Bridge Builders: The Heart of Our Work (Part 1 of 2)
We’re nothing without our team. In this blog post series, meet the people behind true change, and learn from them as they share their Health Bridges International (HBI) journey and how they’re working for a healthier future for the most vulnerable children in Perú.
Dr. Roberto H. Tarazona Ponte: The People’s Doctor
Born and raised in the port city of Callao, Perú, Dr. Roberto H. Tarazona Ponte’s medical career is anchored by his passion to get quality healthcare to people who need it most. He has worked with underfunded health facilities, ran medical campaigns, trained community health workers, and invested in health education to prevent the spread of disease in vulnerable populations. When he met HBI doctors working in one of the poorest communities in Lima, Dr. Roberto was inspired – did he just find an organization that matched his personal mission? Today, he is HBI’s Senior Health Advisor and Medical Trainer, overseeing the Ines Project and the Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP), programs he refers to as “living organisms” — each one having its own special dynamic sustained by the shared effort of people and institutions across civil society, governments, churches, and nonprofits.
Under the Ines Project, Dr. Roberto assesses children with complex medical issues, but he does not limit his visits to just health evaluations. He also listens to the family, provides counsel, and encourages questions. Though most of his visits are now virtual due to COVID-19, families still consider his presence a source of comfort and care. In NRP, Dr. Roberto coordinates with government officials in the Regional Colleges of Midwives to define the workshop terms and details. He also coordinates with HBI’s technical team to ensure the organized delivery of these “train the trainer” courses. The doctor then makes himself free for consultations.
All of this good work is possible because Dr. Roberto is so convinced that people, especially those from marginalized communities, are in the best position to drive change. In fact, he is thrilled to journey with his patients and strengthen their leadership by encouraging them to focus on their own development. He recalls the story of Benjamin*, a young man who successfully graduated out of Casa Girasoles to live independently. Benjamin is now studying in university and works during his free hours. On weekends, he visits his former home to mentor his “younger brothers” who, like him, will soon leave Casa Girasoles to pursue a life of success, according to their terms.
“I have found in HBI incredible people and professionals who love the people they serve, and because of that love, I know we give the best to each patient. That is why I joined their initiatives, and they’ve taken me to places that have allowed me to serve even more people.”
Srta. Jocabeth Oscátegui Pérez: A Reliable Presence for the Youth of Perú
Real connection happens when people stay and listen – this is what Srta. Jocabeth Oscátegui Pérez has been steadily applying in her four months with HBI. As the new Project and Program Administrator, she trains graduates of residential care centers such as Casa Girasoles to become mentors for “younger brothers” who are just about to graduate.
“The idea of Casa Girasoles graduates playing a key role in someone else’s growth is powerful to me. I thought it was a smart way to develop leadership and mentorship skills, while also building a stronger sense of continuity and support for young men still residing in Casa Girasoles.”
Srta. Jocabeth follows up on the young men who, after living most of their lives in Casa Girasoles, have graduated to reintegrate into society as independent citizens. She talks to these graduates and finds out their current situation, reporting back their progress and difficulties, and taking note of their willingness to mentor a “younger brother.” She also speaks to current residents of Casa Girasoles to get a sense of their feelings when the time comes to leave the care center for good, asking if they are interested in being paired with a peer mentor who can continue guiding them even after graduation.
The peer mentorships anchor the Sunflower Community (known previously as the Tigres Program), which is a project that works with young people transitioning out of orphanages and residential care centers, including Casa Girasoles. Participants engage in psychological counseling, social work, peer mentoring, and tap into support services offered by the government, faith-based organizations, and NGOs to rebuild their lives. Peer relationships help increase the success and sustainability of HBI’s support for these young people seeking to live independently.
As Srta. Jocabeth leads in enhancing relationships and building better transitions between Casa Girasoles and the Sunflowers Community, she’s sowing seeds that will set standards for residential care centers across the region and impact future generations of formerly abandoned youth.
“These young people, in a sense, carry heavy backpacks. The backpacks are full of difficult experiences from their past that stop them from creating relationships that can make their lives better. I’m excited to be building connections that will uplift their burdens, paying close attention to their holistic needs. What works best is having someone stay and listen – a reliable presence throughout the good and bad of life.”
Whether working for a decade or newly recruited, the HBI team is driving true change by connecting vulnerable children and families to healthy environments, resources, and relationships – building bridges towards health, hope, home, and purpose.
Visit our team page for more information about Dr. Roberto, Srta. Jocabeth, and the rest of the HBI Team.
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