From the Heart...

Supporting Peace & Healing in Liberia

They gathered from around Liberia, coming together to heal, learn, and gain tools to bring back to the 1,500 rural communities they represent. They are leaders from 30 local nonprofit groups, representing remote areas still recovering from decades of civil war and violence, and from the recent devastation of Ebola.One pathway to healing and peace? Enter Hands to Hearts International.

Hands to Hearts International, contributes to the healing in Liberia.

Hands to Hearts International, contributes to the healing in Liberia.

Philip, the director of West Africa Network for Peacebuilding-Liberia, said he will use HHI’s Baby Massage video as part of his organization’s efforts to build peace, human security, and development, ultimately reducing gender-based violence and child abuse. He told us:

“Children everywhere need care, love and affection. This baby massage video will be used in WANEP’s training sessions in helping participant groups to learn basic skills in helping their kids be loved and show similar love to others, and grow healthy in a peaceful environment to become future leaders.

Another participant in the training, Roland, noted that women and children are too often the victims of policies and decisions beyond their control. He was inspired by the training, calling it “a tool that will help us awaken their minds to take positive action.”

We heard similar enthusiastic reactions from so many of these leaders:

      • “Liberia needs this. There is nothing like it here.”
      • “This program is very important.”
      • “This is a perfect time to introduce these concepts. People are ready to hear them.”
      • “We are working with pregnant women We need to introduce this information to them and then work with them after delivery on these things.”
      • “Post Ebola there are many orphanages and many families with orphaned children.”

With your help, Hands to Hearts is playing a part in reducing the culture of violence in this beautiful country and helping restore the peaceful society Liberians deserve.

Hands to Hearts Launches in Haiti

There are now 12 HHI Trainers ready to go forth and share new knowledge, skills and love with their communities in rural Haiti. These women, and men – teachers, health workers, and orphanage caregivers – spent the last 6 days sharing, studying, practicing and creating some new materials especially for the parents and babies of their communities.

HHI Trainers created this song (in Creole) to reinforce the lessons they learned.  It translates to:

“I am talking to you so you can learn how to talk.
I am showing you different things, so you can learn to think.
I am letting you move, so you can move by yourself.
I am treating you kindness, affection and with care.
Further away, you will see me the same and then you will learn to believe in yourself.
Trust me my baby, I am helping you to become strong in your body, in your brain and in your love. To become strong in your body, your brain and in your love.”

The trainers, and our colleagues from Alliance for Children Foundation and the Matenwa School, all made for a week which was not only incredibly productive and successful – but fun! See all the pics here:


Now these trainers are ready to get to work in their communities of Kennescoff and La Gonave. Conservative estimates are that they will train approximately 1,100 – 1,500 moms, dads, orphanage staff and other caregivers – every year! Thus ensuring that thousands of babies experience: greater affection and nurturing; more talking, reading, and singing; more opportunities to learn and explore.

We are deeply thankful to the Alliance for Children Foundation for making this all possible!


Hands to Hearts Wows at TEDxMtHood!

It was tears, cheers and laughter from the full house at TEDxMtHood!  I’m excited to report, that I truly gave the talk of my lifetime! It took months of preparation, 40+ drafts, and more practice than I ever imagined, but it all came together and was totally worth it!

My talk, Love: a low-tech solution,” tells the story of why I created HHI, some of the trials and tribulations, and our journey from India’s orphanages to communities around the world. I ended with a challenge to all of us be more loving in our everyday lives. Love is a core human nutrient; something babies need to survive and the rest of us need to thrive. In the first 3 years, 85% of brain development occurs, and love is a critical component to building healthy brains and whole people. In our everyday actions, we can just act, or we can act with love. I’ve made a whole career about love, but I’m no expert at putting it into practice. I often act as what I say or do doesn’t matter, but nothing is further from the truth.

Love is one of the most powerful, yet underutilized tools we have to better children’s lives and our world. To learn more, I invite you to watch the video here.

Laura Peterson @ TEDxMtHood

And, when you are all full of warm and fuzzy love – please share this generously with your family, friends and co-workers.

(Photos from the day)



Spread the word! Share your stories on Twitter and FaceBook of how being #LOVED has changed your life.

♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  

My deepest gratitude to all of those who contributed to this talk with their time and talents. Each of you has changed my life with your LOVE, thank you!

BIG thanks to: My partner and most generous supporter, Cris Apatachioae. My talk-whisperer, Cynthia Lopez. The vision, faith and relentless generosity of Jim Greenbaum. All of my colleagues at Thrive Networks, with a special thanks to Jessica Burg. My parents, Don & Roberta Peterson. My smart and talented friends and allies: Sara B. Cooper, Kristin Ohlson, Paige Jones, Julie Livingston, Kara North, Deb Burke, Miriam Garcia, Liliana Barzola Read, Theresa Pridemore, Jensine Larsen, Casey Vaverka, Ted Moeller, Katarina Krouse, Tina Hart, Michelle Jones, Mark Powers, Elicia Brandon, and Darcy Jones. Loren Podwill and his team at Bullivant Houser Bailey PC. The entire TEDxMtHood team, who’s hard work, ceaseless generosity, tech-wizardry, and organizational skills were mind-bogglingly-awesome! And the stunning stage art, created by Sabina Haque.

Let’s Talk About ECD, Baby!

For a long time, those of us working the field of early childhood development (ECD) have been talking about its importance—particularly in the birth to age three range. And for a long time, it’s seemed as though we were the only people talking about it. Finally, though there is enough evidence that others are starting to not only talk, but to take action – fund projects, research, etc. Finally!

The Lancet Journal, one of the world’s most respected medical journals, just released another two papers on early childhood development. What they found resonates so deeply with HHI’s mission and vision it’s incredible.

UNICEF released this video about the debate regarding early childhood development. A few key things stand out:

1)  The return on investment in early childhood development is huge! Outcomes later in life are directly linked to experiences in a child’s first few years so reaching children before they are put on the wrong trajectory is crucial.

2)  We can make a difference by offering comprehensive programs (early learning, nutrition, health) with simple messages rather than data and ideas that most of the world’s caregivers’  don’t have the time, resources or knowledge to apply. Amazing validation for HHI’s work! This is exactly what we do! HHI is hands-on, interactive and assumes no resources or even literacy.

3)  There needs to be a dramatic shift in thinking—No more service silos. There needs to be cross-sectoral integrated services that work together on the issues of poverty reduction, health, early learning and nutrition. Narrow, vertical programs do not work!

4)  The papers also note the importance of the maternal support that this type of service provides, especially related to maternal depression. One of the reported outcomes from mother’s who receive HHI training is that they are more confident in their parenting skills. Confident mommies are healthier mommies!  They also report feeling more connected and supported in their community after their HHI group trainings – another factor that helps to lift marginalization and thus depression.

Coaching parents and providing them with support is crucial to supporting the developing child. “This is extremely important not only for a child’s development but also for a child’s survival,” said Dr. Nurper  Ulkuer, chief, early childhood development unit, UNICEF.

“Radical change is the only way we’re going to tackle this problem.” Dr. Richard Horton, chief editor, The Lancet. Governments and international agencies need to bridge services and work together in order to create the necessary change to truly change the world.What can you do? Keep talking about this issue! Continue the conversation on the importance of ECD and how it is the solution to so many problems.

“Every child has the right to develop to her or his fullest potential and to contribute fully to society. Our responsibility to pursue this goal is just as clear.”—Anthony Lake, UNICEF

We agree, wholeheartedly!

Announcing Haiti

We are bringing our Hands to the Hearts of Haiti! We have dreamed about working in Haiti for years. There were long talks, ideas and dreams of how we could go, and how HHI could serve there. The need there is so compelling and the opportunities to serve so numerous. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere: 80% of its population lives under the poverty line and an estimated 15% of the child population is orphaned.


And now the time has come - we have the right partners, the right opportunity and it is the right time. The Alliance for Children Foundation has invited HHI to collaborate on their efforts to serve women and children in the mountain village of Kenscoff, two hours outside of Port-au-Prince. It is here that the Foundation has a Community Center which offers medical services to more than 600 vulnerable children and their families; provides vocational training and an empowerment center for women; and has an Infant’s Home to serves orphans, specifically those from birth to age three, and with special needs.

HHI is excited to partner with the Foundation. We are adapting HHI’s training materials to support the caregiver’s in the Infant’s Home, as well as the 100′s of community parents who want to provide the very best for their children. In May, HHI’s team will join the Foundation in Haiti, to conduct HHI’s early childhood development trainings for caregivers in the Infant’s Home, as well as train a group of local trainers to lead HHI’s training for parents in the community for years to come.