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!)