Friday, December 18, 2009


Yes folks, the move went smoothly. (I may have scared you in the last post?) My moving truck was a little rusty and lopsided, but nothing got lost in the shuffle. Hope House is packed up in a safe location until Feb. classes start next year.

Why is Hope House moving?

1. We found a more central location
2. With lower rent costs!
3. The new Hope House will have a full kitchen stove - so no more appetizer mishaps, like this year
4. Computers for computer classes are part of the new Hope House
5. And, a room full of sewing machines will also be part of the Hope House!!!!

We have lots of things to look forward to in 2010 with DiscoverHope Fund's work supporting women in poverty. While the year comes to end, it provides DHF a good chance to celebrate, rest, and recharge for another year of important work in the year to come.

Paz as you also celebrate, rest and recharge ~ Nora

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Packing up Hope House

Folks, this is an exciting, busy, and emotional time. The Hope House is turning into boxes. Since Hope House will be changing locations next year, it is my task to make sure with the move all of DHF materials make it from point A to point B. The moving task is a bit stressful, as it involves going to the designated location in Cajamarca where you negotiate with guys that have big trucks. Once you strike a deal, the moving begins. Moving has to be done with two people - why? - because you leave the stuff out in the truck on the street by itself and it may not be there when you return with the next load.

The exciting part of this time of the year (besides on the verge of getting married!), is reflecting back on the year and punching the numbers of goodness that DHF has created. I am so proud. We've done good this year. Women have generated more than $3,500 of additional income as a result of our classes. We've held more than 240 activities to support women in their personal and business growth. And, we've reached more than 800 total participants in all our activities this year. Amazing!

Thanks to all the supporters out there that make the DHF machine run smoothly and impact women in Cajamarca beyond what we can measure.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Big Chocolatada

Hot Chocolate and Paneton and craziness. The basics for a Christmas celebration in Peru. In other words: The Big Chocolatada

DHF and Afider held our last big event together for the year this afternoon, the 2009 Chocolatada. We invited more than 200 women to join us in celebrating the holiday season. Thankful only half of them came because otherwise there just wouldn't have been room in the office. We were scheduled to start at 3:30, which means 4:30 Peruvian time. At 3:30 we had only just begun to cut the Paneton (sweet fruit bread). We filled 3 big boxes with cut Paneton and served pipping hot cinnamon hot chocolate all afternoon. There was Christmas music, speeches reflecting on the year, little gifts for the kiddos and Santa hats.

For me it was surprisingly an enjoyable afternoon. I usually get stressed out during these big events: starting late, making women wait, is there enough crackers? But not this afternoon. I enjoyed the presence of the women present that have shaped my life these past two years. Women that have inspired and challenged me. And I gave them thanks and upon popular demand even sang Jingle Bells in English to show my gratitude. And, let me tell you even though I didn't remember the 2nd verse of Jingle Bells the women still gave me a standing ovation. Only in Peru.

Happy hot chocolate drinking and sweet bread eatin',

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, December 10, 2009

DHF Winter News

Dear DHF Family,
Happy Holidays to all of you! Please enjoy our Winter Newsletter for all the year-end news about DiscoverHope and a glance at our new logo!

Sending Light,

Maggie Miller
Founder/Executive Director

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Some of our loan recipients had a new experience yesterday coding their jewelry. Why were they coding? A fellow in the chamber of commerce that had heard about our Export Facil endeavor was curious to help us out. As an export 'expert' and professor he offered one of his business students, who was looking for an artisan group, the chance to work together with our women on a jewelry catalog. A win-win. Ever, our lucky business student gets to do his homework for international business class and the women get the chance to put their products into a catalog. Ever was asking the women sizes, prices, material costs - very detailed questions that our women hardly ever answer. It is good food for thought for them to put more detail into their jewelry. If they are thinking export in the future, they need to be able to answer those questions and much more. The coding represents the different models that the women make. Even if we don't go international with our sales - if the women can streamline and develop many replicas of the same model they can start to expand their businesses and enter into new, bigger markets. Don't worry Austin - we have you in mind, depending on how the catalog turns out, we would love to send it to Texas and place orders!

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sell on the Bus!

This is the sign of a true business woman:
After our last class of the year - Crochet Christmas Boot - one of the students told me she was going to take her Boot on the Combi and show it off and maybe sell it. Now that is a true business go-getter. "I am not going to wait for someone to come to me and maybe buy something I make, I am going to go out there and show the world what I got."
That's the attitude!

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ribbon End

Our 2nd to last class of the year: Ribbon Designs on Pillowcases. Something you might find in a craft fair. Since our first pillowcase course last month, pillowcase have become the new favorite thing. What the women make I personally wouldn't use in my bedroom, but it is the high fashion here. When I do a mini-evaluation at the end of each class I try to get an idea about what the women learned and how they will use what they learned. They usually tell me they will try and sell it and make their new craft a business. Today their teacher pushed them to use it as a business. "Don't take this pillowcase and put it in your house where no one will see. Exhibit it. Sell it. Make more." I hope her push does push some of our women into business.

On the business note - I experienced the worst customer service today (well, almost everyday I experience bad customer service in Peru, but today was especially bad). I wanted to find out if this little corner store had envelopes.
"Can you show me the sizes?"
"You can't show me the sizes of envelopes you have?"
"You have to bring in a model of the size of paper you want to use for the envelope."
"But, I don't have the exact size, actually I want to see the sizes of the envelopes so that I can tailor my paper to the size you have."
"I am not going to take out all of my envelopes to show you. I have too many."

This conversation was repeated about 3 times. Can you believe that? I would think a business owener would want to sell her products, thus show them to her customers. I never got to see the size of the envelopes. We got a long way to go to improve businesses in Cajamarca outside of DiscoverHope Fund's reach.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Yearly Evaluation

As everyone has had, I am sure, a delicious turkey feast today I was chowing on dry guinea pig for lunch, preparing for my afternoon evaluation session. But, I am not complaining, don't get me wrong, just craving the thanksgiving feast that fills the stomach and soul when surrounded by family.

I will have to take the satisfaction that the year end evaluation brings as my thanksgiving treat. This afternoon I met with the leaders of our village banks to evaluate our year as it comes to end in a short couple of weeks. We looked at photos that women took with a disposible camera to evaluate the difference DHF has made in their life. Giving a voice to the women through photos. The room was filled with good comments and positive feedback. Surprisingly, the feedback that I didn't expect to get was from our leadership workshops. I held in total 7 workshops throughout the year and according to the women they made a big difference in their lives. It has translated to more courage and self-esteem, that has translated to more sales as they have put aside their fears of selling to an unknown customer or going out on the street to offer their products. I got that warm, fuzzy feeling when I recieved this feedback from a number of the women. Tis true that our footprints, actions, and simple presence does something more than we can feel or measure in the lives of others. On this day I give thanks that my path that has brought me here to do this needed work and those who have crossed my path all along the way. Thanks Be to those that have enrichment my life and in one way, shape, or form, I hopefully have enriched theirs also.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spirit of Season

I always remember that Christmas marketing season always comes too soon in the U.S.. The malls are filled with red and green and Santa Clause before Thanksgiving. Well, in Peru the same thing happens. And, I was part of it this week. Peruvians are mostly Catholic and heavily celebrate Christmas. They make all kinds of crafts to prepare for the holiday. We made one of those crafts yesterday, a Mama Noel made out a re-used plastic bottle. The women loved it although they continually burned themselves with the silicon glue gun. Our new craft was a great way to re-use plastic bottles and create a little work of art that can be used as a candy holder for the holidays. Women that came to our baby blanket class today were bummed to have missed the yesterday's class.

Paz in your preparation for the holiday season ~ Nora

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Some Bumps in the Road and a "Cleaning"

I thought last week was tough with wedding planning problems - things proved to be even more difficult this week. I will spare you a play by play of my week, but give you a highlight of the tough things.

1. Almost got robbed in the bus. Two very shady guys sandwiched me in the crowd and showed me their pocket, as if they had a gun. I fell on the floor. Screamed a little. They got off the bus. Too close for comfort.

2. My internet modem, that hardly works anyway, fell on the floor with my personal computer and broke. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. So now I am really without internet at home.

3. Getting out of a mototaxi for my house one night a big truck almost ran us over. Granted, we were parked right on the curve, but still, another life threatening moment wasn't what I needed this week.

4. And I got a stomach bug.

Talk about bad luck. I wish that one of my women would have "cleaned" me with newspaper. At our artisan bag class one of the loan recipient's baby started crying and another women suggested a "cleaning." Everyone agreed that the baby had seen too many eyes and got scared. Everyone started looking for newspaper to "clean" the baby. Once the newspaper was located, then the "cleaning" procedure started. While mom rocked the baby, another women passed the newspaper over the baby as if she was taking away the bad energy. They then took a candle and started to burn some of the newspaper, pass it over the baby. And surprisingly the baby stopped wailing. No more cry. The "cleaning" worked. I could have used that this week, too - who knows if "cleaning" works for bad luck.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jewelry lingering

Yesterday DHF held what I think will be the last jewelry class this year. We are in our last month of classes for the year, as I get ready to compile 2009 information to report out to our DHF family. This jewelry class was held in Banos de Inca and we filled up the patio of one of our loan recipients. This month's model was very simple, so the women finished early. Although the women finished their jewelry, they stayed around to make more jewelry, knit, crochet, and just chat. The lingering around for me equals joy, success and growth. It is proof that women enjoy the company, their teacher, and their thirst for learning continues. The lingering continued to the small fried chicken restaurant next to the patio, where another loan recipient has her business.

Paz to all those that linger ~ Nora

Monday, November 9, 2009

Holiday of Hope Thurs Nov 12! Holiday Shop for 40% of market prices...

Dear DHF Family,
We hope you will join us this Thursday Nov 12 at our final event of 2009,
Holiday of Hope!
Your $15 ticket treats you to fabulous food served by Thistle Cafe, Latin music by
Acoustic Jungle, and free garage parking downtown!

Your ticket also gives you entry into our silent auction party where you will be able to bid on incredible silent auction items for outrageous prices such as:
A pair of tickets to the Big 12 Championship game starting at $80
A pair of choice tickets to the Dallas Cowboys game starting at $130
A night at the Long Center for two and Eddie V's dinner starting at $70
Dell Mini computers starting at $140
Dell Studio Notebook starting at $300
Pilates and fitness packages starting at $50
Massages starting at $30
A week in Florida condo on the beach starting at $450
Lake Travis Retreat vacation starting at $480
Sunset Bat Cruise and dinner starting at $50
A $400 value to Four Hands Furniture starting at $120
and much more...including a weekend Wimberley cabin, a week in the majestic mountains of Keystone CO, health packages, dance and performance lessons, hockey and basketball games, wine dinners, professional services for companies and individuals, beautiful artwork, electronics and more! Come enjoy Holiday shopping for items starting at 40% of their market prices, 100% of your ticket and purchases support the work of DiscoverHope Fund

Join us Thurs Nov 12th, 7-10:30pm at the downtown Thistle Cafe located at 300 West 6th Street.
Get your tickets Here or on our

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Literacy End

Just a little taste of what my weekend looks like:
Our two literacy circle with the village banks Jehova es Mi Pastor and La Perlita finished their 7 month literacy courses at the end of October. Between the two groups they completed a total of 107 literacy sessions and 15 individual tutoring sessions. The two groups surprised me by making huge improvements on their post-literacy test (compared with their pre-test in April). We have women that can write their name and national ID number now. Women that can add and subtract. Write letters. Write descriptive text. Even multiply and divide. Huge, huge learning steps were made this year. Yesterday and today I am celebrating with the 2 groups and their literacy teachers with a close-of-classes mini ceremony. The women received/will receive literacy certificates for their participation and efforts this year. On top of that I felt it also worthwhile to give little gifts for the women that scored 20/20 in their post-test (4 out of 5 in Jehova group)!!! Part of our mini ceremony is to partake in the famous Peruvian Christmas Paneton, a little early, but Peruvians can never resist Paneton (the sugary, soft fruit cake found in every corner store in Nov/Dec).
Rejoice with me as I celebrate the literacy accomplishments with our women today!
Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Serpost EASY Export Facil Adventure

Let me share a little story about "easy" export with all you readers. On the week of Oct. 19 I started to fill out "easy" export forms with the local mail service Serpost. I filled them out with Brian Horsley online, but not without a handful of glitches. It took us 3 whole days to figure out the "easy" 1 page form. After getting the required signatures I was ready to take my package to the Serpost office. I packaged up our women's jewelry in a small box and walked with excitement to the office, as it was the first time DHF has entered into the export adventure.

I arrived at the office at 12:30. The woman that was behind the counter seemed a little confused when she saw my forms. But, she took them anyway and started typing away into her computer. She had a little problem with the coding and getting the computer to cooperate with her (or her cooperating with the computer?) After close to an hour of back and forth with the computer, the poor thing shut down. No screen. No service. "Just a minute, Senorita, we will process your paperwork."

A half an hour later I was still waiting for the computer to come back to full force. When it finally did, it was obviously that the woman that was helping me had no idea what she was doing. She called the Serpost office in another city to get some technical assistance. By 2:30 - 2 hours later - my forms were processed and I paid the $50 fee and said Thank You. I left the office with less confidence and patience than when I arrived. Will this package really make it to Austin? My confidence dropped even more when the Serpost woman called me at 3pm and said "Oops, we actually need your original receipt, not a copy." (contrary to what she had told me in the office). So, I went back to the office and mustered up a smile and handed her the official receipt.

The following week I received a phone call from the Serpost Director. He congratulated me on being the 1st! "easy" Export Facil customer in their office. That explains the horrible service! They had no idea what they were doing! The Director assured me that he would follow the package daily and give me a full report then it arrived in Austin. Furthermore, he invited me to talk to the press to help them get the word out about how easy Export Facil is. I told him that I didn't have the best experience in his office, but I was willing to talk to the press. The press and Director stood me up for our interview the following day.

Amazingly enough, yesterday the Director called me again. "We have confirmation that the package arrived in Austin, TX." This is a good reminder that sometimes you got to have a little bit more faith in the unknown.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, October 30, 2009


Trying a new craft with present knowledge. Women in Peru Knit. Crochet. Sew. But, DiscoverHope women before yesterday didn't know how to combine all three skills to create a Yute Bag. Now they do.

Yute is a natural thread that has become popular in Cajamarca for making artisan bags. DHF women have learned how to make bags out of artisan hand woven material, but haven't actually crocheted a bag before. This afternoon we had 15 Yute Bags completed, some of which were already "sold" before they were finished. Our participants had advertised their bags to family and friends before they were actually done. That's business in Peru for you. Hey, if our DHF class means more business for the women, mission completed and I am happy.
Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bocaditos Baker Trouble

Let me explain: Bocadito Baker Trouble = Plug-in ovens that take FOREVER to cook appetizers.
Yesterday DHF held an appetizer (bocadito) course where women learned how to make three different types of appetizers. It was a chaotic course. First, the rainy season started in Cajamarca about 2 weeks ago, and the rain yesterday came down in full force right at 3pm when our course was suppose to start. So we had some late arrivals (including the teacher) and some women that couldn't cross the river that was formed in front of their houses due to the downpour and just didn't make it.With the 11 women that did come to class we started close to 45 minutes late, which meant that we would ultimately run late. Run late we did. We ran later than expected. Mixing ingredients, following the recipes, listening to appetizer tips was the easy part. Baking the bocaditos was the hard part. The HopeHouse doesn't have a 'real' oven, so we borrowed two electric ovens that were known to bake things "very quickly." Very quickly turned into 8pm. Class started at 3:45pm. The majority of the women had to leave before 6pm to catch a car back to their houses, but some die hard appetizer bakers stayed til the end.

It was definitely most frustrating for me (everyone else seemed to not mind the baking delay) to not be able to finish the class in a timely manner and have everyone go home happy with the taste of bocaditos in their mouths. Our women brought home uncooked appetizers to bake in their own houses. I'll hopefully get the full report about the appetizer turn-out in the next couple of days when women trickle back to the office.

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Don't forget your Holiday of Hope Tickets!

Dear DHF Family,
Don't forget your tickets for
Holiday of Hope, our final event of 2009. 100% of your $15 ticket supports the work of DiscoverHope Fund and gives you entry into our silent auction party where you will be able to bid on vacations, dinner outings, artwork, and much more for amazingly low prices!

You'll be treated to fabulous free food from Thistle Cafe and Latin music by
Acoustic Jungle. Free parking is included in the garage as our no downtown parking hassles! Thank you to our event sponsors Thinkwell and Tunuvah for making this wonderful event possible!

Join us Thurs Nov 12th, 7-10:30pm at the downtown Thistle Cafe located at 300 West 6th Street.
Get your tickets Here or on our

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lots and lots of Guinea Pigs

Yesterday afternoon was the official close of the Health Project with the last village bank group preparing yet another plate of guinea pig. With Tula we attended 2 clausuras yesterday; the 1st village bank started at 11am and the 2nd group started at 2pm. Both groups prepared fried guinea pig (Cuy). We went from one Cuy lunch to another. On top of that, I was given a whole fried guinea pig to take home 'to eat as a snack later.' This week I have hit my weekly record of eating guinea pig. In addition to being incredibly physically full, I was also full with gratitude and happiness. Gratitude that as an institution we were able to provide this type of assistance. Provide an opportunity that our village bank women have never had to make improvements in their homes. Santos, one of our active participants in this project, asked me over and over, "Please don't leave us. Please continue helping us." Happiness in that the houses of our women have been transformed in the short 7 months of our Project. We have left new experiences and ideas and footprints for positive change. We have touched and transformed lives.
Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Close of Health Project

So last week was our Health Evaluation week and this week is the Close of Project week. We have been going out to each village bank to hold a 'clausura' where participation prizes and diplomas are given to each woman. We have gone to 2 banks this week and still have 2 more groups today. There have been speeches, applause, and warm words of sincere gratitude. Oh, the speeches. Peruvians are famous for long winded speeches that have no end. Tula caught me off guard when she asked me to give a speech to close the project with our first village bank clausura. I managed on the fly and made it as little winded as possible. The two groups we have gone to this week have prepared huge, enormous plates of rice, potatoes and guinea pig. Huge as in a mountain of rice. Countryside families outside of Cajamarca hold the tradition to serve lots of food when celebrating something. I tend to compare the enourmous food serving with their overflowing gratitude towards the Health Project. 'May God pay you for all you have done' are the words the echo out of Melchora, the president of our first village bank clausura.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Health Evaluation Hike Time

It is Health Evaluation Hike Time. This week with Tula and the presidents of the 4 village banks we are making the rounds. Visiting every participant's house and evaluating their progress. In the beginning of our Health Project in May, Tula made a Health Promise sheet with each family where they discussed the improvements the family wanted to make in their houses and who was going to be in charge of making those changes. As we hiked house to house, not only were the Health Promise sheets full, but the changes were evident. Humble families with little income increased the size of their kitchen (or in some cases built a new kitchen!), organized their kitchen utensils and cooking supplies, separated children bedrooms from their parents and even built brand new latrines! Many of the improvements required some money, but more so TIME. The families met with Tula every other week to learn about a new health topic related to their house and their daily hygiene habits. Tula gave the families homework and each women then went home to find out how she was going to implement the house homework in her house.The health promise sheet is full!!!
Seperating Adult and children's beds with plastic curtain to create "bedrooms."

Yosebia uses an old fridge to store her plates, cups and cooking supplies. This latrine top was made out of an old beer sign.

Tula with Andrea in her new kitchen - hot lunch is just coming off the stove!
I was really surprised and touched to see such grand improvements in spaces that according to Melchora, "We never received this kinda of help before where we live. Nobody cared enough to show us these things." I know Tula worked long and hard with some of our families to get them motivated and out of the "I don't have money for this" mentality. Only a couple of weeks ago there were families without roofs on the kitchen and animals (pigs, chickens, etc..) running around freely. Now there are rooftops and animal corals. Some corals made out of un-used wood or cut up rice bags. The same with kitchen walls - Covered with cardboard and newspaper. Granted, there are a few cases where the families just couldn't fill up their Health Promise sheet - alcoholism in some families, another woman abandoned by her husband - but, these cases call for help above and beyond the scoop of our health project.

From what I witnessed from our Door to Door evaluation was one long success story. Families in poverty making huge changes in their homes and lifestyles. Washing hands. Drinking boiled water. Cooking in a smoke-less kitchen and preventing respiratory illnesses. Creating separate spaces for animals. Covering their latrine opening and placing toilet paper (or whatever paper they have) inside their latrine. It was as if I entered into completely different houses compared to only 6 months ago. With Tula's great energy and motivation, I give witness that change can happen in the humblest of place. You just need someone to care, someone to give of their time, and to show people that there is in fact another way to live. Through this project we recognized the dignity of each of the 30 families that participated and gave them the tools and ideas to make changes in their own lives. And, they did!
Paz and Praise to all our 30 families! ~ Nora

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lunch with Perlita

This past Saturday my sweetheart Hugo walked with me to the Village Bank La Perlita where 3 of the loan recipients in this Village Bank are participating in literacy classes. Their classes started in April and will be finishing this month. The group told Nelly, their literacy teacher, that they were so grateful that someone cared enough about the 3 of them to send them a teacher that they wanted to make me and my boyfriend a lunch. Maria Cruz, one of the 3 loyal students in this group, had attended literacy classes in a different community but "the teacher didn't teach us like Nelly does. She gives us individual attention and explains things when we don't understand." La Perlita has been learning addition and subtraction skills through activities that allow the women to practice 'making change' with fake money. One of the group goals was actually to learn how to make monetary change because, according to the women, "when we go to the market we don't know if they are giving us the right amount of change because before we couldn't add very well." This group is also working on their grammar and writing skills through children's story books.

The women made one of my favorite dishes - hot yellow pepper cheese sauce with potatoes and rice. During our meal we had lots of animal visitors come in and out of the patio to join us. One of those visitors - a 1 month old kitty - came home with us to be our mouse hunter. Thus, our new kitty cats' name is Hunter.
Paz ~ Nora

Get Your Holiday of Hope Tix Now! Nov 12; 7-10:30pm

Dear DHF Family,
We hope you will all be able to join us to lend Hope this Holiday season at Holiday of Hope, our final event of 2009. 100% of your $15 ticket supports the work of DiscoverHope Fund and gives you entry into our silent auction party where you will be able to bid on vacations, dinner outings, artwork, and much more. You'll be treated to fabulous free food from Thistle Cafe and Latin music by Acoustic Jungle. Free parking is included in the garage as our no downtown parking hassles! Thank you to our event sponsors Thinkwell and Tunuvah for making this wonderful event possible!

Join us Thurs Nov 12th, 7-10:30pm at downtown Thistle Cafe located at 300 West 6th Street.
Get your tickets Here or on our website:

Friday, October 9, 2009


This week during one of our class we had the bad case of timing. I plan educational activities every month and give the village banks a class calendar so that the women can choose the classes that they want to attend. Jewelry, Bakery, Business assistance, Sewing with Ribbon. You name it. I plan my month a month ahead of time and often times can not predict the inconvenient planning clashes that are bound to happen. The women in our village banks are often called to school meetings for their children the very same day mandatory meetings are held. Imagine, a woman signs up for one of our classes and then her child comes home at 2pm and says, "there is a meeting at 3pm for all the parents." But our class starts at 3:30pm. This happened during our jewelry class in Banos de Inca this week. For good timing planning purposes, we held our class outside of Cajamarca in the small town where many of our loan recipients live - so they started their necklace with us when class started, dashed to their meeting, and then came back to class to finish. If we would have held this class in Cajamarca we would have had fewer participants, so I just have to try to work around and 'in harmony' with the timing issues.

Paz ~ Nora

Monday, October 5, 2009

The things we do to make it

The weekend started with an 'apollada' and ended with the animal market.

You all remember Lizeth from previous posts? The spunky jewelry seller who was struggling to find her market. Well she put jewelry on the backburner while she helped her husband in his combi (minivan adventure ride - see previous post). Her husband drives and she collects money. It isn't a luxurious job, but it gives her at least $5 of for sure income daily.

The combi broke down a couple weeks ago. $1,000 in repairs. An amount beyond her reach. So, Lizeth decided to do what most Peruvians do in this situation: APOLLADA! What is an apollada? When you make a bunch of fried chicken and add a heaping mountain of rice and potatoes and serve lunch plates for s/5 (about $2) a piece. The financial gain isn't huge, but every little bit helps. So Hugo and I contributed our s/10 (more than $3) and ate lunch with Lizeth on Friday afternoon.

This morning Hugo and I ventured to the animal market outside of town to look for an alpaca. Many of our women come to buy and sell at this market, but after nearly 2 year in Cajamarca this was my first excursion to the famous 'pecuaria' market. It was animal chaos at its best. Mostly cows, sheep, pigs, donkeys and horses - no alpacas. I could not imagine having to come to the pecuaria weekly, as our women do - the noise alone of pigs getting dragged into pick-up trucks is enough to make your ears cry. But, according to Hugo we are going to try our luck again next Monday and see if our alpaca comes to market. Next Monday I am bringing my ear plugs!

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, October 1, 2009

DHF Fall Newsletter 2009

Dear DHF Family,

Just wanted to write you to encourage you to enjoy our DHF Fall Newsletter. If you aren't on our newsletter list and would like to be, visit and see the sign-up area on the bottom left pane.

Blessings for a beautiful weekend,

Combi Twister

Welcome to the Combi amusement park ride :

I play twister in the combi.
The minivan is full of arms, legs, strong and poignant smells, alfalfa in the face, sleeping child on my shoulder.
Bodies are intertwined; Personal space is a foreign concept.
I find a seat to head to work, to the campo, to where ever the combi goes.
I am lucky to find a seat. Others are playing twister standing up.
My leg is touching 5 other people. I am not in the U.S.
As we continue to play and make moves, the combi starts its rollercoaster speed.
We round the corner as if bummer cars were let loose.
BAJA! BAJA! I bang my 70 soles cents on the window.
I squeeze out of the minivan and leave the rest of the group
to play twister for the rest of the rollercoaster way.

I arrive to the office, my body tired and my system sick with a cold.
Did the twister ride make me sick?
New world - Chocolate class - good smells - happy participation - some type of different twister with other rules.
Hands cutting hard bitter chocolate, stuffing molds, putting in sweet fillings, kids laughing with excitement at the sweet taste they will soon have.
I leave the women to work because I can. They are organized, responsible and working diligently.
I can't always leave early, but today I could. I can go home and rest and recharge for another day.

But, first I have another game of twister in the combi before I arrive home.

Paz ~ Nora

Saturday, September 26, 2009

City Tour!

As all you DHF supporters are gathering in Austin to grow more support, I toured Cajamarca with some of our village bank women. The office of tourism invited us to participate in free guided tours of the tourists sites here in town to celebrate World Tourism Day. The women had a fabulous time. Many of them had never been to any of Cajamarca's tourist sites, although they have lived here all their life. It was an honor for me to walk the historic sites with them and a joy to see their faces full of interest and surprise. Many of the women that went on the tour are also part of our literacy circles. They walked around with pencil and paper taking notes because their teachers are going to quiz them next week. A class field trip - a total new experience for them! Pictured below are the women that went on the tour this morning; We are pictured in front of the "Rescue room" - the historic capture of the Inca king Atahualpa by the Spaniards that changed the face and course of Cajamarca and made it into the colonial city it is today.

Paz~ Nora

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cake Bake Break

This wasn't our first cake bakery course, but it was our first bakery course in the Hope House kitchen. I found a new bakery teacher that was willing to bring all her bakery goods, including an oven, to the Hope House. We used 2 electric plug-in ovens that proved not to be the best option (but the only option at the moment). On Monday we made the cake mix and did the baking. However the electricity went out just as our cakes were finishing their baking. Even before the electricity went out one of the plug-in ovens broke.
So we had two semi-cooked cakes on Tuesday when we finished our bakery course. One of the cakes fell in the middle and the other one was lacking some "fluff." We decorated anyway. Blanca, our new bakery teacher, was excellent at giving step by step instructions and actually giving the students the bakery tools so that they could practice and get the feel of the different decorating techniques. Although we had some baking issues the women were satisfied customers at the end of class as they each got to taste the 2 cakes. Delicious! Perfect! And furthermore the comment that I enjoyed the most: "This class was like baking at home, better than when we went to the restaurant for (bakery) class, here it is like we are family and we are cooking together."

Despite the oven break, missing bakery tools and electricity shortage - it is better to bake in the Hope House compared to other kitchens. There you have it folks!

Paz ~ Nora

Don't forget your tix for Band Together for Hope!

Final reminder...get your tix for Band Together for Hope while they are still available. Sept 26 from 6-10pm in East Austin at the beautiful backyard outdoor venue of the Good Life Team! Limited tickets are available due to the size of the venue and they are selling quickly. Take advantage of the $25 online price by purchasing early.

$25 is less than a Saturday night out and for a great cause! Your ticket gets you complimentary food from
Cantina Laredo, drinks from Tito's Vodka, Tequila Azul and more, amazing music by The Mother Truckers and Stonehoney, and a great shared experience. 100% of the proceeds go to the work of DiscoverHope to create opportunities for women in poverty through microcredit and sustainable development training.

Follow @magszoe for Twitter updates day of the event. Rain or shine (although we know it will shine!)...we have large tents to provide refuge.

Looking forward to sharing a great time with you all,


Friday, September 18, 2009

Having a bad week? Just Knit!

Yesterday I brought my own knitting project to our scarf crochet class since it was a relaxed class and it gave me a chance to chat it up with our women. I found out everyone was having a bad week filled with bad luck. On one hand it comforted me that I wasn't the only one dealing with some disappointing and frustrating things, on the other hand my heart ached for our women.

Andrea, who milks cows and daily sets her milk in front of her house in her 50 litre steel containers, was robbed. Her two milk containers that cost $100 each have to be replaced and she has to pay for it. Lizeth and her husband have a combi and provide public transportation for daily income, but the combi van broke this week and needs more than $1,000 of repairs on the motor. Money which isn't easy to come by, especially when her children have been sick and in the emergency room this month. Nancy has three girls, all with chicken pox. Socorro parents are aging and ailing and she needs to find money to take care of them.

And so the conversation went...but slowly it turned into jokes and laughter and our problems were put in the back of our minds. Everyone was concentrating on their scarf. In another world. And there wasn't a problem in the room.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Peruvian Planning

The energy that goes into Peruvian planning far surpasses planning I have ever had to do in the U.S. These past couple of weeks I have been working diligently to plan a trip for our women to the famous (tourist) co-operative Granja Porcon. Porcon is known for many community elements: reforestation, yummy milk products, textiles and above all of this the ability to run a community co-operatively. A number of the village bank women in town have commented about the desire to form a business together and rent a space to jointly sell their goods. So I thought what better place than the Granja Porcon to take our women on a field trip? Exchange experiences with the Porcon women and get a sense of the steps they need to take to jointly work together.

I worked on a number of official letters (oficios) - the only slow way to get things done around here - this month. One of the oficios I personally took up to the Granja (1 hr. north of Cajamarca) to hand deliver to the General Manager to ask for a group discount for entrance fees. After a month of back and forth Oficios we got our reply - YES, we were welcome, come, visit!

So I called yesterday to confirm that our educational encounter with the women was being set up and we could exchanges experiences and have time to ask questions with these savvy co-op women. The reply I got, contrary to previous replies throughout the month, we can not attend to you the day you want to come up. Pedro, the 2nd guy in charge, is out of town and so are all of his back-ups.

I kept my cool and tried not to yell to much at Pedro. Could he not have told me this in the beginning of the month? Before I signed up more than 30 women for this trip? Alast, my heart sank as I couldn't fight with the forces that be in peruvian planning. I had made a good faith effort, but this time my effort wasn't going to lead to a field trip to Porcon.

On a positive note, my dear friend and DHF rescue worker Vicki, came to our rescue. Vicki works in the office of tourism and she offered to let our women take advantage of World Tourism Day next weekend (when we were planning our Porcon trip) and take a free city tour of the tourist sites around the Plaza de Armas. It's not Porcon, but it will have to due for those that have their heart set on site seeing.

Paz (in your planning) ~ Nora

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don't forget your Band Together for Hope tix! Sept 26 6-10pm

Dear DHF Family,
Don't forget to purchase your tickets for the 2nd annual Band Together for Hope event on Sept 26 from 6-10pm in East Austin at the beautiful backyard outdoor venue of the
Good Life Team!

Limited tickets are available due to the size of the venue and they are selling quickly!

Take advantage of the $25 online price by purchasing early. Your ticket gets you complimentary food from
Cantina Laredo, drinks, and amazing music by The Mother Truckers and Stonehoney, and a great shared experience. 100% of the proceeds go to the work of DiscoverHope to create opportunities for women in poverty through microcredit and sustainable development training.


If you can't make the event and want to support our work via donation, visit our DonateNow link at We appreciate every stakeholder that is part of the fabric of the work we do!

Looking forward to sharing a great time with you all,

THANK YOU TO Band Together for Hope SPONSORS:
501 Studios/"PEGALO"
Austin Management Partners
Cantina Laredo
Conversion Sciences
Dwyer Murphy Calvert
Fair Bean Coffee
Good Life Team
Jen Spencer Coaches
Law Office of Virginia W. Greenway
MotorBlade Postering Service
MS Music Management
Tech Ranch Austin
Tequila Azul
Tito's Vodka

Friday, September 11, 2009

Piggies and Bunnies

I went from one set of animals to another yesterday. I accompanied Tula to another health session with a different village bank. One of the women, Melchora, in this bank couldn't attend the health session in her own living room because she was monitoring the birth of 8 little piggies. I hear all kinds of excuses from women about why they can't come to meetings, classes, etc.., but this was the first time for me that little pigs were the excuse. Melchora was sitting guard to make sure the big pig didn't kill her new borns by squishing them as they fought for milk. It is a very amazing and cool thing to see little pigs on the same day they are born. They have skin like rats, but are so much cuter. They tremble and jump. They are clean! and so precious.

After witnessing the piggies do there thing I quickly made my way back to the office to monitor a 'Soft' course. What is Soft? Fluffy material (there may be a more formal name that I don't know of) that is used to decorate dolls, animals, etc... This afternoon 8 women were making bunnies out of Soft and decorating used plastic containers. The women loved it. It is a great way to reuse plastic containers that often find their way into the trash, or worst yet the river. A number of women told me they were going to use their new bunny to store their sewing material and try and make more bunnies so that they wouldn't forget how. Imagine a whole family of bunnies in the house! Augh.

It was an animal filled day. At least I could go home to the peace and quiet of no animals; no more alpacas on my front lawn, or mice in my bedroom and even Sexy, our spazzy barking dog, has calmed down.
Paz (in your own animal encounters) ~ Nora

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hygiene Tips

Bathroom = Luxury! This week Tula is talking about personal hygiene with our families and how to set-up a Health Corner in our women's houses. Many of the women use outdoor latrines and don't have an indoor bathroom. This makes it difficult to have what we consider a complete and clean hygiene space with mirror, towel, and all our personal hygiene supplies in one convenient location. This week and next Tula will help the women set-up their hygiene corners with a mirror, towel, shelf or recycled plastic bottle for soap, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, etc.. Some of our women have already set-up their hygiene corner because they were inspired by other families who had implemented something similar from our Health Field Trip.

I learn something new everytime I go to a health session. The health session this week included a comical theater performance, hand-washing demonstration (which all the women were listening intently), and some great culturally sensitive tips: If you don't have deodorant, use lime! If you don't have soap, use ashes - which has cleaning powers when combined with water.

All this talk about water is a sore subject for me. For the past 5 days I haven't had ANY water in my house. It is an awful, horrible feeling not to have even a drip come out of the faucet. The problem was solved this morning when I awoke at 6am to the sweet sound of running water. I jumped out of bed to start cleaning! I wanted to take advantage of having running water, a luxury I would take for granted in the U.S. I know many of our families in village banks have these same water struggles and out of necessity are creative and resourceful to make their households run with minimal water. This in turn creates roadblocks to hygiene. But, knowing our women, they figure out a way.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Interior/Exterior Designer

Meet Tula - Our fabulous Interior/Exterior Designer!!!
You have all heard about Tula in all my previous posts about the health project. But you haven't heard about her amazing interior/exterior designing abilities. She knows just where you should put your trash can to keep your house clean, where to put your pots and pans to avoid domestic animal contact, how to rearrange your guinea pigs so that you have more room in your kitchen. Really, any home improvement question you have - she is your woman. Our health project ends at the end of the month, so I am guessing she is free to make any personal house calls for a reasonable price. Let me know.

These past two days Tula and I have gone to visit some of our families that are the most behind on their house improvements. The majority of our families are using their stoves and are very happy customers while also continuing with their "house homework" to make their living spaces cleaner and healthier. However, we have a couple of cases of absence husbands = no construction, painting, etc..., houses with no income flow and kitchens without rooftops.
There are two families that have built their stoves surrounded by 4 walls, but no rooftop. These families were motivated to build a whole new room for their kitchen, "If I am going to have a new stove, I am going to have a new kitchen and do it right (and make all the improvements)." However, as their income is small and slow, the improvements have taken their sweet time. However, we are on a time crunch now. Our project ends this month. We want to see the stove actually working and where there is no rooftop it is hard to tell if the smoke is actually leaving the kitchen.
Another family is in a bit of tight situation - husband left his wife high and dry with two kids and kitchen walls that are falling apart. Together with Tula we are looking for a creative solution to help this family make improvements that the other families have already made.
Paz ~ Nora