Early in the pandemic - way back in April 2020 - we realized very quickly, one of the greatest challenges the people we serve would face was isolation and loneliness We felt this would be particularly true for the adolescent siblings of the children living with disabilities in our Ines Project.
In response to this recognition, we started an adolescent mental health support group. We called it "HBI Youth Accompaniment." Completely delivered through WhatsApp chats, the group is facilitated by one of the psychologists on the Health Bridges team. She meets with the adolescents weekly - offering small talks on a wide range of subjects, providing one-one-one video check-ins, and helping provide purpose to the lives of the young adults.
The cohort in the project represents some of the hardest hit populations in Perú. Living in extreme poverty in a family headed by a single mother employed in the informal economy, and balancing the needs of a sibling with a disability - they are incredibly vulnerable to dropping out of school, working on the streets and potentially exposing themselves or their families to COVID.
This simple project - using WhatsApp to connect - has been powerful. It is providing a platform for finding community, breaking from isolation, and re-discovering purpose.
On Tuesday night we had a virtual graduation ceremony for the first group. The young people - in their dimly lit homes in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Lima - expressed their gratitude, discussed their learnings, and offered ideas for the next group. It was really humbling.
This has been, and continues to be, a challenging year. One thing I keep learning is the power of connection. Without a doubt the pandemic has shown us that we can be in the lives of the people we are called to serve, even if we can't be in the same room . . . or on the same continent for that matter.
Keep building bridges . . . and thank you for your continued support.
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.