We mark our work in years and decades. This is a slow and steady approach to our work. It means that a lot of what we do can't be measured in a single outcome. Instead, measuring the impact of our work requires a more integrated approach.
There are, however, those times when we can see some degree of immediate results. A few years back, we planted trees at the Casa Girasoles Kusi, outside of the community of Yungay in the central highlands of the province of Huaraz. With the help of a volunteer agronomist, we selected plants and trees that fit a high-altitude environment's challenges. Over three days, we planted a bunch. Then we left. I always wondered what happened to the plants in the back of my mind, but things got busy, and I did not hear back from anyone. That was until a few days ago.
This week I received photos of our plantings. Much to my astonishment, the trees have grown and matured. Now they are bearing fruit. The pictures show a lush garden of plants and trees, a veritable cornucopia of food for the home. Talk about satisfying. It is powerful to be able to connect an action directly with an outcome. And, I guess planting is such a direct connection.
In a lot of our work, however, the connection is not so linear or straightforward. This is especially true when you consider we are an organization focused on integration. We are continuously seeking to meet the needs of the here and now and plan for a more effective structural approach to addressing health disparities, child-empowerment, and learning opportunities for healthcare and child welfare professionals. This more significant impact work, is really tough to measure in years and even decades. But that doesn't stop us from doing the work and quantifying our outcomes.
The Ines Project is an example of work that has been an over decade long pursuit of helping families living deep in poverty with a child living with a disability - find the knowledge and skills they need to build better life outcomes. We've been working with many of the families in the program for years. Sometimes we can point to a data set and say, – look, we are making a difference. And then other times, it's tough to know how much of a significant, more systemic difference we are making in elevating the life course outcomes of children living with a medically fragile diagnosis.
Last week we learned that one of the children in the Ines Project passed away. Her name was Milagros or Miracles, and she was born with cerebral palsy and hydrocephaly. At 10-years old, her life was filled with challenges. For the past few months, she has had repeated respiratory complications. From aspiration pneumonia to COVID, she has been unwell; and our team has been working tirelessly to help the family.
A big challenge for the family is the fact that the father left long ago. His impact – financial, emotional, and social – has been non-existent. Instead, Mom has done it all – raised her two other children while caring for a child living with a disability. Nothing has been easy. Add to the challenge – a global pandemic, and things started to quickly unravel in the household. We worked hard to get the family the support they needed.
Providing financial support, coordianting food, arranging consults with specialists over the phone, paying for transportation, accompanying the family to medical visits in a COVID safe manner. We did everything we could . . . and, this outcome is not the one anyone can accept. It is painful when a child dies. It hurts in the soul.
So, what we do? We keep our focus. We continue to support Milagros' Mother. We help the family financially with funeral expenses and emotional support. We make sure the Mother and the siblings have someone to talk to you. We keep trying to build better connections, better bridges, to someday – help families living in the experience of poverty with a child living with a disability have access to the tools and resources they need to live a life filled with health, hope, home, and purpose.
We don't know what fruits our efforts will bring to bear – we can't say in every situation or circumstance. All we can do is keeping building bridges. This is our committment.
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.