Tag: Social Entrepreneur

Teaching & Learning with the Mothers

A few weeks ago I introduced you to the amazing women of Locan Rebe, in Kampala, Uganda (see 2 entries down, Uganda ~ Courage, Survival & Inspiration ). Their history would give them labels such as “victims” and then “survivors” – of war, of refugee camps, of rape, terror and poverty, or they could have the labels of “slum dwellers” or “HIV+”… but I now feel I know them and these are not the words that come to my mind to describe any of them. (And just as a side note, I do not think I have ever seen anyone “dwell” in a slum, I have seen them work tirelessly, struggle, overcome unthinkable daily obstacles, unite, battle, collapse and rise again, and yes, I see them “survive”, but never have I seen them “dwell”).

Last week, HHI led our trainings about early childhood development in Kampala, teaching the mothers of Locan Rebe about how every day they can and do make a dramatic difference in their child’s health, nutrition and development. As usual the women reveled in the opportunity to learn, to listen, talk and interact. They soaked up the information and engaged deeply in learning how to observe and understand what the babies were communicating.

It was fascinating to see that some of the mothers, and the grandmothers, who have raised over 10 children, initially were not able to identify the different body language of a happy/snugly baby, versus the slightly annoyed, upset baby. Many of us think these signs would be obvious. In the US we are flooded with baby books, baby DVDs and shows, and most US parents are hyper-attentive, potentially even obsessive, to every nose scrunch and wiggle, but this is not the case in many places of the world. Consider an environment where there are no book stores, let alone bookstores with entire baby sections. Environments where schooling is a privilege that is hard to come by, hours of everyday are consumed by a long walk to a community water pump where you stand in line under the scorching sun, to then turn back around and haul this precious, though extremely heavy treasure back to your home. These are places where hunger is a daily issue and being able to serve your children one meal a day is a triumph, while at night you wrap your children’s group bed with a mosquito net (if you have one), which make the night even more hot and stifling, but keeps them alive. By now you might have a slightly better understanding of why theses mothers may not have spent their time taking careful notes about their baby’s moods and communication.

It turns out that the component Hands to Hearts’ teaches about understanding a baby’s communication is one of our most popular and life altering. It gives mothers a whole new insight into what their baby wants and needs and it then allows them to better meet these needs, thus improving their ability to care, soothe and nurture their children – the bonds of trust and love grow stronger, in both directions. As one mother from this training group put it, “this has reminded us of what we have forgotten as being the best of mothers to our children.” Another reported in her training evaluation, “this has changed my life, I will never be the same.”

This returns me to how I now describe these women. The words that come to mind are “inspiring”, “loving”, “committed”, “tenacious” and overwhelmingly “generous”. They left HHI’s trainings with powerful new insights into themselves and their babies, and they left me humbled, inspired and more determined than ever to bring Hands to Hearts to mothers and caregivers around the world!

And, lastly, I will echo the same sentiments, “this experience changed me, I will never the be the same”.

See all the pictures from these trainings on our FaceBook page – click

Do It Anyway

This quote inspires me and helps me focus on what I truly value. It was reportedly found written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta:


1. People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

2. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

3. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

4. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

5. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

6. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

7. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

8. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

9. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Taking it to the street – literally!

In the last few weeks Sujatha led a record number of HHI parenting classes, all of these were in small and very remote villages in southern India. However what made me these particular trainings amazing — beyond the usual witnessing of young mothers discover their own power in building their baby’s brain development, and all the loving-goodness — was that these trainings were held in the middle of a street. Yes, a street.


When Sujatha arrived to lead the trainings, the local organizers led her to a small community room, which must have been really, really small, as she reported that the room would have held about 6-8 women. Gathering behind Sujatha, as she walked to and then viewed this tiny space were the mothers, lots of mothers! In total 28 mothers, all with babies and children in tow, were following her to make sure that they would have a space in the Hands to Hearts training, and it seemed they knew space was limited.

Seeing all of the women, and turning back to look at the training space, it was clear that this was not going to work. The women talked and quickly concluded that there was plenty of space outside the tiny room and the women all agreed that they would happily sit in the middle of the street as long as they could participate. The village leaders offered a shady street to be turned into HHI’s classroom. The village vendors, pulling their carts would come upon the street only to see it filled with mothers and children conducting puppet shows, singing songs and dancing, and they would find another way to get to the market. Men, women, grandmas, grandpas and kids all walking, biking or driving through the village came upon the same scene, and often before they would go to find a way around this training, they would sit and become a part of the training themselves.

I have always claimed that HHI Trainings could really happen anywhere in the world, but I had never considered a street.Bravo to these women for not letting anything get in the way of their learning, and kudos to Sujatha for her endless creativity, flexibility and tenacity in giving!

UConn Magazine Spotlights HHI

I graduated from University of Connecticut in 1993. This last winter, UConn Magazine called me to learn about the creation of Hands to Hearts, and then they wrote up a beautiful version of my story in their recent summer edition.

UConn Magazine, Summer 2009 – Promoting Healthy Children In Developing Nations

Thanks UConn!


HHI at the Kitchen Table

A visit I made to meet a potential donor last week was reported on in Tactical Philanthropy. See the post, Kitchen Table Philanthropy and see how the world of philanthropy is shifting to become more personal and informal.

Many thanks to both Sara and Sasha.