Friday, March 28, 2008

Wool dying

It has been a crazy week with lots of trials and triumphs. I want to share one particular special moment I had this week. The same group that won first place in a wool dying competition (receiving literacy classes), well they invited me to witness the wool-dying process. It is an all day process. Pictured here they are preparing the wool. In the meantime there are 4 big pot boiling with different natural plants, all painting the wool different colors. The women "cook" their wool in boiling water and then rinse it out and let the wool dry. The colors were amazing, and the whole process is natural, organic and totally driven by these women. To say I was amazed doesn't even describe my feelings. The women participating in this process are part of an artesian project that is aimed to help poor women improve their wool and wool products. I am not sure how many women are participating, but there are at least 3 of our village banks represented in this larger group. My hope to be able to support more of the women involved, invite them to form more banks and who knows what else? Export? Lots of possibilities...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Vowel Song

Now that I have figured out how to take video with my digital camera, I am sure I will be sharing more and more "work action" on this blog. Lately I have been camera trigger happy. I went to visit the village bank Jehova es mi Pastor this past week to check in and see how literacy classes were going. I was pleasantly surprised.
Class started a little late, because the group was coming from a wool dying competition, where they won first place. But, class did start...with a bang! Lily, the literacy teacher, started class with the vowel song. As you can see, the women loved it. I thought they were going to start dancing. Everyone was present, homework was on the table, and kids were shouting out answers. I hope this energy and thirst for learning continues. Next week we are "suppose to" get our supplies for classes from the Ministry of Education. I am counting on them to come through for us, unlike the past couple of times.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Azucenas Meeting

Last week I held a meeting with our elected "Comite" (Women representing all the village banks) and the Presidents of all the 21 Banks. The goal was to improve communication with our office and the banks, invite all the women to participate in future activities and include them in the planning of future events. Many great things came from this meeting - new ideas, feedback, energy to plan bigger activities. The Comite members said that they want to be going to visit the different banks; introduce themselves, get to know the banks (they are representing them), and serve as the communication link between the office and the women. So here, Sofia is introducing herself to the village bank Azucenas and explaining the purpose of her visit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Porcon crosses

On a non-work note, I had an amazing experience this past Palm Sunday. I went to a small village outside of Cajamarca - Porcon - to witness the carrying of 40 crosses through muddy mountain paths. It is a rich tradition where rural communities come together to decorate these 70 kilo crosses, and carrying them to the Porcon church singing and praying in Quecha, the Incan language that isn't often found in Cajamarca. It was pretty breathtaking, colorful and chaotic.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More Jewelry

We held our second round of successful jewelry workshops this week. Here I am pictured in my office, where we hold our jewelry workshops, with the proud women and their complete jewelry sets. This time the facilitator Rosario gave the women a general example, but encouraged them to use their creativity to finish their earrings and bracelets. So it was as if we took another step in the teaching process, and instead of saying, "do as I do," the message was : "Create what you can and want to produce with the knowledge you have." The other part of the workshop that was very touching for me was to hear a story from a returning participant. She said that her and her daughter, after the first workshop, made another jewelry set at home and then sold it for 15 soles ($5) and her eyes just lit up when she told me. I think she was surprised that she could make that amount of money on a jewelry set. Her plan is to turn this knowledge into a family business. And let me tell you she has all of my blessings.

On a side note, when I went to the market last weekend I saw one of my women (2nd from right) selling limes. But, I didn't recognize her face, but I did recognize her earrings. She was wearing the earrings that we made in the previous workshop. I told her how beautiful she looked and kinda skipped out of the market that day, thinking... if nothing else this workshop gives the women a chance to make something special for themselves and treat themselves. That too is a much needed and powerful thing.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cake everywhere

It was Soledad's B. day today, so we celebrated in the office in true Peruvian style. We took a little chunk of our morning to sing Happy Birthday and then put Soledad's face in the cake. But, let me back up. Vanessa and I went to go get the cake on the motorcycle. Now I have carried lots of different things on this motorcycle with Vanessa : 4 fruit cakes, a guitar, live animals...but this cake was definitely the hardest item to carry. It was decorated so elegantly and it was placed in an open box, so I am sad to say when it arrived at the office, a good chunk of it was on my coat. Despite the coat filled cake ride and Soledad's face in the cake, there was still plenty to go around when we actually sat down to eat it. My co-workers work so hard, and now that I have been here 3 months, it is so fun take a break and celebrate with them, after all, they deserve it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Crazy, busy week

This past week was great, crazy busy. I was finally able to introduce the first literacy teacher to her group. It is a small group of 4 women that live out of the city. One of them has had some schooling past 1st grade, the others are illiterate and excited to learn. We filled out the paperwork that the Ministry of Education needs to give them materials. I still have to figure out about teacher materials, but Lily - the literacy teacher, is a dynamic person and I know she will make the classes work with whatever resources she has. She even told the women that they would be singing in her classes to help with their lessons. They all laughed. The women agree that they want to have classes twice a week and go all year long. I mentioned that we would focus on these first four months, evaluate and if they pass their literacy test - send them to the university! They laughed - but I think it is so important to give them the idea the world is full of possibilities, they just need to believe it and believe in themselves.

Pictured here is another Literacy Teacher, Lucia. She willing be working with a group of 6 women in the countryside also - and is pictured filling out all the paperwork so that the group can have materials to work with during their classes.

I also met with a non-profit clinic that has given me a proposal to offer dentist, psychologist, and pap smear visits at a very reasonable price. But, even better is that they are offering preventative, health educational talks, or "charlas." The Director of the clinic is very concerned about health prevention in Cajamarca, and wants to do everything in her power to get information out to women. The price tag for all three visits is 20 soles - or $7. DHF will cover most of the cost, but ask the women to pay a small co-pay. I know all the women may not want to go to a clinic setting, but I feel like my job here is to create opportunities that women may not have had previously. According to many of the women, they have had a negative experiences with the public hospital and clinics. So, by providing an alternative health location I feel like it is a chance for women to have a different experience in a health care setting. Those that choose not to participate, that is fine. I'll keep looking for opportunities to bring health care to them, outside of the normal health care setting.

Among all this planning, I feel like there are so many possibilities. So many possibilities, it keeps me from sleeping at night. Like a clown, I have all these plates spinning and I am keeping them spinning while trying to stay sane.