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
"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)