From the Heart...

Announcing Merger with Thrive Networks!

On June 30th, 2014, with only hours left on HHI’s life clock….  (read Part 1)

John Anner, CEO of Thrive Networks, along with two of his colleagues, called to talk about the potential of HHI merging with their organization. John had heard about HHI’s situation via One Heart World-wide and he saw the win-win-win potential of HHI joining Thrive’s family of programs. He recognized the huge value of HHI’s program as a service that they didn’t have, saw how was a fit with their mission and their projects. And, he saw how in merging, HHI could get a wealth of support from Thrive and their team.

This led to meetings with the Board, John visiting us in Portland, me visiting Thrive in Oakland. We all asked lots of questions, gave real, authentic answers and dug deep. When I told John that I wasn’t interested in “incremental growth for HHI,” but only in a “quantum leap,” we penciled out what a likely first joint project would be. Using Thrive’s existing network of community trainers around India who train women and adolescent girls in micro-finance and family planning, HHI could easily be added in and thereby reach as many women every year as HHI has been able to reach in 10 years. Sold!

On HHI’s 10th anniversary, I am proud and elated to announce, that HHI is now a part of Thrive Networks! This merger offers HHI the potential for a true quantum leap! We are in the midst of all the details and paperwork that this involves, but it is all moving forward with the full and enthusiastic support of HHI’s Board.


This is a big leap! And we still need your help and support to ensure that HHI’s transition into Thrive Networks is successful. Together our organizations have incredible new projects and funding opportunities, but these will take some time to manifest. Your support now will help create the runway we need to reconfigure and re-launch HHI into new, far larger projects, with the potential to reach to times the number of moms/dads and babies! Support HHI now* and your gift will be DOUBLED by the Greenbaum Foundation. (*until 12/31/14, up to $50,000)

I want to say a true, deep and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has given of their time, talents and treasures to grow HHI into the beautiful success it has become. Be proud! You have been a part of a grand and deeply meaningful social experiment, starting and propelling forward education, love, knowledge, and actions that have touched more than 42,000 moms/dads and caregivers, and 150,000+ young children! The outcomes have been beyond anything we could have predicted, from lowered mortality, improved health, early and greater language and cognitive development, and more. And caregivers report outcomes including greater love and bonding between them and their baby, ceasing corporal punishment and even stopping domestic violence in their homes.

It has been a challenge, but more than that, this adventure called HHI has been the best thing I’ve ever done and I am so excited that I get to keep doing it, that HHI will not only live – but Thrive! My hope is that you will continue to support HHI, to continue on as friends and donors.

The End of HHI… ???

It was 12:30pm, June 30, 2014. I was the only US-based staff still left. I’d terminated our office lease, sold off all of HHI’s furniture, and I may or may not have been drinking wine for breakfast. It had been an amazing journey championing HHI around the world, but it was time to close it down.

HHI started 10 years ago out of the frustration and sadness of seeing so many children suffer from a lack of love and nurturing in their earliest years.  I founded HHI as a way to fight back, to prevent Attachment Disorder and ignite the power of love. At the time, I had little idea of what I was about to begin.

HHI grew from an idea in one heart, to an experiment at an orphanage in south India, to an international catalyst for positive change that has touched almost 200,000 moms, dads, health workers, orphanage staff and lots-and-lots of babies! It was an incredible adventure.

I had envisioned HHI as a powerful tool that could be applied in almost any existing project working to improve child health. HHI grew organically all around India, but our first big leap was in 2009, when HHI really put our model to the test by jumping continents and cultures and signing on to be “the innovation” in a USAID funded Child Survival Project in the post-conflict zone of northern Uganda.  This project was filled with challenges, but it was embraced with such enthusiasm and vigor that almost 15,000 moms, dads and health workers participated in HHI trainings!

And, the outcomes in Uganda, even 18 months after HHI’s training, were jaw-dropping and sustainable!  Parents tripled how much they talked with their children each day, doubled their cognitive interactions and radically increased their nurturing and responsiveness when feeding (has a huge impact on combatting malnutrition). Then the really impressive results came in – the ones we didn’t plan on and weren’t looking for, but these came up so much that they were of note in the final report. Parents trained in HHI reported that they stopped corporal punishment (which is very much standard practice) and that they also stopped domestic violence!!!

And yet… HHI remained so far from its full potential.

HHI had been thriving, we were recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative, and awarded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but it seemed like we hit a wall. HHI was stuck.  It was January of 2014 and our partner contracts had come to an end and no new ones were on our horizon.  Our strategy to expand wasn’t working, yet we’d done everything in our power to grow and had such astounding outcomes.

It was time for a throw down.

While I am not formally religious, and I don’t care to get into religious-spiritual debates, I do believe in something far greater than myself.  And it was time that she/he/it get on the ball.

“God/universe/dude, HHI needs to be called into the world – in a massive way – by June 30, 2014, or I will wrap it up and move on to whatever is next.”

What happened over the next six months was… almost nothing. At one point a Hollywood celebrity called and had very serious interest in acquiring HHI to her charitable works. That was an exciting potential, but then as quickly and unexpectantly as that began, it disappeared…

All signs pointed to HHI having reached the end of its life.

By June, the Board and I had made plans to wrap up HHI and conduct one last project with any remaining funds by collaborating with one of our favorite colleagues, One Heart World-wide in Nepal. They do incredible work, ensuring women have safe births and that babies have a healthy start, and HHI would be a great complement to their efforts.

By June 30th, I had done my grieving, which involved a lot of Netflix, too much food and wine, and plenty of long whiny talks with my inner circle. By the morning of June 30th, I’d also sold off all of HHI’s furniture, terminated our office lease and I may or may not have been drinking wine for breakfast. I’d made my peace and was envisioning what my new future might hold. And then damn it all, at 1:00pm, with 11 hours left of my threat-clock, the phone rang.

(read what happened next!)

Oct. 15th – Join HHI in Portland!

HHI’s Affair of the Heart, celebrating our 10th Anniversary and all who have been a part of HHI’s family and friends who have made HHI available to almost 200,000 moms, dads and babies around the world. Get your tickets today to join the celebration and meet a very special guest who will be making an amazing announcement - unveiling HHI’s next chapter that will change everything!



Come celebrate with the incredible Portland community that has
transformed the lives of almost 200,000 moms, dads and babies!

Big fun.
Light food.
Plentiful drinks!
Free chair massage – ahhhhhhhhhh…..

A special guest will be announcing HHI’s BIG next chapter!

Raffle Prizes & Silent Auction gifts from:

Portland Trailblazers, Tolovana Inn, Portland Center Stage, Andina Restaurant, Porcelli’s Restaurant, McMenamins, The River House Hotel, Inn at Spanish Head, Bob’s Red Mill, Dave’s Killer Bread, Lone Oak Massage, Bamboo Sushi

event details


Tickets only $20  ($25 at the door)




HHI Awarded by the Dalai Lama

Once every four years, 50 “unsung heroes” are chosen from around the globe to be given a unique and sacred award by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  On February 23, 2014, His Holiness recognized Hands to Hearts International’s founder and director, Laura Peterson, as an Unsung Hero of Compassion.

“These individuals have been selected as representatives of the tens of thousands of people worldwide who quietly serve the disenfranchised and work to improve our communities through their personal efforts,” says Dick Grace, founder of Grace Family Vineyards and board chair of Wisdom in Action, the organization hosting the unique celebration. “We don’t see them or hear about them in the daily news, but they exemplify a humanism and heroism to which we must each aspire.”

Laura Peterson & Dalai Lama

Watch the entire ceremony, Laura is awarded at 1:19.50

Laura was among this elite group of honorees for her creation and efforts in running HHI as a nonprofit dedicated to training and empowering the caregivers to better the health and overall development of the world’s most vulnerable children, in their earliest years.  To date HHI’s training has been led in India, Uganda, Russia, and Nambia, for almost 42,000 parents, caregivers, and health workers, who in turn are able to better care for the 144,300 young children they serve.

Laura was nominated by Ann Down, the founder of The Good Works Institute, Inc., who believed her work through HHI was an outstanding example of the Unsung Heroes’ values and mission. “HHI’s training is significant in several ways,” said Down. “It’s benefiting thousands of children, many of them orphans who suffer a complete lack of emotional care. By teaching essential bonding and affection in the earliest years, it’s preventive, which is much more cost-effective than trying to deal with the negative health and mental health traumas later in life. And HHI’s model is unique, in that women who are trained can in turn train others, which quickly empowers entire communities.”

Laura was thrilled and surprised to be named among 2014’s class of Unsung Heroes. “These people are among the most remarkable, selfless, and giving individuals in the world. The things they are doing are globally game-changing. To be included among such a select few is an honor that’s both gratifying and humbling,” she said. (Read about why Laura was awarded)

Co-hosting the event with Dick Grace were Peter Coyote, actor; Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries; Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim, Takelma Indian Elder of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz; and Furyu Schroeder, Zen priest from Green Gulch Zen Center.

Wisdom in Action (WIA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of compassion in action. WIA hosted Unsung Heroes of Compassion 2014, the fourth event of its kind since 2001, to raise awareness that it is each individual’s obligation to help the disenfranchised among us and to acknowledge that each act of compassion makes an important difference to the world.


Our deepest appreciation to Dick & Anne Grace, Ann Down, Christine Wright, Valerie Tate, Elizabeth Share and the many others who made this incredible honor possible.


If you don’t know Laura’s back story about what led her to launch HHI almost 10 years ago, check out this short video and hear her explain why.


Laura’s premise and HHI’s focus is to awaken love, kindle compassion and save lives – literally!  And, we have seen this come to life – bettering the lives, and yes, even saving them, in some of the most desperate areas of the world.

While Laura is the one who received this award, HHI has become this force for love, nurturing, empowerment and health globally because of an incredible team, the most generous donors ever and committed local partners.  Thank you for being a part of this incredible adventure!


A Community Volunteer in Uganda

Bonny Ajala, pictured in the red  t-shirt, was an HHI trained Peer Educator, for his village of Odoro in northern Uganda. He was enthusiastic about HHI’s lessons on early childhood development and he demonstrated skill and commitment in sharing HHI messages with the parents and caregivers in his village.  He became a popular community leader, spreading HHI’s unique knowledge and skills, supporting parents and young children alike.

ECD in Uganda

Bonny’s HHI lessons were embraced and led to new, positive practices such as encouraging parents to talk to their baby while feeding and giving baby massage. Parents quickly noticed the positive results these practices had on their children and their appreciation for both Bonny and HHI grew.  The community benefited so much that they recommended him to the local nursery school director, asking him to engage Bonny as a mentor of the school teachers who would handle their kindergartners.  The director took up the initiative and employed Bonny to teach HHI lessons, such as ’’ taking care of myself’’, ‘’language development’’, and ‘’ health habits’’ among others.

Now the school director and the entire community see Bonny as a community resource. So, in addition to his job as an HHI Peer Educator for the parents of his village, Bonny serves as a mentor during school hours to cater for needs of the teachers and caregivers who developed trust and confidence in him.

Thank you Bonny!  We are so proud of you, your passion, commitment and intelligence.

*story shared by staff from Medical Teams International, HHI’s partner in Lira, Uganda