Tag: Parenting

HHI Launches in the US!

We’ve trained mommies, daddies, orphanage and day care staff, health care workers, prison inmates, extended family members and all sorts of other caregivers. We’ve trained them in India, Russia, Uganda and Swaziland but never in the United States! 

We are excited to report that last week HHI led its first training in the US, in our hometown of Portland, OR.  We trained 15 staff from the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization’s (IRCO) parenting department as a pilot project for what we hope will be a much larger project in 2013.  By partnering with IRCO we’ll be able to further our mission to serve moms, dads and babies, by supporting the immigrant and refugee families living in Portland and the surrounding area.  Each year, IRCO serves nearly 40,000 people and the potential reach of our partnership is huge.

The training included a sampling of information and activities from HHI’s entire curriculum.  We played games, made up stories, searched for everyday items that could be used to promote development, and played charades.

IRCO staff participants reported that the most important thing they learned during HHI’s training was, “Parents/caregivers are the most important people in a child’s life and providing education, support and guidance to parents can go a long way in building healthy parent/child interactions.” As well as, how to “make parenting fun and meaningful.”

When asked how they would change their work with the clients they serve, answers included: “Focus more on empowering parents to be connected to their children, to build that essential attachment that will impact the life of the child and parents in a positive way.”  And, “Using what is available with parents both what they have physically and positive parenting traits they possess.”  IRCO staff were in full alignment with HHI’s core values.

IRCO staff were from a wide variety of countries and cultures, including: Romania, Russia, Mexico, US, Somalia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.  And while everyone, from every culture, around the globe, loves their babies – no baby ever comes with an instruction manual!

Our thanks to Danita Huynh for all of her hard work and enthusiasm in putting this project together!  Our thanks also to Sokhom Tauch and Jeff McDonald, IRCO’s leadership; to Valerie Palmer, the Chair of IRCO’s Board of Directors; and to David Pyle, Chair of HHI’s Board of Directors and Sarah Newhall, founding member of IRCO’s Board of Directors.  Each of you, joined together in a mutual commitment to service and to making our world a better place – you are succeeding, THANK YOU!

A Mother’s Lament, “if only I had known…”

She broke down weeping in the middle of the training.  Sujatha (HHI trainer) had been teaching about feeding of babies, but now she stopped the training to talk to this mother privately and ask her what was going on and why she was crying.  The mother caught her breathe and said, “I didn’t know, no one told me.”

This woman, who we’ll call Seeta, had a sad history and the child she lost years ago still remains deep in her heart.  Seeta told her story and it went like this…  She was married when she was only 13 years-old, a child bride in south India.  By the next year, she was pregnant with her first child and soon enough she was the mother a son.  But, she confessed that she didn’t know how to take care of her baby, nobody told her what to do, but she did the best she knew how.  It is not an uncommon practice for babies to be fed by having a bottle of milk propped in their crib.  Seeta fed her baby this way at times and it is what caused his death.

In the training Sujatha had just been talking about this practice as a part of HHI’s lesson on mother and child nutrition.  This brought Seeta back years to her childhood, when she herself was trying to raise a child.  Seeta said “if only I had known, this would have saved my baby’s life.”  She pledged that she would take HHI’s information to everyone she knew, she would spread it like a gospel in her community and to everyone she knew.

Sometimes the most basic information is the most critical.  Years later, she gave birth to and is now raising a healthy and much loved daughter, but she will never forget her son.

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Sujatha shares her HHI testimony


“I am blessed that I was trained by HHI as I gained more knowledge about care giving for babies. I don’t see this as a work rather I take it as a challenge and a glorious opportunity given to me to bring up a better tomorrow in every child’s life. Feeling proud to be a part of HHI’s global team.

I strongly felt that the reason for HHI programme’s success with small budget are the best co-ordination of grass roots level beneficiaries (i.e. mothers) and HHI’s highly professionalized training modules.”

-Sujatha, HHI’s Master Trainer in Tamil Nadu, India, leads HHI mommy trainings every month. She has also been our lead trainer since day one when HHI began our work at the orphanage run by Madras Social Service Guild (MASOS) in Chennai. Sujatha has also trained all of our other HHI trainers, around India and she worked in Uganda to launch our project there.

Thank you, Sujatha, for your kind words and even more for your love and dedication to HHI and all of the mommies, daddies, caregivers and babies that you help bring HHI’s message to!


Imagine… You Are This Young Mother

A story of Hands to Hearts International….

Imagine… you are a young mother, filled with love, excitement and pride at having your first child. You want the very best for your baby, for him/her to grow up healthy, educated and ready to be a positive member of your family, your community and our world. But, you yourself have never had more than a few years of education and you don’t even know how to read, though even if you did, there are no books available. Motherhood is supposed to be something women just know how to do, it is not given much thought, it is just done. On a day to day basis you struggle for basic subsistence, you live in a developing country, in an extremely compromised environment where food, water, and safety are a daily challenge.

You hear of a local woman who will soon come to your village to lead a Hands to Hearts International Mommy Training, and you have the chance participate. You join other mommies, and some daddies, and you all share in learning about the importance of early childhood development – cognitive, language, physical and social/emotional development. You learn with your baby, and the trainer uses your local songs, stories, games and dance to teach you these lessons. You also learn about health issues like hygiene, sanitation, breastfeeding, immunizations and your favorite lesson of baby massage! You begin to recognize that your baby is communicating with you all the time, even before they talk and when you notice this you become more and more successful in responding to your baby’s needs.

You leave the training empowered with the knowledge that the most important person in your baby’s life if you! And, that you have the power and the resources to support her to be more healthy – emotionally and physically – your everyday actions can build greater brain development, preparing your child for a lifetime of success! And most important of all, you learn that the most powerful tool of all is your LOVE.

One of the most powerful forces in the world has now been unleashed! And it is self-reinforcing, every time you love on your baby, they love you back – a positive self-reinforcement loop that grows stronger and richer, providing you both with greater emotional support and preparing your child to be a positive contributing member of a global society.

Voices From The Field: Part 3, The Mommies

A three-part series highlighting different perspectives of women involved with Hands to Hearts International.

Part 3: Ugandan community leaders Florence Okun and Norah Awio use the skills they learned during the HHI training when caring for their own families.

By Laura Barker

“To be a child in Uganda is not easy,” explains Norah Awio. Especially in the north, where decades of war have forced millions of people into refugee camps, being a child means having to endure countless hardships. Because “children. . . have no right to speak,” sexual and physical abuse is common. They work hard fetching water, collecting firewood, digging, and selling agricultural products. Their families often lack the funds or proper clothing to send them to school. In a place where “child labour is the order of growing up,” the education and training provided to parents and caretakers alike through Hands to Hearts is refreshing and widely welcomed.

Norah, 36, and her husband live with their five children and several more dependents in a modest one-room home in Kampala, Uganda. She works six days a week as a legal officer for the Locan Rebe Women’s Group, resting only on Sundays, when she attends church and catches up on housework. As a leader in her community, Norah works to mobilize women and tries to promote HHI training. It’s a difficult task, as many Ugandans are skeptical of help from outsiders, assuming it will cost them money to participate in their programs. But Norah knows firsthand the positive effects of HHI’s services and works to recruit more women whom she knows will also benefit. Although these women might initially be wary, once they attend the training, they too sing HHI’s praises. Some women can’t stop talking about it and soon begin to recommend HHI to their own friends and family members.

Florence Okun is another community leader and past participant of the HHI trainings. Her grown son is now studying at Makerere University in Kampala, but she continues to care for many people in her house: her brother, her mother who is paralyzed, and 8 other children that she has taken in. Some are orphans and others are the children of family members who are unable to care for them. “I decided to take some of these orphans because their parents are extremely poor and single mothers,” she says. “Secondly, I have a kind heart and. . . only one son.” Florence, 42, is also a member of Locan Rebe, a group formed by internally displaced women from northern Uganda “as a result of war and poor living conditions.” She is the Local Council 1 for her zone, a low-level government position responsible for general cleanliness in the area. In addition, she owns and manages a small hotel in the city.

Florence HHI’s new video – Share this YouTube with your Friends!

Like Norah, Florence is very appreciative of the early childhood development education she received through HHI and says she acts differently with her family because of it. She spends more time with her children, who are now more likely to tell her stories and bring their friends home. She learned that children develop all their senses as they grow and that they “require love, close attention, and encouragement by [the] parent.”

Norah, too, has learned to make more time for her children. “I used [to] think that giving children food was enough for them,” she says, “but during HHI trainings I learned that having time for your child [is] very important. . . and you become not only a parent to that child but also a close friend.” Because her work is exhausting, she never felt she had enough time to give to her children. But now she says she carries the younger ones around “with love” and chats with the older ones about how they feel and what is on their minds.

In addition to changing the ways in which they respond to their children, both Norah and Florence emphasized the positive change HHI has brought to their community as a whole. The women have become closer through discussions about the best childrearing practices. Being involved with Hands to Hearts, they said, has “restored their relationships.” “HHI brought oneness in our community,” says Norah. Florence agrees, concluding that “the level of love has increased.” In a country where the atrocities of war have touched the lives of every citizen, this is indeed a powerful statement.


“Children are the sum of what mothers contribute to their lives.”