Helping the least of God’s elderly people in developing countries is the mission of Stacy Shewey, CEO & Founder of Hands 4Life global nonprofit organization. The organization is the only mission-based organization in the world whose sole focus is on the elderly population. Many times in these countries, the elderly are stripped of dignity, shunned, and abandoned. The Hands 4Life team is traveling to Honduras in March 2021 to start an assisted living home prototype.
Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap Podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. A really exciting heartfelt message today. I want you to lean into this conversation. You know, Josh, we talk all the time about senior living and senior housing and care in the United States, but there’s a lot of other people in the world, a lot of older adults and we’re going to be talking about that today with Stacy Shewey. She’s the CEO of Hands 4Life, a global non-profit organization with a mission to help the least of God’s elderly people in developing countries. Welcome to the show, Stacy.
Stacy: Thank you, I’m glad to be here.
Lucas: Thank you so much, we’re glad to have you here. And this is a very relevant conversation, especially given the type of year that the world has had right. You know, sometimes we’re affected by certain things and we tend to have blinders on about what’s happening right in our own neighborhoods, our own states and our own nation. Given the coronavirus of last year, it has affected everybody, including older adults, all around the world. And that’s one of your main focuses, God has put this on your heart and we want to talk to you about it today. Tell us your background and how you started Hands 4Life.
Stacy: Yeah, well did you ever have like that nagging question? Like what am I supposed to do with my life? What is my purpose here? And so it was a year and a half ago that I finally got the answer to that question and it was to go help seniors in places where they have nothing, where there is very little help. So I started to do some research on that and you know, being in the industry, we all know that there is an aging crisis and that the rates are going up, the number of elderly. But what I found was the statistics where it’s recorded that this is a real global aging crisis and that over the next three decades the global number of older persons is projected to more than double. And 62% of people over 60 live in developing countries and just in 30 years, that percentage is going to increase to 80% in the developing countries. So I continue to do some research on this, and I also found that there’s a lot of missionary organizations out there, but they tend to be designed to take the kids, the orphans. And provide education and address clean water and food supply. And I could not find any missionary organizations whose sole focus is on the elderly. So with that supporting my research, I formed Hands 4 Life. And like you said, it’s a mission to take care of the elderly by providing assisted living homes and doing community outreach in developing countries. So we’re just moving in right now to a phase where we are heading to Honduras. This month, we’ll be going to Honduras and we partnered with a very large organization called Go to Nation. And Go to Nations is a very established organization, they started back in the eighties and they’re in over 106 countries around the globe. So this is important to me and my organization because we can just follow them around and slide in to wherever they’re established and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. So we are going to look at an orphanage, cause it’s important for me to partner with an orphanage so that the children orphans can have an adult orphan grandparent. And that the seniors can share their wisdom with their child and then the children can learn the important commandment of honoring their elders. So this assistant living will also be run by all the indigenous people. So we’re creating jobs, we’re helping their economy and also for sustainability; we want them to have the tools and knowledge to this business model and replicate it all around their country. And partnering with the orphans and the children were covering the whole community from womb to tomb. We also, for sustainability, we wanted to be in a gated secure area so that they can feel safe and free to roam around. And there’s also, Go to Nations, has an arm where they do isotonic and a hydroponic farms. So they teach the children how to grow the food, then the seniors and the orphan have food supply and then any abundance they can sell at the market. So they have some type of income stream.
Lucas: Wow. Josh, you know Bridge the Gap is very mission-driven right. But Josh, this is a big mission right here.
Josh: It’s a big mission. I love it. I can’t wait to see what develops, like truly develops here. Can you tell us, so in our Americanized culture and minds as senior living professionals, I think we immediately start thinking, or at least I do, how in the world do you identify like where you’re going to go into it. It seems like there’s probably so many opportunities around the world. You obviously chose Honduras, but then when you go, you’re obviously partnering with a lot of people, but what does the physical plant look like? What does that community, or that housing structure from a size standpoint and how are you going to go about staffing it and training people? Because I would assume, here in the US we have a very regulated environment, but none of that probably really exists where you’re going. So you’re really forging new pathways. So can you talk us through a little bit about like how this is going to roll out over the coming months?
Stacy: Yeah. So, the building itself, we’re looking at starting with 20 residents with the footprint to grow to 40. And like I said, we hope that they will take this and replicate it around. So it is our business model that we will have a vacant facility here in the United States where it will be a training ground. And we are going to have long-term missionaries that will come train here and all the different aspects of running it. So the food and beverage, the executive director, the nurse, the caregivers. So we will be having trainers, we will hire trainers, US trainers to train these long-term missionaries who will then go to whatever location we are at in the world. And we will hire the local nationals to then train them how to run this. And we will stay involved in the day-to-day operations for about three to six years to make sure that they’re running properly, that they have the skills and tools necessary. And then we’ll back out and let them just run it themselves. We’ll always stay involved because they’ll constantly need funding. So we’ll always have to fund them, but as far as day-to-day operations, we want them to be self-sustaining in that.
Josh: Tell our listeners, what are some of your goals? What are some of your needs for this year? You’re just starting this organization and I can only imagine it’s such a huge undertaking just to get the organizational structure built, but then to take that structure overseas and then duplicate it. Can you just give us some of your fundamental needs this year? We’ve got a very diverse audience that I’m sure they would love to know how to get involved.
Stacy: Oh, the needs are money and grace. So, we are looking for of course, corporate sponsorship. We are looking for companies like Kimberly Clark to come and partner with us to provide and incontinence products and maybe a McKesson to come and partner with us. And maybe a senior living company to come and partner with us financially to help us in the costs of launching this organization. But we’re also looking for skilled people who have knowledge, like I said, there’s so many different moving parts in this that we are needing. There’s construction, so I need a knowledgeable person in the construction of the build and we need knowledgeable lawyers to make sure that we’re not getting ourselves in trouble here, and we need CPAs. I mean, all of it, all the organizational structure, stuff that we’re slowly putting this team together. We are just, like I said, we’re putting the word out there for those people to come forward and we have different sponsorship levels to partner to get on our website.
Josh: So Lucas I’m kind of sensing and feeling a mission trip on Bridge the Gaps future here. So it sounds like to me, Stacy, pretty much any discipline of senior care housing programs, services, any partner to the industry could potentially contact you and be of some help now or in the future, potentially get involved if not just financially, but could physically potentially get involved with being part of helping to care for very needy people all over the world, through your organization. Is that what I’m understanding?
Stacy: You’re correct. And even marketers, I need to get the word out there right now. And the industry here in the United States, our vision is very similar; to care for the elderly. We’re just taking that globally. We have to go care for those that have nothing that have no hope. And people say to me you know, there’s so much work to do here in the United States. And yes, that is true. I was an executive director at assisted living, I know at hands on what that all entails. But you know, the differences I’ve been to Haiti on mission trips. And one of the greatest life-changing stories was we are sitting talking to this little old lady, Vivian, and we had an interpreter and my daughter who was a freshman in high school at the time, complimented her on these little gold earrings that she had in her ears and she’s like, oh, those are really pretty. And Vivian reaches up to her ears and takes her earrings out and hands them to my daughter. My daughter is like, oh no, no, no, they’re pretty on you. And then translator’s like, no you need to take them, she’ll be offended. So she graciously took these earrings and it was life-changing for us because as we reflected on that, here’s this woman that has absolutely nothing. And she so willingly gave her only possession to a total stranger and we think, oh, you know, we’re samaritans, we’re going to go save the world, you know? And, but look at who was teaching who. It was just, these people are gracious and humble and filled with joy, even though they have nothing. So we want to do our part and just educating too, because in these developing countries, they don’t know what Alzheimers is, they don’t know what dementia is. And when mom forgets who you are, dad starts acting violent, they believe that their loved one is possessed by a demon and they are shunned and they’re abandoned. So it’s educational too, our organization has a whole community outreach role. We’ll do home health where we’re going to go find those families that are struggling to care for their loved one and educate them and give them the resources and whatever it may be. Do they need a wheelchair? Do you know, even simple things like how to do a proper transfer, so they’re not hurting their loved one. So again, yeah, it goes to the needs that are so enormous.
Josh: Well, you know, Stacy and Lucas, I know one of the things is a great challenge obviously is going to these areas that are like a great frontier where this care is not being provided where there’s not a regulatory environment. And I know that all of the systems and processes and education and resources that we have, and we’re blessed to have here in the US and I think we take a lot of that for granted. That we have so much to give in other words, but I also believe as I’m sitting here thinking about this with you, one of the things I hope that you’re able to do, and I hope that the listeners and all of us are able to also help you with is to capture every step of the process of what you’re doing over there because here’s what I also believe, that when you take away corporate bureaucratic systems and infrastructure, and many bureaucratic, so to speak red tape and regulatory things that often times I believe prohibit us, or at least give us obstacles in doing just what’s right. What is good for humanity when all of those are kind of taken away and you’re just there just providing great care and great resources. I have to believe when we capture that and bring that back to the US it could also teach us something here in return, because as you mentioned, it’s a global problem. And while we are very blessed here in the US we also have some work to do. We have a lot of improvements for caring for those that are hurting and needing. So I think you’re going to have a lot more influence even back here in the US as well as abroad. And I can’t wait to see that Lucas. I mean, are you getting excited yet, or what.
Lucas: I’m getting excited? I think that BTG needs to get down there and help out and maybe you know rally some troops, some ambassadors and some contributors and all that. So, Stacy, this has been a really important conversation to us. And I know for a fact that our listeners right now, they’re going to want to know more. They’re going to want to connect with you. They’re going to want us to connect with your organization. What’s the best way for them to do that?
Stacy: They can visit our website and its hands4life.net and find all the information out on there.
Lucas: That’s wonderful. Well, we’ll make sure that we connect that in our show notes, as well as on our website, BTGvoice.com. To all of our listeners that are tuning into the BTG network right now, you can go to BTGvoice.com and access all of our programming access links to our videos, links to our social media. And then the whole week that this show is out we’re going to be relaying all of these little bits and pieces that are important conversations and topics. And we want to hear from you, we want you to comment on our social pages. If you have any questions or concerns, please use the contact form on our websites. The transcript is there as well, and we’ll make sure that everybody can contact Stacy if they are interested. Thank you, Stacy, for spending some time with us and our prayers and encouragement is going to be with you.
Stacy: Thank you. I appreciate that, there’s a lot of work to be done.
Lucas: A lot of work to be done, and we’re here to help be a part of that voice on the BTG network. Thanks for everybody listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.