Introducing the Love Me Collection.
With a bold stamp of Loved, the new Love Me gPants and tees artfully declare the critical desire of our hearts. From the moment we are born we all want, and need, to be loved. But for families battling hunger, poverty and disease, it can be a struggle to provide that need, which hinders babies’ ability to thrive. A portion of each sale of the specially-designed Love Me gPants and tee will benefit Hands to Hearts International, an organization recognized by the Fetzer Institute as an “an exemplar of love”. Hands to Hearts International is improving the health and development of vulnerable children by training caregivers in early childhood development and nurturing parenting skills. It is through their efforts that love is flourishing in the world’s most volatile regions, and babies who once were at risk, are now thriving.
A Work of Love.
Hands to Hearts began their work in orphanages in India, empowering mothers and caregivers with simple acts that have significant and long-term impact on children’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social development. Trainees learn behaviors like looking into a baby’s eyes when feeding and changing, responding to babies’ unique cues, as well as nutrition and sanitation. The organization now offers trainings in India, Uganda, Swaziland, Russia and the United States.
We dug deeper into the training with Hands to Hearts International’s Programs and Grants Manager, Florence Pourtal-Steves. Florence is 8 months pregnant with her first child.
gDiapers: Do parents really need to be taught how to love their children?
Florence: I gave the whole training to my girlfriend when her first child was born, the whole curriculum! We learn through the training that in the beginning a parent is just trying to get attuned to their baby, to the things that baby is trying to communicate. Parents won’t get it right away, but it important to keep trying.
Babies are born with about 25% of their brain developed. Brains are developed through growing connections, or pathways. Brain development will be 85% complete by the end of the baby’s first three years. By stimulating a baby’s brain through touch, sounds, eye contact and affection, connections in the brain get stronger. If they are not stimulated, the connections disappear, and they don’t grow back.
gDiapers: That gives me a creeping sense of parental stage fright! You’re expecting your first child, what about you?
Florence: Before I became pregnant, I had all sorts of ideas about what I would do. Then, the realities. I know I should talk to my baby, but actually, talking out loud makes me feel quite shy. Hopefully, when the baby is born, I won’t feel quite so shy.
gDiapers: Tell us about stress. How does the training impact the stress of being a new parent, particularly in distressed regions?
Florence: We are looking at the impacts of the training on maternal stress as well. (She refers to a study they have undertaken this year to measure the long-term impacts of their training in the Odisha Province, India.) Even though we’re not teaching directly about maternal stress reduction in our trainings, we are wondering if this is a side effect of the training. There are three main types of material stress HHI examines: I am stressed because of my child, because he is crying. I am stressed because of resources; the people we work with live in very precarious situations. And I am stressed as a mother, with so many tasks.
The message to caregivers in Hands to Hearts’ training is not about achieving the goals of a particular method. “The training works across cultures,” says Florence, “because it is about using materials that are on hand, a stick for a toy and a local song for a lullaby.”
And it is working. Babies are healthier. Communities are stronger.
Hands to Hearts’ trainings have touched more than 180,000 children and caregivers, earning them recognition by the Clinton Global Initiative for the impact of their hands-on approach to global wellness. Check out this video to see how the story of Loved is unfolding. And get your own limited edition Love Me gPants and help support Hands to Hearts International.