From the Heart...

15 Moms + 1 Dad in Namibia

Geri Kemper, a Peace Corps volunteer and HHI Trainer, based in rural Namibia, is on the tail end of her time in Africa. Here is her most recent HHI story.


Well it’s my last week here at my site and 10 days till I’m officially done with my Peace Corps contract. Luckily I was able to conduct one last Hands to Hearts training just before I’m leaving. Last week I was able to bring together 15 caregivers from local OVC centers to do a 2 day HHI workshop with them.

Most of the centers were associated with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and a couple were privately run. The participants were mostly woman with one man attending, it was great to see the other women commenting to him that it was amazing he was doing such work, he was almost getting embarrassed from all the attention. I think I pushed him over the edge to full blown embarrassment when I mentioned to him that he was providing such a great example of being a man to the children he is working with.

All the participants enjoyed their time together and loved learning about the various forms of early childhood development. They want my counterpart to continue leading HHI trainings and to come check on them at their centers. My co-trainer/counterpart, Ms. Emily Karambuka, is the Youth Health Program Officer here at the local Rural Youth Center.

The participants were from 10 communities, each center sent one caregiver and did their best to select a teenage mother in the community to come to the workshop as well. With the Kavango having one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Namibia we thought it would help them to better care for their children. While all the moms love their babies, there are some traditional beliefs here about babies and pregnancy that can be confusing.  Some of these include:

1. the child cannot be given a mirror, she will see a ghost

2. the baby cannot be carried at the back at nighttime, bad spirits will follow the baby

3. if you haven’t been at the home of the baby before, you must stir some soil with your hands to prevent the baby from getting sick

4. when a child doesn’t stop urinating at night, put an herb on the waist of the child and the urinating will stop

5. a pregnant women cannot eat any kind of poultry or else the baby will always shiver

6. a pregnant woman cannot eat out of a pot because the baby will have a dark completion


Photos coming soon!

Geri , thank you for taking the initiative and being such a supportive community member, teacher and friend to the people of Namibia.  We’ve been so proud to have your on our HHI team!

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!


gDiapers’ LOVED Collection Benefits HHI

gDiapers just released their latest collection (and we think cutest!) and a generous portion of the proceeds support our on-going work with moms and babies in India.  The new LOVED collection was inspired our shared missions of supporting babies and their families in one of the most basic human needs – Love.

With a bold stamp of Loved, the new Love Me gPants and tees artfully declare the critical desire of our hearts. From the moment we are born we all want, and need, to be loved. But for families battling hunger, poverty and disease, it can be a struggle to provide that need, which hinders babies’ ability to thrive. A portion of each sale of the specially-designed Love Me gPants and tee will benefit Hands to Hearts International, identified by the Fetzer Institute as an “an exemplar of love”.


Love Me gPants are a limited edition, so get yours soon! Available at

Thank you g!  We LOVE you too!!!

gLoved pant.tee

Donor Honor Board! And, Agape!

Because of you, HHI reached the full potential of our matching grant from The Greenbaum Foundation!  WOW!  And thank you so, so much!  We are honored by your commitment, encouraged by your  faith, humbled by your generosity for our work in the world.

To The Greenbaum Foundation – Thank you!  Your generous matching grant, your early belief in a scrappy non-profit, your years of committed support in time, expertise, connections, and advocacy have ensured HHI’s dream of “nurturing children and empowering women” (and so much more) has come to life for more than 186,000 moms/dads, health workers, orphanage staff and vulnerable babies.  There is no way we can ever adequately express our appreciation in words… thank you.

And, to our incredible community of donors – your donations are creating a more nurturing, healthy, safe and supportive world for those same 186,000+ people.  Your individual gifts of funding, your volunteered time and talents, your enthusiasm, kindness and on-going commitments to HHI are inspiring!  So many of you wrote us personal notes and cards with your contributions, which we proudly display and read again and again to remind us of our shared visions for the world and gratitude for each other.

The ancient Greeks had six different words for “love”.  My personal favorite and one that best explains HHI’s mission is this:

 4. Agape, or love for everyone

“The fourth love, and perhaps the most radical, was agape or selfless love. This was a love that you extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. Agape was later translated into Latin as caritas, which is the origin of our word “charity.”

C.S. Lewis referred to it as “gift love,” the highest form of Christian love. But it also appears in other religious traditions, such as the idea of mettā or “universal loving kindness” in Theravāda Buddhism.”  (full story)

I have read numerous articles recently of “growing evidence that agape is in a dangerous decline in many countries. Empathy levels in the U.S. have declined sharply over the past 40 years, with the steepest fall occurring in the past decade.”  I am not sure what to make of this, because of you, our community, we swim in agape everyday.  I witness your capacity to not only care about others, but to actively work to better the lives of others you will never meet.  Again, “thank you” seems to fall far short in expressing our appreciation.

Our Gratitude to:

The Greenbaum Foundation


So Hum Foundation

David Pyle & Sarah Newhall

Hayden Hamilton

Sara B. Cooper

Don & Roberta Peterson

Melissa Bloom


Covenant Presbyterian Church

Gary & Patricia Arrington

Tom & Janet O’Reilly

Dennis & Deborah Engers

Gun Denhart

The Easton Koehler Family Fund

Schwab Charitable Trust, Anonymous

Oregon Community Fund


Kristin Oberholtzer   l George C. Apatachioae  l Kirk & Anne Peterson  l Eli & Madeleine Lamb Family Foundation   l Marie & Matthew Ballance  l Vivekanand Tiwari   l  Daniel Sheil l Dick & Patricia Streeter  l Mark Hashizume  l Wendy Kelly   l Leslie & Ethan Meekwohl   l Imke Oster  l Antonietta Pagliuca  l The Shimpi Family   l Jenny Donohue  l Christopher  Elgin l Inez Merida  l Joshua & Kellie Peirce  l   Jim & Karen Nolan  l Barbara Gord   l Alan & Margery Braverman   l Carley Phillips  l Amy Kasznel   l James & Virginia Foreman   l Mortimer & Elizabeth Bauer   l Joyce & Rex Cassel   l Ruth Nelson  l Gail & Wayne Taylor  l Joan Bove   l Charles & Diana Ladner   l Matt Heim   l Lloyd & Lee Perry   l Allyn & Ann Plambeck   l Stacy Sempier    l Gina Umble   l Ariadne Decker   l   Julie Livingston & Jon Manning   l Tanya Kramer   l Molly Fonner    l Sally Scholz & Thomas Morris   l Mike Hamilton    l  Barbara & John Woodcock  l Kunal Mehra   l Lisa Lucas  l Khari Gates  l Laura Peterson   l Susan Crandlemire   l Donna Vogt   l Hollie & Eric Allen  l Carl Knudson l   Robert & Paula Hamilton   l Rob & Mary Kweit   l Jessica O’Connell   l Lynette Aytch   l Elizabeth Tillman   l Barry & Lois Wiggins   l Tom & Charlotte Matthews   l Kimberly Sordyl   l  Kevin C. Traynor, Sr. Family Foundation   l Marina Simoes   l Betty McDonald l Schoening   l Carley Phillips  l Paul & Ruth DeLomba   l  Carole & Thomas Campbell   l Carol Timmreck   l  Frank Lofgren  l Tammy Zinsmeister   l Joseph & Lorrain Hackenbracht   l  John & Kathryn Wiley  l Andrew Stifler   l Therese Morrissey l Christa Sprinkle    l George & Erica Bach   l  Marjorie Crosby   l Estela Bernal   l Christy Collado   l Andrea Brook   l Martine van den Berg   l Liz Jenks   l Dave Riveness    l Michael Smolens    l  David Goodall   l  Patricia McGarr    l  Barb & Ted Widmayer   l April Harris   l Karen Vrilakas   l Ivan Farber   l Christine Chaille   l Debra Slover   l Cheryl Sallee   l  Kay Koplovitz   l Ciel Sander   l Levi Query   l Alissa Keny-Guyer   l  Aaron Jenkins   l  Shauna Mohr   l  Judith Scheid   l  Carole Magnusson    l    Kyle Stevens

Building on Commitment & Love

In the tiny tribal village of Khetrapal, in rural Odisha, India, HHI helps make a dream come true.   Since 2007, our partner NGO, Viswa Yuva Kendra, has been supporting the operation of a small crèche center.  This is a safe space where the community’s young children can stay during the day to while their parents are working in nearby fields.  The crèche center also offers the opportunity for basic teaching of pre-school skills for the children and gives the parents peace in knowing their children are safe and being cared for.


This village is purely tribal, representing one of the lowest castes in India, which still carries with it many limitations, stigma and remains synonymous with poverty .  All of the families of Khetrapa live in only 40 houses.  All the villagers are daily laborers, working in fields and on lands that they will never own. When they go to the field their children are spend all day in the crèche center, which is currently made out of straw, bamboo and a tarp. Every year this center is damaged by monsoon rains and wind.  And every year the villagers repair or rebuild it.  But, during the rainy season, no one can use the center, as the floor turns to mud and a steady stream of rain courses over the area.

Viswa Yuva Kendra, and the villagers wanted to do better and they are willing to work for it.  Seeing what the village was currently using, and their commitment to it, we felt compelled to lend our support.  They proposed to HHI that with a modest amount of funding, the villages parents could buy the basic building materials needed to build a simple, but sturdy building that could offer a safe and protected space for their children.

The construction will start in December 2013 and be finished by the end of January 2014. The villagers will contribute labor to the construction of the center.

Daily activities at the crèche are led by two teachers.  Every day includes prayers, keeping the children clean, teaching basic numbers and counting, singing action songs, playing games, storytelling, and dancing. In total there are 18 children 1 – 3 years old and 10 children 3 – 5 years old, benefiting from this small center every day.

Investing in children in their earliest years is the best investment communities can make, and given that this tiny community has already shown such love and commitment to their children, we are honored to help support their efforts in building a real building!  We cannot wait to see it!