Sometimes it feels hard to know if we're making a difference. The type of difference that truly empowers people to the futures they deserve.
I feel that way a lot. Wondering if we're doing enough. If we're doing the right thing. If were working hard enough to help. Then I go on trips like this past week, and I see making a difference means I need to let go of any preconceived notion as to just what the difference should be.
This past week we took a team of volunteers from around the U.S. to the City of Ica in the desert. We did a number of little projects - providing dental and medical care to the children in the Casa Girasoles orphanage, providing health talks in the public schools, and delivering water and hygiene kits to a large squatter community on the outskirts of the city.
The last activity, delivering water and hygiene kits to an impoverished community, is something we have done for a number of years in collaboration with the boys from the Girasoles home. The Girasoles (the name they call themselves, which means sunflower) join our team and walk in the dirt and sand to deliver buckets of water and kits that include basic items people need for cooking, self care and general household activities. We deliver over 200 kits and hundreds of buckets of water.
The experience is a bit surreal. We've wrestle with the project for a long time. The reason? It feels a bit like "poverty tourism." It feels like we are making people the objects of our compassion. And, at the same time - the experience provides a tangible opportunity for volunteers to connect in service. It is this connection - bringing people together to work on a shared service project that is the reason we keep doing the project.
This year I worked alongside a couple of boys delivering water. One of the boys, I'll call him Pedro, I have known for a number of years. He is actually not so much a boy - as a 20-year old young man. He is also profoundly developmentally delayed and lives with a number of challenges. Pedro and I carried buckets and delivered kits to a bunch houses together. At one point I asked Pedro why he liked doing the water delivery project. I asked him what he most enjoyed about working with Health Bridges. His response was slow, but very deliberate. He said, "Dr. Wayne, I like to know that I can help. I like serving others. [When I am] helping, I'm just another person. Serving gives me a chance to know that I can make a difference for other people."
In that simple statement I realized that making a difference is bigger than anything I could ever imagine. I realized that making a difference is far more about building the bridges that afford everyone the opportunities to find their path in life.
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.