Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cooking with octopus

There are some personal benefits to the activities I organize with my women groups. I get to try new foods (that I might not otherwise try). One of the village banks requested a cooking class - a loan recipient in this group opened a small restaurant and wants to learn more recipes so she can add a variety of plates to her menu. So I found the teacher, bought the pork and seafood (including octopus) this morning, the other ladies went to the market to get the other ingredients and we starting cooking away. Our teacher was fabulous, giving little tips here and there to help the women save money, invest better and produce a better quality plate at the end of the morning. We started cooking at 9:30 and an hour later we ate our first plate - seafood ceviche with sweet potato and yuca. It was delicious. Our class didn't end there. We were also cooking another famous Lima pork dish - Carapulca. For not liking pork, I have to tell you all it was also delicious. I ate two plates worth. I felt like I was in the presence of a growing business. Vanessa, the restaurant owner, claimed that she will make the new dish Carapulca on Monday and see how her customers like it. You can't get any more "putting into practice learning" than this.

Monday, May 26, 2008

More Ribbon, More Money

I think we got another good one. Jewelry was a hit with our ladies and now we have gathered more energy around ribbon. I never would have planned this, but then again when you let development work happen through the voice of the women, they are the ones that create their opportunities. In the next couple of months we are going to let women go wild with jewelry and we are going to hold some new workshops - one which has already started. Sewing with Ribbon. We are making some headway. One of the women that came to the workshop has already used her sewing skills and was contracted to sew flowers on 5 pairs of pants for 5 soles each - Total: 25 soles = $9.25 more money than she had before.

I am finding through my interactions with women that our educational opportunities provide an alternative income for our women. Often times the women learn a new skill that they can use to provide additional income, not much, but something more than they had before. Also, it brings women together. Anytime you bring women together in a country where women have a small voice, it creates more power, confidence, and positive energy. I was reminded of this when I was out in the countryside and one of our small, humble banks gathered and told me, "Nora, we are making more ponchos. We want to participate in the next Artesian Fair and we want to have lots of products to sell since we didn't get to sell last time."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Showing off

We held our fourth jewelry workshop (and last one, at least for a bit). Our jewelry workshop facilitator has a passion for teaching sewing, so the hope is to attract new faces to a different workshop next month. We had 11 women come on Saturday and instead of making necklaces and bracelets, we made rings. I even made one (mine was a little loose and the process convinced me that I won't be opening a jewelry business anytime soon). However since many of the women sew, and we had to sew the pearls onto the ring base, they found the process easy. The women pictured here have finished with their rings and are showing them off.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Marmalade, Finally!

One of the village banks has been asking me for the past 2 months to set up a marmalade class. One of the women in their group sells in the market - so the group wants to use her position in the market to generate more income for the entire group. Well, we found a women that makes delicious marmalade and is willing to teach, so we set up the class this week. After all the asking and trying coordinate - it happened, with 2 women. I am not disappointed, at least the 2 women came. I have tried to organize classes where less than 2 women were present. Besides the 2 women from the village bank, there were two other women from different banks present - so we actually had a nice little crowd. We made the marmalade from the fruit tomatillo and it turned out to be pretty tasty. During the class the women were writing down the recipe and asking questions. I told them at their next group meeting they should make marmalade so we can see if they learned the recipe. They laughed and nodded.

Although there wasn't a big fair or mother's day event this week, my days were still full of surprises and headaches. On Monday there was a transportation strike, so I was stuck with all the plastic chairs from our event on Friday and no way to get them back to the office. It was actually probably the first time I was scared for my safety here in Peru. The strikers were throwing rocks and pinching tires of other taxi drivers that weren't honoring the strike. A friend of a loan recipient saved the day and the chairs and I got back to the office in one piece.
I also went to visit one of the literacy groups this week - and to celebrate Mother's Day (and their 2 month mark) they were having a little bar-b-que. I actually couldn't stay for the meat because I had another group, but it was a nice surprise to see this group coming together after their class in celebration.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ponchos in the Making

I am so proud of this group. Last month the village bank Triunfo met their literacy/knitting/crochet teacher and started classes the same week. On Saturday the group invited my co-workers and I out to eat lunch with them, for Mother's day. It was a delicious meal (thank goodness no guinea pig this time). Before the meal they all brought out their ponchos. One woman has finished and is planning on selling it for 20 soles ($7) and is already planning on buying more yarn so she can make another one. The group also showed us their literacy notebooks. Nelly has really got this group united and excited about learning. Lorenza, the president, was disappointed that they couldn't participate in the Fair that we held last week, but told us on Sat., "now we know how to make something and we can participate in the next Artesian Fair."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Celebrating Mother's Day

This may well have been my busiest week with the women. I didn't even have time to recover from the Feria/Fair on Wed. when we had to finish preparations for a Mother's Day activity on Friday afternoon. Much like the big activity that was planned in January where all 200 loan participants were invited, it was a chaotic success. The microphone didn't work, we ran out of chairs, the CD player wouldn't read the CD's and we started almost an hour late. The good news is that we had guests from a different NGO join us to talk about business basics, we recognized the village banks that are timely on their loan payments and other women that have been helpful and crucial to planning DHF activities, and there was some good dancing. We honored the timely and organized banks with small gifts (clay pots, cups, certificates) and I think this really showed the rest of the women how important their success is to us as NGO's. It also served as an incentive to encourage the other banks to follow in their footsteps. The afternoon ended with a special dance - together with my co-workers we dressed up in typical Carnival costumes and preformed a Carnival dance, which ended with participation from our audience. It was great fun, my only regret is not having a good picture to document this part of the afternoon. Next time, and next time we will have a working microphone and enough chairs too.

Receiving her pot and certificate for being in first place as far as loan repayment is concerned compared to the other village banks. Co-workers Soledad and Jorge also pictured.
Recognizing the hard work of some of the women that have helped plan the event and other events.
Dance troop making everyone smile.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Artesian Fair

These are some of the images of the first artesian fair that DHF held. Not only was it DHF's first fair, but for many of the women it was also their first fair and chance to sell their products outside of their home. We had 21 women participate with everything from jewelry, marmalade, blankets, hats, ponchos, shawls, sweaters, and fresh food. The good news is that we had lots of people stop by and check us out, the bad news is that the women didn't get to sell too much. Being that it was our first time, I think everyone learned a lot - and we have lots of ideas of how to improve and make our next fair better. I think the next one will be at the end of June - you all are invited!