Friday, February 29, 2008


Sometimes things just work out. This week I -randomly- met all my literacy teachers in the park, treated them to a sweet potato fried treat while we had a meeting on the bus stop about how literacy classes will be working in the next couple of weeks. Just when I thought things were moving slowly I meet 4 teachers that are ready to get started asap. I felt awful offering them a mere 70 soles, or $23 a month, for their once a week services, but that is the going rate - and I don't want to seem too gringa by offering them an outrageously high rate. With time and good work hopefully I can reward them for all their efforts appropriately. This means things are moving in a direction to actually starting something long-term! There is a big smile on my face right now.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Knitter's paradise

Today I went out to a little tourist site outside of town in hopes of getting some inspiration and good info. for my women about working in "co-ops." I went to Granja (Farm) Porcon. It is a co-operative made up of 400 inhabitants that began in the 70's with help from the Belgium Gov. They gave money to reforest the land with pine trees, and now 9 out of 10 Hectares is covered in pine that is used as a crop, but always reforested. It rained on us during our tour of the farm, so I don't feel like I got a good sense of how the co-op actually works (as we were rushing through), but it looked like there was multiple income generating activities besides lumber: milk products, artesian crafts, hotel and tourism. However, I was inspired by all the animals that produce wool for knitting. Pictured here is a vicuna, family of the llama. 2 lbs. of wool from the vicuna is worth anywhere between $700-1000. More than gold during the time of the Incas (and now!) Maybe this is where the women need to be investing? Vicunas for all the women!

Jewerly in Making

So something has actually come together - a successful organized learning opportunity! We held two jewelry workshops this week for a total of 21 women. They came from 8 different village banks, and the facilitator herself is a president of one of the banks. In one afternoon all the women that came for the workshop walked away with a complete set of jewelry: necklace, earrings, and bracelet. They were so proud and asking for more. Next month I think we will be putting on more workshops - learning a different model and style of course. Some of the women came with their daughters and babies, and the daughters proved to be a great help for some. I was most happy when one of the women said, "I want to make more so I can sell jewelry in my tienda (store) and have more income." That was kind-of the idea, but more-so giving the women an opportunity to learn a new skill, and those that will use it for their business - more power to you, sister!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lost in Communication

Today was a day, but isn't every day a day? I had set up two different meetings with two different village banks. In the morning I traveled an hour, 40 minutes of which was a hike out in between cow pastures (although I do realize many of my friends in the U.S. commute this amount of time daily, so I am not complaining, just saying). Upon arriving to the usual meeting location for "Perlita" bank I found a closed barbed wire fence and no one, only a couple of lazy dogs. So I waited. No one. Then a neighbor came out, who is part of the bank, and asked me what I was doing.
"I am here for the meeting with the bank members, only problem is that no one is here."
Andrea, the nice neighbor, didn't know about the meeting. I guess the message didn't arrive. This isn't the first time. And, I think it won't be the last either. So Andrea and I chatted for a bit. She bought a bull with her sister-in-law with their loan money. She is hoping to make a profit, but from the sounds of it, she pays quite a bit to rent land for the bull to graze; so hopefully she will at least break even. We talked about how she loves to raise animals and wants to be involved with the literacy classes that are starting at some point. She is a quiet bank member in the group, but really opened up to me this morning. She is going to spread the message that I will come back next week to meet with the whole group. I hope the message doesn't get lost again. Left me with more food for thought about supporting the women in money (business) management. It seems to be a reoccurring theme here, along with the idea that some women hold, " Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose." True, but YOU also can make decisions so that you have more wins than loses.

Then in the afternoon I went to a different village bank, where there was also some lack of communication understanding. I went to talk to "Triunfo" to get some more concrete information about how they want to proceed with literacy class, and then also take some more pictures of the members. Lorenzo, the president, was there - but everyone else was out working. She was actually on her way to the office to visit me. We almost just missed each other. She didn't understand that I was coming out to her neighborhood, and I thought I was going to meet with everyone. And this is all happening just when I am feeling very fluent and good about my communication with the banks. I need to re-think this - the whole communication thing. What I have found is that if you tell someone something one or two days prior - there is a greater likelihood of it happening. When I try and plan meetings a week or more in advance it usually falls flat in my face and I get a good walk in, but no group meeting. So at the moment I am feeling a little lost in communication.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

With a stamp

Frustrated, lack of patience, have to laugh, want to cry, where's the fast forward button? This week I have been working non-stop to get literacy classes started, this is now more than a month after I spoke with the Min. of Education that they are willing to collaborate. I know I could go ahead and start with the teachers I've got, but with Min. of Edu. collaboration we can get materials and an official certificate for the women once they are done with classes - so I want to do this right. I went to the head-honcho on Monday because things were moving at a snail's pace. She introduced me to the same man that I had been trying to work with. She said my matter was urgent, so we got on the computer right away and starting drafting up a working contract. The man (bless his heart) that I was working with was typing like a 4th grader, so it took all afternoon to finish this contract. Imagine sitting in this hectic Education office, people crammed in wall-to-wall, people hiding behind stacks of paper, and we are working on this 1980's old computer - slow as molasses. I knew I should have brought my knitting. Well, the contract didn't get finished because I need an official stamp with my name on it in order to sign this contract.
"I don't have a stamp."
"You have to get a stamp."
"Can't I just sign it as is?"
" No it is not official that way," and on and on...
So I go and get a stamp made. Come back the next day, only to find out the guy that needs to sign the contract isn't there, but he will be there tomorrow. Can I come back? As it is now I am waiting for my copy of the contract and the names of some teachers, but some of the big stuff has been figured out. With a stamp it makes it all official.

Friday, February 8, 2008

New Bank "Perlita"

This week a new village bank formed. The women all live out in the countryside and many raise small animals like guinea pig or chickens for income. Here the the group is pictured during their swearing-in ceremony. The women standing are the elected President, Treasurer, Secretary and Fiscal. "Perlita" expressed interest in literacy classes, so the hope is to start those classes later this month.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Kid Donation & Money talk

It was an exciting day yesterday. A group of kids in the U.S. gathered their "pennies for peace" and gave a generous donation for kids in Peru. The donation was used to buy school supplies for the kids of the new bank "Triunfo." School starts next month, and for many of the mothers it is overwhelming to have to buy all the school supplies for their kids. There was lots of happy faces, just not so much for the photo.

After the loan repayment part of "Triunfo" meeting, upon the women's request, I prepared a money management discussion. We talked about the importance of separating personal and business money. We also talked about the importance of investing their loan money into their business. The women made comments that often times they are asked to borrow out their money, and it is hard for them to separate personal from business money. It lead into a great discussion, and I think left some food for thought about how they will manage their money in the future. Here I am using examples of how different women use their loan money.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Carnival Break

This past weekend was Carnival in Cajamarca. Actually, it was a holiday on Monday, so it was a long weekend of water balloon fights, exquisite costumes, music in the street, and the special homemade chicha drink. It was a sight to see. I spent most of the weekend under my blue plastic, trying to stay as dry as I could. Carnival was fun and crazy, but I can honestly say I am happy to continue on with life as normal and recover from the chaos.