We are in the beautiful Sacred Valley of Cusco working with the NGO Andean Community Partners and St. Olaf College. For the past few years, we’ve been invited to support ACP and St. Olaf on a project they have facilitated in the community of Huilloc. They’ve been working in the community for almost two decades; however, in 2017 they made the incredibly important decision to really shift-gears and move toward more sustainable models of services. This is where HBI has come in. They’ve asked us to be consultants to their work, helping to identify ways they can work more sustainably with the community. This is our third year in such a role. It is a very humbling experience. I learn so much every time I am here. Perhaps the greatest lesson is one of humility.
I continue to be reminded that communities are their own best change agents. Every day they live with challenges and constraints. Every day they are faced with finding creative solutions to address or overcome their challenges. It is only through cultural humility and attentive listening that we can best support them to build their own desired futures. This connecting of the dots work, it’s all about humility. It’s all about seeing things through a shared vision. It’s about stepping out of the role of an expert and into the role of a learner.
Yesterday, after a full day of outreach – I decided to run the 12 kilometers back to the hotel. The run, one I have done many times, is one of the most beautiful runs I have ever taken. The landscape is breathtaking. There are trails everywhere. And, if you know the trails – you can run from the community of Huilloc (at almost 12,000 FASL) to Ollantaytambo in a little over 2 hours, all on trails. However, the trails are tricky and hard to navigate. Such was the case for my run yesterday. I started out with the goal of running on the trails the whole way. About an hour into the run I was lost. I found myself on a trial that dead-ended into a field. With no-where to go but back down the trail, I clamored my way to the next trail I could see. The problem – this trail required that I cross a river . . . and, I could not find a bridge or passage any-where.
Serendipitously, I ran into a little girl playing in a field. I asked her how I could cross the river. She replied, with as bewildered look, “on the bridge.” Much to my dismay, I could not find a bridge. I looked everywhere. I once again asked her where is the bridge. Looking a little frustrated at my ineptness, she said she would take me to the bridge. She then led me the 100 meters to the bridge and said, “here is the bridge – exactly where I told you.”
Well, this bridge was really nothing more than a few logs strapped together. I guess I wasn’t looking for the right bridge. In this work, the work of global health or community support – I am forever reminded that I need to change the way I see things. I need to re-adjust my vantage point to see the opportunities through a different perspective.
There are bridges all around us . . . they just look a little different depending upon what you are accustom to seeing . . . and how you allow yourself to see the world around you.