Tag: Social Entrepreneur

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.

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!


Invited to the Gates Innovator’s Forum!

Today was the private opening of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Visitors Center and in honor of this, they didn’t have the standard ribbon cutting attended by a a pile of beaurocrats, but rather they brought in a small, select group of individual innovators and the donors who fund them. I am very proud to say that I was among this group of about 75 people.

Our day began with a networking breakfast and then launched into an Innovator’s Forum with innovators – bothe local and global, to share with us about their journeys, how they chose their paths, or more often how their path seemed unavoidable for them. I resonated deeply with this.  They also shared about their failures, learnings along the way and the difference their work is making in the world. I was inspired and challenged.  One paradox that struck me was that we are moving more and more to a world of free information, and I am in support of this. And there is a breaking down of the walls, moving away from the guild of “experts”, finding greater power in the democratization of ideas. However, at the same time, how do you get your idea on the world’s radar if you do not present yourself as an “expert” that others will want to listen to, and thus be interested in taking up a solution that I have found?  There was no simple answer, and this resonated deeply with others.

In the midst of our forum, President Jimmy Carter came through to personally greet us and share a few stories!  This was fabulous and it gave me some insider information that I used during the evenings reception to tease Bill Gates Sr about.

The day ended with a private evening reception, this as a sneak peek into the new Bill & Melinda Gates Visitors Center.  The evening was opened by Melinda Gates and shared in by all the foundation staff and those of us who were participants in the day’s Forum.  HHI’s long time board member and advisor, Karol Brown, joined me as we indulged in a night of even more learning, sharing and networking.

Dear Gates Foundation team, Mr. & Mrs. Gates and President Carter – THANK YOU!  You just gave me a day I will never forget!

See a few more pics from the evening – click here.


How the Times Have Changed… Personal Musings

I cannot believe that it has been so long since I have been on the ground here, in India, with our HHI team. It feels like time travel, as if I was just here setting things up for the first time in Chennai, trying to figure out what exactly HHI would do and learning all the little cultural bits that would come to guide my behavior here, such as do not sit on the steps with my legs crossed while waiting for a meeting with the male photographer who I wanted to document our work.

Here is a little story of just one of my many cultural bumbles… It turned out that a woman sitting on steps is a sign of a prostitute, and that it is considered improper, again the trait of a loose woman to not have both feet on the ground, which mine were not given that my legs were crossed. And to fully cap off my little cultural gaffe into a huge and embarrassing mess, have me sit on that step from 4pm, when we were scheduled to meet, until 7:30pm when he finally showed up… and my hours of waiting in the sweltering and soggy heat have landed a beer in my hand, which is not acceptable for women and is just not done, at least in public! So there I sat in my blissful ignorance and exhausted impatience — on the steps (as a prostitute) with my feet not both on the ground (signaling a loose woman), and beer in hand when he finally arrives. He looked at me in absolute horror and refused to approach me! Ahhhhh…. those were good times!

Fast forward now almost five years and find me again in India, but in a very different situation all together. I am here, in the eastern state of Orissa, spending a week with HHI’s Trainers who have come from around the country to share in a conference all about being HHI Trainers.

These women recently hosted a researcher who spent almost a month with them, learning about how HHI operates and what they do to so quickly and powerfully change local attitudes and behaviors and thus dramatically improve child health. We now have guests from UNICEF, UNDP and a whole host of local to international non-profits (NGOs), all who show up to try to figure out what exactly HHI is doing and how they may apply it in their own communities/states or even countries.

The times have changed for sure, HHI has proven itself to be a powerful force for social change and the world has begun to take notice. Back to the present day. This week we have gathered, HHI Trainers from around the country, and myself, HHI’s founder/director. We are sharing lessons from the field, such as how one of our trainer’s creatively makes puppets out of newspaper and how she uses these puppets in her trainings to impart health messages. And another trainer shares about how she teaches about women’s hygiene and self-care in her trainings. Everyone is enthused, everyone has new information to share, and we took the weekend to travel to a nearby village to all work together, with 33+ new mothers and grandmothers to try out the new information and skills.

The results were beautiful, from very young mothers to tiny old grandmothers, all flocked to attend our trainings. They learned about how to improve their children’s health and their own via adjusting or better understanding issues such as breastfeeding, hygiene, and sanitation, as well as about “baby cues” how infants communicate before they have language and how they can recognize and respond to these messages. And, all of these lessons are taken with a healthy dose of play, games, songs, and dance, which is not at all typical of training methodology here.

We have come far, we and now more than 40,000 women and children are benefiting from our journey, and the future looks brighter for all. And, I no longer sit on the steps waiting for my meetings…. so many lessons for all of us!

"They received a healing"

It is Hands to Hearts’ goal to serve the most disadvantaged people, living in the most dire of circumstances. With this always at the forefront of my mind, when we recently needed to conduct some practice HHI trainings in the northern city of Lira, Uganda, I asked if we could train within the women’s prison. We drove past this prison everyday on our way to work with our colleagues at Medical Teams International and after learning that a number of the women here have their babies in the prison with them, I became slightly obsessed with making HHI available to them.

Since HHI only shows up by invitation, we began by letting the prison management know who we were and that we would make ourselves available to the women and children in their care. The officials were very enthusiastic and quickly extended an invitation for HHI to show up to lead a short training for the mothers.

Our national Master Trainer, Mukisa Lydia, led a small training team to the prison, where we expected to work with the 10 mothers who had their babies with them. But, as often happens, more of the women wanted to participate. What began as one training for only 10 women, quickly transformed into two trainings for all of the inmates and even the guards showed up and asked to participate. The women almost desperate for information, they were eager learners and asked lots of great questions. The women were so interested in the lessons that they convinced the guards to postpone lunch and extend the time the HHI Trainers were allowed to stay.

The end result of that first day was that over 40 women and 10 babies participated in several HHI lessons. The outcome was that the local HHI Trainers, via Medical Teams International, will continue to go to the prison regularly to meet the request to provide the entirety of HHI’s lessons.

Lydia put it beautifully as she described, “they received a healing”. I can only imagine the babies felt the same way.