Beauty is all around us.
Its striking how often that beauty goes unrecognized.
The other day I was running in Lima. I ran up a long ramp that exits from the beach and ascends 200 meters to the ridge above the coast. The vast majority of the time I am on that run course, I see very few people. In the summer months, January through April, there tend to be more runners and walkers – as vacations abound.
That day, a father and his son were running together. The boy, not more than 8 years old, was trudging alongside his father with a look of pained exhaustion. The father, for his part, had an equally uncomfortable look of frustration.
I caught eyes with the father. I gave him a thumbs up. I said, “Wow, this is excellent. So cool.” His demeanor instantly shifted. He reciprocated my gesture and ran on.
Seeing the father and son on a run. Engaging with the father. It was beautiful. Little things like this give me great reason to pause and re-remember – the most important things in life come from relationship. From connection.
Our work, it’s connecting work. This past couple of weeks we’ve had a group of students from St. Olaf College. We’ve spent time helping them gain an experience through our unique practice of global public health – through the practice of connection. They’ve been immersed in the community of Alto Cayma. They’ve spent time with our partners. They’ve participated in our some of our project work. Whatever they did, we hope they will walk away from their experience with us having a better understanding of the beauty that exists when we invite ourselves to be in connection, in relationship, with others. We hope their time with Health Bridges gave them an opportunity to engage and experience the beauty that exists all around us.
We are in the beautiful Sacred Valley of Cusco working with the NGO Andean Community Partners and St. Olaf College. For the past few years, we’ve been invited to support ACP and St. Olaf on a project they have facilitated in the community of Huilloc. They've been working in the community for almost two decades; however, in 2017 they made the incredibly important decision to really shift-gears and move toward more sustainable models of services. This is where HBI has come in. They've asked us to be consultants to their work, helping to identify ways they can work more sustainably with the community. This is our third year in such a role. It is a very humbling experience. I learn so much every time I am here. Perhaps the greatest lesson is one of humility.
I continue to be reminded that communities are their own best change agents. Every day they live with challenges and constraints. Every day they are faced with finding creative solutions to address or overcome their challenges. It is only through cultural humility and attentive listening that we can best support them to build their own desired futures. This connecting of the dots work, it’s all about humility. It’s all about seeing things through a shared vision. It’s about stepping out of the role of an expert and into the role of a learner.
Yesterday, after a full day of outreach – I decided to run the 12 kilometers back to the hotel. The run, one I have done many times, is one of the most beautiful runs I have ever taken. The landscape is breathtaking. There are trails everywhere. And, if you know the trails – you can run from the community of Huilloc (at almost 12,000 FASL) to Ollantaytambo in a little over 2 hours, all on trails. However, the trails are tricky and hard to navigate. Such was the case for my run yesterday. I started out with the goal of running on the trails the whole way. About an hour into the run I was lost. I found myself on a trial that dead-ended into a field. With no-where to go but back down the trail, I clamored my way to the next trail I could see. The problem – this trail required that I cross a river . . . and, I could not find a bridge or passage any-where.
Serendipitously, I ran into a little girl playing in a field. I asked her how I could cross the river. She replied, with as bewildered look, “on the bridge.” Much to my dismay, I could not find a bridge. I looked everywhere. I once again asked her where is the bridge. Looking a little frustrated at my ineptness, she said she would take me to the bridge. She then led me the 100 meters to the bridge and said, “here is the bridge - exactly where I told you.”
Well, this bridge was really nothing more than a few logs strapped together. I guess I wasn't looking for the right bridge. In this work, the work of global health or community support – I am forever reminded that I need to change the way I see things. I need to re-adjust my vantage point to see the opportunities through a different perspective.
There are bridges all around us . . . they just look a little different depending upon what you are accustom to seeing . . . and how you allow yourself to see the world around you.
After a mellow week between Christmas and the New Year, we are back at it and fully in action. Already, we've hosted a team of volunteer pediatricians and dentists from Andean Community Partners at the Casa Girasoles in Urubamba to provide comprehensive evaluations and care for all the boys. We've also participated in an outreach project with a long-standing partner at an orphanage in Cusco. Dr. Gehringer and team have been busy with NRP trainings and prep. Nurse Karen and team have been crunching the numbers for our anemia project. And, our Ines Project team is back in the swing of things after a break over the Holidays.
Now, our team is meeting in the Sacred Valley to begin a three week service learning trip with St. Olaf College. For over a decade we've partnered with St. Olaf College to help shape their global health experience for a J-term rotation. We will be working with them in a community outreach project in the town of Willoq - and then traveling with the group to Arequipa for an immersion experience with HBI and Fr. Alexander Busuttil in the community of Alto Cayma.
And, this is just the first week of January. This is going to be a busy and very fulfilling year, as we start our Center of Excellence model at the Casa Girasoles homes, refine our anemia projects and use the data for our 12-month pilot project to help shape future public health projects, continue our train-the-trainer pre-hospital emergency response program with the Peruvian Firefighters Association, expand the impact and reach of our NRP lifesaving program, and refine our work with single mothers living with children with a disability in extreme poverty.
Oh yeah - it’s going to be a super year. So, follow along. Stay connected. And, thank you so much for all your support.
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!
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.