthy environments, resources, and relationships – building bridges towards health, hope, home, and purpose.
Visit our team page for more information about Srta. Lidia, Srta. Carmen, and the rest of the HBI Team. Visit our Team Page.
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Note: All responses from HBI staff have been translated from Spanish.
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.