Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sewing with Ribbon

This month we started more workshops (besides jewelry). Jewelry is still a hit, and we will do another one next month, but there have been requests from women to learn other things. Aida, a women in one of the banks, makes precious, beautiful things with ribbon. So we contracted her to teach other women how to "sew with ribbon." It sounds kinda corny, I know, but if you look closely at the bag Aida is sewing it looks fabulous when all is said and done. The first workshop was so successful that we decided to hold two workshops next month - one in the city and one in the country. Aida is a patient teacher and I was so impressed as she went around and individually helped each women start their first ribbon project. In the first picture above I made all the women look at the camera, and when I said "cheese" in English everyone started laughing. Who knew my job was part comedian?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Patience of Poverty

I wait for familiar faces to show up.
Materials ready. Everything ready.
There was excitement. Reassurance.
Yes, we will come.
I wait.
We want to learn how.
Make a better life. For our kids.
I still wait.
Do I know how it feels to be poor?
Really poor.Not college poor, but poor when I am not sure if there is food for my family tomorrow or money to get into the city today or hoping I get a decent price for my pig so that I can provide what I need to for those I care for.
I prioritize education, growth, learning - that is how you can get ahead.
But, if I lived in an adobe house with cracks where the rain comes in and I spend all morning cooking lunch or selling vegetables on the street or wake up at
5am to milk cows and wonder why my guinea pigs died - would I go to class in the afternoon?
Maybe. Maybe I would go a little late. Because I had to pick the kids up from school, go to the 3 pharmacies because no one had the medicine I needed and take the crowded combi that doesn't pass close to class...
I am just trying to understand why I am still waiting.
An hour later I see two faces I know.
We start.
Frustration. Anger. Disappointment. Can I let it go so that we can start?
It is not as I imagined, but there is a start.
This is the patience of poverty.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Way to work

I realize that I have only been writing about women, women, women. Really that is my world here, but there are some other images that you should also witness if you are picturing Nora working in Peru. When I walk about 10 minutes to my office I often pass by these images. There is a famous morning drink made with Aloe and Noni (no idea what that is). It is said to cure any aliment for any organ you might have a problem with it. I haven't tried it, but I hear it is slimy. I am tempted every morning. I also pass by these gentlemen in their 3 wheel bikes. I never see them working, but I am sure at some point they use the bikes for something. Jealousy. I sometimes wish I had a day like them where I wasn't in a hurry to go from here to there. But, on the other hand, they sit on this busy street corner inhaling awful grey smoke with all kinds of loud, crazy noises...not so relaxing. I'll stick to my women.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Can't stop...

The women in the banks have got me running here and there and I just can't stop. This week was just filled with stuff. Where to begin? I had to stop by some groups to follow up on activities that they want to do, which in and of itself is a lot of work - our village banks are so spread out. Thankfully I had to visit groups in Los Banos, where there are thermal baths and I could finally shower! (I have been without a hot shower for more than a week)
I also visited one of our newer banks, Triunfo. They initially told me that they were interested in literacy classes, but then changed their minds - no time. Well we chatted again and this time they said, if we can learn handicrafts during our literacy classes, then we want literacy class. So I brought Nelly out to meet the group, and they were delighted. Nelly brought some examples of her crochet projects and that is all it took. They are starting with 1 hr. of literacy class and 1 hr. of handicraft class next week on Wed. They are going to learn how to make ponchos first.
We had our 3rd jewelry workshop. 26 women in one patio. Pictured here is the smaller table, and it was lovely until it started to rain. The women learned how to make necklaces and earrings without the tools we have been using. It was great and chaotic. More women showed up than expected, so we were running a little thin on materials. But, no complaints. They are getting creative and I decide to host an open jewelry workshop on Friday so that women can come and use the materials leftover from previous workshops.
But the activities don't stop there....We also finished up our health talks this week - women will continue to go to their visits (dental, pap and psychologist) next week. Vanessa, my co-worker, who is also a vet, gave a "how to protect your animals from disease" talk to one our banks. It was great, I didn't know that if your hen sneezes it is a sign that they are getting sick. I definitely feel like there is lots of great stuff happening with our banks, I just need to rest so that I can be prepared for the women next week.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Health Prevention in the Dark

I am writing this entry with some mixed emotions - but that is how things go in Peru. Per request of many of the women, I organized some health "charlas" or talks. There is a non-profit clinic near our office that was very interested in providing preventative health education to our women. When I went out visiting women in my first few months in Peru everyone told me they wanted more information and access to health information for themselves and their children. And, many women told me that they hadn't had a pap smear in years, if ever. So in combination with health charlas I wanted to offer low-cost appointments. Great!

We had our first charla on Monday and 20 women were signed up. 4 came. 40 minutes late. So we started the activity late, and we ended late - and for 2 of the women who live more than an hour away in the countryside, I know they walked home in the dark that night. I worked my butt off calling people through out the week to make sure the same thing didn't happen on Friday. The same thing didn't happen, other things did. Friday we had 20 women show up, early and on time. But, the doctors were late setting up the projector, which ended up only working for less than half of the program. And when the final presenter, a psychologist, went up do her presentation on self-esteem and family violence, the lights went out. No electricity. So there she was in the dark, women getting anxious to leave and again ending our program after sunset.

Despite my frustrations with not having control over being able to put together a "perfect" health charla, the general feedback is that the women loved the information. They learned about family planning, breast and cervical cancer, importance of paps and how to do a self-breast exam. It was lots of info., but there were also lots of questions. I guess perfection comes in all kinds of different forms.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Literacy images

This week was another week to visit literacy classes - check in, make sure things are moving along OK, and OH, bring a chalkboard to one of our groups. Lily is pictured here in the non-muddy section of our walk to bring her chalkboard to her class. Our taxi couldn't take us all the way to the house where classes are held because the road is to narrow. But, no worries - the chalkboard made it. After visiting Lily's class, I walked to Lucia's class, which is only 20 minutes down the road. I needed to check-in with this group because last week when they met there was only 1 student present, and she arrived an hour late. This week there was 3 students and they were all busy writing in their notebooks when I arrived. We talked about changing days that women will have classes to make it more convenient. The group also agreed that they would like to mix their literacy classes with "manualidades," or handicraft workshops. So during their Saturday classes, their will be an hour of class and an hour of handicrafts. We'll try it, see how it goes. For me I am just happy to see there is still some interest.