We at "g", love the work of HHI and Laura Peterson. A great write up below:
Working for 10 years with children circulating through the U.S. mental health system, Laura Peterson ’93 (CLAS) encountered one particularly difficult case – an emotionally troubled child who had been in three foster homes, part of two failed adoptions and sent to a locked psychiatric unit, all by the time he was age 5.
Seeing such tragic cases, Peterson says her "goal became to reach the most children at the earliest age with the simplest, most costeffective and most replicable form of care possible." She started her own nonprofit, Hands to Hearts International (HHI), which seeks to improve the health and welfare of orphaned and vulnerable children as well as economically disadvantaged women worldwide.
Some of the world’s most vulnerable children live in developing countries, where they face poverty and poor health and often lack a responsive caregiver. Through HHI, Peterson wants to ensure that such children receive the care they need by providing caregivers with the knowledge and skills needed to improve children’s earliest stages of development.
"You can give immunizations to kids, but without responsive caregiving, they’re really missing out," she says.
Working closely with a Utah State University researcher to design an early childhood development curriculum, Peterson began training caregivers in orphanages in India. The HHI curriculum instructs caregivers in fostering young children’s language, cognitive, physical and social skills through simple interactions such as games, stories, song, dance and touch. Since its first training session in 2006, HHI has instructed more than 2,300 caregivers, including caregivers in orphanages, village parents and grandparents, and teachers in India’s Integrated Child Development Services, the world’s largest early childhood development program.
At the same time, Peterson says, HHI’s training program helps to empower disadvantaged women in India, who gain skills that add to their value in the workplace and at home in nurturing their children. To date, HHI’s work has served 19,000 children. Although currently focused solely in India, Peterson hopes to expand HHI into one to two additional countries by early 2010.
She acknowledges that although starting a nonprofit may not be for everyone, each person has something to contribute. "There’s an opportunity for each of us," Peterson says. "We each have gifts, talents and passions that can be applied to better our world."
For more information about HHI, visit www.handstohearts.org
–Stefanie Dion Jones ’00 (CLAS)