Tag: Training

Hands to Hearts Launches in Haiti

There are now 12 HHI Trainers ready to go forth and share new knowledge, skills and love with their communities in rural Haiti. These women, and men – teachers, health workers, and orphanage caregivers – spent the last 6 days sharing, studying, practicing and creating some new materials especially for the parents and babies of their communities.

HHI Trainers created this song (in Creole) to reinforce the lessons they learned.  It translates to:

“I am talking to you so you can learn how to talk.
I am showing you different things, so you can learn to think.
I am letting you move, so you can move by yourself.
I am treating you kindness, affection and with care.
Further away, you will see me the same and then you will learn to believe in yourself.
Trust me my baby, I am helping you to become strong in your body, in your brain and in your love. To become strong in your body, your brain and in your love.”

The trainers, and our colleagues from Alliance for Children Foundation and the Matenwa School, all made for a week which was not only incredibly productive and successful – but fun! See all the pics here:


Now these trainers are ready to get to work in their communities of Kennescoff and La Gonave. Conservative estimates are that they will train approximately 1,100 – 1,500 moms, dads, orphanage staff and other caregivers – every year! Thus ensuring that thousands of babies experience: greater affection and nurturing; more talking, reading, and singing; more opportunities to learn and explore.

We are deeply thankful to the Alliance for Children Foundation for making this all possible!


Nurturing Caregiving – Preventing Disease, Addiction, Violence and More

Nurturing relationships between children and their parent(s) or caregivers can be likened to an inoculation against the negative, lifelong problems that can develop from a childhood filled with adverse experiences.  When families are grappling with disease, violence, mental health issues, poverty, and other serious adverse experiences, children are exposed to toxic levels of stress that can have lifelong negative implications for that child and their greater community. This recent Opinion piece in the New York Times does a great job explaining this.  And it describes what HHI has been doing for almost eight years, for more than 140,000 vulnerable children around the world.

HHI has a very similar approach and results, though our program is more simplistic.  I believe that the “aha moment” that they refer to for a mother they describe, that is love awakening, and once that wakes up, nothing stays the same.


Protecting Children From Toxic Stress

Imagine if scientists discovered a toxic substance that increased the risks of cancer, diabetes and heart, lung and liver disease for millions of people. Something that also increased one’s risks for smoking, drug abuse, suicide, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, domestic violence and depression — and simultaneously reduced the chances of succeeding in school, performing well on a job and maintaining stable relationships? It would be comparable to hazards like lead paint, tobacco smoke and mercury. We would do everything in our power to contain it and keep it far away from children. Right?

Children can be shielded from the most damaging effects of stress if their parents are taught how to respond appropriately.

Well, there is such a thing, but it’s not a substance. It’s been called “toxic stress.”
However, children can be shielded from the most damaging effects of stress if their parents are taught how to respond appropriately. “One thing that is highly protective is the quality of the relationship between the parent and the child,” explains Darcy Lowell, an associate clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine and the founder of Child First, a program based in Shelton, Conn., that has marshaled strong evidence demonstrating the ability to intervene early, at relatively low cost, to reduce the harm caused by childhood stress in extremely high-need families. “Early relationships, where adults are responsive and attentive, are able to buffer the damaging effects on the brain and body,” she says.
By developing the ability to read a child’s cues, and by being emotionally available on a daily basis, parents can provide buffers that reduce the harmful physiological effects of high stress. “I feel like I enjoy my daughter more now,” Ana Patricia said. “And she enjoys me as a mother.”
Read the whole article here .

In Namibia Moms Embrace HHI

Recently a group of mothers in Namibia gathered with their babies to participate in HHI’s first ever training in their country, all thanks to a young woman who was determined to make it happen.

Geri is from HHI’s hometown of Portland, OR, but she’s been living and working as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Namibia for the last year plus. She speaks the language, offers support, training and friendship to all of her new community.  And not too long ago, she made reached out to Hands to Hearts and made a bold request, “please bring HHI to the families of my community.”

This is not how HHI normally works. It was outside our box.  HHI’s protocol is that HHI is always led via locals, for locals, in collaboration with a community or national organization.  But… we were intrigued and inspired.  HHI is not meant to be available for a few, no baby comes with an instruction manual, and Geri was living in this community, trusted by this community.  We couldn’t say “no”, so we said “yes!”.

And so begins the story of HHI going to Biro, Namibia.  Geri spent months on Skype calls with HHI’s staff, read all of our materials and worked hard to gain a deep understanding of not only our information, but our way of training.  And last month it all came to life!  The mommies of Biro gathered together outside of the health clinic, they learned from each other and from HHI about early childhood development and all sorts of different ways to better their babies health and brain development.


The moms really liked learning about general health issues and about the behavior and cues that babies make to communicate before they can speak.  Baby cues is a favorite lesson in HHI, it helps caregivers gain a greater insight into what their baby needs and thereby enables them to better respond, making life easier and happier for everyone. During the training the women enjoyed sharing new recipes and in a short time they quickly saw the children had more energy  to get up, play and interact with people. This in-turn led the mothers to interact more with their children as they now felt they understood the reasons behind why the children act a certain way, they felt more confident in getting more involved in what their child was doing.

Geri reported that the moms liked HHI’s training so much that they have now begun a weekly mother’s club to where they can discuss various child health topics and early childhood development.

Bravo Mommas!  And thank you Geri!


April in Africa

Last year HHI spent April in Paris, where our Founder/Director, presented at UNESCO’s Education for All event.  And while that was absolutely lovely, this year it has been our pleasure to spend April in Africa, specifically in Swaziland with our partners at the Bantwana Initiative.  Together, we are working with the Ministry of Education and Training to create the country’s first formal training program for preschool teachers.

This month 15 officers from the Ministry graduated as Master Trainers, and then together we trained 18 preschool teachers in the new program. It was an exciting week, as we all learned from each other and built a new system of support that will serve hundreds (and later we hope thousands!) of the country’s most vulnerable young children. (We may also gotten to serve some of the cutest!)


Preschool students in Lumbumbo, Swaziland

Our thanks to Bantwana, World Education and the generous funding of the Open Society Institute of South Africa.

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!