Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nectar in the Garage

So DHF held the last class for our loan recipients this month just this afternoon: natural juice "nectar" cooking class. We held the class in a garage that held enough space for all who wanted to come. I think it is actually very fitting that today in Austin, DHF is hosting the big event to raise funds for our community center, while our women make juice in a garage. I told the women that the next cooking class we have will be in a real kitchen in our new community center. They thought that cooking in a real kitchen will be a nice change, but as you can see in the picture, the women here are all smiles and didn't complain once about the garage. As a matter of fact they were especially appreciative during class because what they learned today will help them save money in the next couple of weeks. Women want to make homemade nectar juice for their kids lunches for school. School starts next week. They can save money instead of buying juice, they make it. The juice we made today was made out of a local fruit called poro poro. Tasty. The women were making a long list of all the fruit juice options they could make; mango, peach, apple, passion fruit, guanavana, etc...

So here's a nectar juice toast to future cooking a kitchen instead of a garage!

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Got Hope?

Dear DHF Family,

So, tomorrow is our
Planting Seeds of Hope event, I am really excited to be with the 120 people or so that RSVP’d for the event! I hope we can collectively inspire one another to raise The Hope House. I always get nervous before events. I feel an innate responsibility to inspire people to want to be part of what we are doing. I suppose I do have that role to a point. But one thing I’ve learned over our more than 15 events is this: let love lead and lean into the heart. When I truly do that, the message is natural and real. I hope to see some of you Austin folks there. If you forgot the RSVP, just come.

For those of you who are not going to be with us in Austin, if you decide you want to be part of the fabric of the Hope House, I want to assure you that it will be a gift that gives back to you in more ways than you can imagine. You will tangibly alter the course of many women’s lives by opening up possibilities they never knew existed. The Hope House is born from the voices of our women, and we know that the power of leadership means guiding others to their true nature—facilitating opportunity for their greatness.

In the Hope House, women will get direct access to new skills that create income for them. During the last 6 months of 2008, we recorded that women gained a collective total of $2500 more in income due to concrete lessons they learned in our classes! That is a lot of money for women who live on nearly $2 a day. In turn, we know these women can feed their children. Through health classes, women learn hygienic habits for their families so kids don’t get deathly ill over preventable things like diarrhea. Women learn simple math literacy lessons and how to write their own receipts in their shops. Hope is born in these walls! I know I’ve spoken quite a bit about Hope House, but I just want to make sure you all have the opportunity to see it grow with us and feel connected. If you want to help, everything matters…just connect with

As promised last week, our
2008 Evaluation Document on our Microcredit Program Plus Program model is complete. Just click on the hyperlink for the PDF file. Many thanks to Nora who collected the research information over the course of 2008. The document is rich with women’s perspectives, photos, and looks classy thanks to the design work of one amazing Tracy Kuramoto at 9066 Productions in Chicago.

Austin Film entrepreneur Lyn Graft of
LG Pictures once again created a video link featuring DiscoverHope for the Rise Austin entrepreneurs’ conference for next week. We are constantly thankful to him for promoting our work and helping people hear the messages of DHF. Check out his work about DHF “Standing for Abundance” by clicking here.

Finally, if you are on Twitter, will you follow us at
/magszoe? You can help us build our family by twittering your followers a message about how inspires you (hopefully we do)!

To guiding others to their nature, MM

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Sneak Peek into Ribbon Class

This week we held a two day Sewing with Ribbon class in the Afider office. I want to give all our supporters and followers out there an idea of what a class looks like. Please note that every class we offer is a little different, but they usually share common themes: children, crowding around the teacher (everyone wants the OK from the teacher), hard working faces, and at the end of class extreme satisfaction in the successful effort of learning a new skill.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Magic

A tree that fill’s our embrace grows from a seedling.

I have been uplifted by Nora’s writings about her Quest for literacy for the women of DHF, one by one. I know from experience that life in the field can be so frustrating—it can just make you breakdown. The simplest of tasks take days sometimes. But I honor the work we are doing led by Nora, and her patient willingness to visit women in the field, one-by-one, to give them a chance to take their exams and proclaim their literacy. During a moment of frustration this week, I wrote to Nora “What an amazing feat to have in your life, helping even one woman become literate!”

One of Nora’s Minnesota pals sent her a link to a beautiful NPR story,
The Magic of Letters. I had to share some of the writing here, it is such a poignant writing by a once-illiterate Nepalese woman, and demonstrates the power of literacy and how it uplifts.

I believe in the alphabet, because it has the power to change life.

I realized the power concealed in the alphabet on the very first day I joined the adult literacy class. For the first time, I was introduced to letters that stood for my name. In discovering the Nepali alphabet, I discovered I was Cha-me-li and not Cha-mi-li, as everyone used to call me. It felt like magic. A little loop of "e" for "i" changed my name!

If three letters could change my name, how much would I be able to transform my life if I understood all the letters? I spent that whole evening writing and rewriting my name. After that, I carried the spelling book with me while I went to collect firewood, weed the maize field, just everywhere, until I learned to write.

…I cannot express my satisfaction seeing children running to school over that bridge. It is a bridge of iron, a bridge of letters, a bridge of community. Nothing is achieved without the cooperation of all.

I am now heading five women's microsaving groups. Ten or 20 rupees that used to be spent buying petty cosmetic items have been collected into a fund of 300,000 rupees. We are planning to open a small cooperative in the village soon. We also want to run permanent literacy classes for women and open a library. All this is the result of my knowing the alphabet, even though I learned it late. Letters have immense power. They have magic. The greatest thing in the world is the alphabet. That is my belief.

We have such power to make a difference! The cost of one of our literacy classes is $3. Women last year had approximately 80 classes in their course for their certificate. It blows me away when I think that for less than $250, we can give literacy to a group of women. The power in that statement just makes me high with Hope.

We’ve finalized the agreement on The Hope House (pict) and hopefully, we’ll gather the ample support next week at our Planting Seeds of Hope event to fund the house for the first year. Nora has reported the lovely sound of construction noises from the building that will soon be home to the development center for all of our women and more from the community.

Right now, there is an overlay of rhetoric of fear in our culture because of the state of the economy. I try not to take part in the fear, but sometimes it gets the best of me! Today I made a deal with myself, to just say, “I don’t know” out loud to remind myself I don’t have all the answers. There is so much we want to create and is possible to create, and “I don’t know” how much of it will be born. But I know there is a way. Another good friend of mine reminded me he was saying “Yes” to whatever possibility came along. So, yes there is a way and I am willing and I don’t know how it looks.

There is great power amidst even the fear right now. Don’t ever think that you can’t create a ripple of change. For example, here are costs for various types of classes for six women to learn, to learn something new and as powerful as the letters in the alphabet.
Jewelry: $5.50
Sewing with Ribbon: $6
Sewing Machine:
Bag-making: $8
Macramé: $5
Bakery: $12
Marmalade: $3.50
Money management: $2.50
Community Health: $17
Knitting Ponchos: $2.50
Dying Wool: $2

The Hope House will be a place where we host these classes and women can open the doors and walk into this power. We see it owned and operated and loved by women for years to come. I am excited as we move toward planting seeds of hope that will grow far beyond our lives. Thanks for being part of the embrace and the story.

To the magic in the house, MM

p.s., for you social media folks, follow DHF news at Stay tuned next week for the release of our 2008 evaluation!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Test, Teacher, Triumph

When a new week starts, I never know what to expect. I have a clean slate when I awake on Monday and by Friday I am exhausted. I know that this too probably happens to most of you who are reading this. However, I believe that in Peru the unexpected factor level rises a notch.

Let´s see, this week....
Paula took her literacy test. All three students from the village bank El Triunfo have taken and passed! their literacy exam. I waited on the side of the road for 1/2 hour on Monday morning for Lorenza's daughter to meet me "where they sell plants" so she could show me Paula's house. We screamed Paula's name as dirty combi's passed us by and dogs came out to warn us of their presence. Paula eventually greeted us and let us into her holey house, where the doors and windows still haven't been put in because there isn't enough money. So the house has holes where the glass and rebar windows and wooden doors would stand and the air, chickens, dogs, and anything else just comes right in. Paula tells me, "I couldn't make it the day of the test, I was so sick, but I knew if you came here I would take the test." I left her house, clutching her test with the biggest sense of triumph there could have been had at that very moment.

I also went on a new teacher rampage the past couple of days. I went knocking on unidentified doors that lined the loud, busy market street in search of a T-shirt stamping teacher. And, I found him. And it turns out he works with my boyfriend's uncle, who reassured me that together the two of them would put together the best T-shirt stamping class ever. Triumph.

I encountered donkeys grazing on the front lawn in front of my house.

We held a sewing with ribbon class this week and the interest was overwhelming. We had bought material and had just enough space for 12 students. I must have turned away at least 10 more women that wanted to come and participate. With a little caring, I explain myself over and over again, next month, come early to sign up for classes, We'll have more room next month. I hear hammers, pounding and lots of other noises as our new, improved and bigger location is getting a face lift next door.

Tomorrow is Thursday, there are still many unknowns to be had before the week is over.

Paz ~ Nora

Saturday, February 14, 2009

One by One

So the literacy group that I told you about, where only Lorenza took her literacy test, well... another woman took her test on Friday.
One by One.
Lorenza had told me Antonia didn't want to take her test, so I thought, I'll go to her house, give her the first test she took (in which she did very well) and see if she won't change her mind.
She changed her mind. Took her test.
One by One.
It just breaks my heart if a woman that has gone to literacy classes for more than 7 months & decides not to take the 20 minutes to finish the final test and simultaneously the literacy program. And, take that step to receive an official certificate from the Ministry of Education that states loud and clear, "I am literate."
There is still one more woman that hasn't taken the test. Paula.
I will visit her on Monday.
One by One.
That is sometimes the only way to make a difference, reach a woman, do what I came to do. It is more work, more travel, more energy. But, in the end if that is the way to reach someone, well then I will just have to go with it and make many steps for small changes, One by One.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Daily Inspiration

i can hear the earth moving under this ceiling
i cast my soul to the small ripples
and find humility in morning
the truth reflects back through cloudy haze
an extraordinary responsibility to decide to see
to put into practice the life i breathe in
i know there is potential for glory today
potential to radiate.

So begins a day in the life of DiscoverHope. Every day commences with a moment of reflection about my conscious choice to be present with people on this day, and a reminder of the ability we have to influence people in loving, genuine ways. Do I succeed every day? No way. Do I intend to? Absolutely.

As a young organization, the Austin headquarters of DiscoverHope are run through my home office. We choose not to spend overhead rent money here in Austin so that I can look nice all by myself in an office! Instead, we’d rather source the money to programs in the field in Peru. This means that for many hours during the week, I am alone in the home office to inspire myself. Working alone takes a great deal of mental strength sometimes. I thought I’d share a little bit about that as an entrepreneur working as Executive Director for DHF. People sometimes don’t get the “inside scoop” on what the work is like.

There are ups and downs, without a doubt. More than anything, the upside is that I get to do what I love everyday of my life for something I believe in. I get to choose my daily direction. We have an amazing
Board of Directors who constantly keep me afloat and guided. I think this is key to a healthy nonprofit—having a team of people that truly love the work and want to participate in the governance of the organization. Many nonprofit Boards are comprised of people who just show up to stamp their “yes” or “no”, and while that may serve its purpose certain organizations, there is something utterly encouraging about a group of people putting their hearts and heads together to grow something that serves beyond them. On that note, we are actually seeking a couple more Austin-based Board members with either fundraising talents or legal background, if you want to “pasa la voz” (pass the voice) as we call it in Peru, please do so. As an organization that prides itself on growing a solid foundation of people, we have an extensive process for integrating new Board members as we really want people who we know will come with the highest level of passion to the DHF family.

Certainly one of the most difficult parts of the entrepreneurial journey working from this space is staying confident when you are alone. When all the meetings have been had, I come back to the quietude of the home office and my job is to ground and grow DHF. The list of needs is endless as is work for anyone, and so my first level of mental organization is prioritization. Looking at a list of items with no immediate voice for validation or feedback can be daunting sometimes: For example, 1) write Spanish contract for development center 2) develop extensive draft of fundraising plan 3) prepare presentation for women’s leadership conference …you get my drift. My motto as I jump from one deep project to the next is “keep on keeping on.” One thing is for certain, if you aren’t completely dedicated as an internally motivated self-starter, this job isn’t for you!

Today’s morning task was indeed writing the Spanish rental contract for The Hope House women’s development center. Language code-switching for both legal purposes and business negotiations may be some of the toughest work. You mix in cultural expectations about business responsibility and trying to iron those points out between two languages, and you can feel like your mind is melting! Luckily, I have an amazing Latina volunteer, Enea, who checks all my writing with her fluent editing eye. She is a life saver.

Speaking of The Hope House women’s development center, I hope to see some of you at our Planting Seeds of Hope event. We’re looking forward to taking you through a tour of the plants at
The Great Outdoors while sharing the vision of The Hope House. We’ll also have some incredible tunes by local Austin musician (from New Zealand), Jackie Bristow, along with some Latin cuisine. As a teaser or if you can’t be there, you can take the video tour of The Hope House that I filmed in Peru; the video is available on DHF’s Facebook. Sign up to be our friend if you haven’t yet.

In a couple weeks, we’ll be launching our 2008 Program Evaluation Document and I will make sure you all have the link for viewing or downloading. The book is filled with pictures and first-person stories from women about our work in 2008. This work was supported by many of you and hundreds of other incredible people. At the end of the day, seeing the change in one person is what drives me. When I lack my own inspiration, I just turn to their images.

To daily inspiration for all of us, MM

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First class...of Many

Today DiscoverHope held the first class of 2009. Jungle Jewelry. We had 12 women sign up, 11 came. Not bad. On Thursday we will hold the same class with 14 women. We can't offer the class to more than 14 women because they just won't fit in the small work space we got. Women learned how to make rings and bracelets today with painted seeds found in the Peruvian Jungle. It is the hot fashion here on the streets. I hope for the next Buy Day women will use these beads for their jewelry creations as they are very unique and very Peruvian. Jewelry was our most popular class last year and according to the 2008 year end evaluation the jewelry class participants collectively earned almost $800 in jewelry sales. To give you an idea, that is A Lot! of extra money generated considering our women only make a couple of dollars a day.

Last week DHF held a CodeBanco meeting, where representatives from various village banks come together to talk, share and find out what classes are in their future. They prioritized classes that most interest them...

1. Cake/Bakery classes
2. Making Appetizers (it is a hot business here)
3. Pinatas/Accessories for children's parties (also a hot business)
4. T-shirt stamping
5. Business assistance - marketing, sales, general business management
6. Sewing with Ribbon

Last year DHF created more than 300 classes, trainings, workshops for women in village banks. Do stay tuned as we will be creating more classes and opportunities this year for motivated women that want to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, February 6, 2009

Curing the Cold

When you have a cold, everyone has an answer.
My groups this week all seemed to know different miracle cures to the common cold.

Drink warm water. Never drink cold water, especially at night.
Boil onions and drink the onion juice.
Drink Eucalyptus tea.
Stay in bed all day, don't let any cold air touch your body.
Eat garlic.
Eat green soup, and it will help with your parasites too.
Limes. Ceviche is good for you.
Put herbs on your forehead.

These are just a few of the recommendations that I received. I am actually feeling a bit better today. I actually didn't follow the advice of any of my women, but I did listen and take their recommendations with a grain of salt. Maybe next time. Hey if you have any suggestions, I am open...

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Re-entry and Rising to Action

Hey there Fellow Travelers on the Adventures in Hope,

Back in the ol’ USA, and the overriding sentiment is gratitude. Returning home from a developing country always gives way to immense realizations about the wonderful things we have here. I am thankful for the open arms and inspiration I have here in the U.S. I am also thankful to Nora, friends, and women in Peru who continue to make me a more loving and humble person.

This week I hit the ground running; the business of nonprofit doesn’t stop for anything. Nothing does in our culture I suppose. The amazing DHF volunteer team had rounded up their own inspiration to prepare for our February event…for those of you in Austin, we hope you can physically join us. For those of you who are connected to this blog from afar, if you feel inspired to join in on the collective effort, we welcome you.

Our next event is confirmed for Thursday February 26, 2009 at The Great Outdoors from 7pm-9:30pm: This amazing garden center is perfect for our theme, “Planting Seeds of Hope.” The purpose of the event is to ignite Hope for the women we work with—and to collectively raise $6000 to fund the “Hope House”—the development center for women to cultivate their entrepreneurial passions in Peru. The team of volunteers has imagined up innovative fun for guests to be as connected as possible to the Hope House. You’ll have the map of the center, you’ll enjoy video footage walking you through the center, and we’ll introduce you further to the classes and the women. Of course, everything will be accented with food, drinks, and good Austin music. Invites will go out next Monday the 9th; I am really proud to now have the opportunity to connect some of what Nora and I worked on in January to the brilliant people on the north side of the equator. If you’re not in Austin and you want to be part of the fabric of Hope House, just write to me at or visit

On another note, I wanted to share with you all a video clip that was created by Producer Lyn Graft of Club E Network. The video footage about DiscoverHope is from an annual entrepreneurs’ conference we have here in Austin, RISE Austin. Lyn asked me the question: ‘What is the most difficult thing about being an entrepreneur?” Here is the video he made of my answer (and he named it himself!): option=com_seyret&Itemid=276&task=videodirectlink&id=283

For those of you who live in Austin, the RISE conference is from March 2-5 and is absolutely inspiring. For 3.5 days, nearly 1000 entrepreneurs share with one another their expertise from multiple industries and backgrounds and connect with each other as well as members of the academic, financial, non-profit, and government sectors. You can attend as many “classes” as you want during the week, and it’s absolutely free. I’ll once again host a session on March 4 from 12-1:30 on “How to Start a Nonprofit.” If you’re looking to get connected, find a job, learn specialized information, you should be here! Check it out at

Finally, in Nora’s fashion of honoring her Dad, I am going to end this one by honoring my brother Mike, who is an LT Colonel Emergency Medicine Doctor who got called back to Iraq for the second time with 18 months left of service after 20 something years. He leaves in a week or so, and it’s just a reminder to me of how life delivers unexpected twists and turns through all the things we do and are. Life moves on many levels, we work, we play, we hurt, we wonder, we love, we... I honor him for the work he does “repairing the broken” and I am sure words can’t describe the emotion in that.

Some great words from him he once gave to me: So much of everything is fleeting, gone and only remembered in our own ways…ways we perceived what we said, what we saw, all the things we did, have done, and those great things someday I know we will do together…someday…we will be long, funny, happy, sad, and beautiful books and stories that intertwine and seem familiar through love and friendship. These and “us” will live on in all those we have touched, through our children, not yet born; through people listening to our words and music. I hope you continue to genuinely touch people in the way that you do now…with beauty, love, and yet a true empathy for some of the thick and tragic sadness that exists in all of our worlds and in each one of us, and in each one of “we.”

To genuine empathy. MM

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

And then there was One

Today I was out in the campo, carrying my cold with me. I think all the Peruvian bacteria and bugs are out to weaken my immune system, but they are not living in me without a fight.

I visited El Triunfo village bank who was due to take their last literacy exam today. The two other literacy groups finished in November last year, but El Triunfo had a number of classes to complete so they worked throughout December and January. We started with 6 women in this group, then downsized to 4 dedicated souls, and then today One. One women took her final exam. There are 2 others that will hopefully take it next week, but they are sick. Really sick. When I rounded the corner to Lorenza's house (the One) I was hopeful to see the whole group. But, my heart dropped when I didn't see a soul. Lorenza came out from behind her plastic tarp that hangs as the kitchen door. Senorita Nora. Paula and Antonia are sick. I have to remind myself that it is OK if only One women in a small group follows through with the literacy program. That is one more woman in Cajamarca that now knows how to read and write. One more educated woman. It is always satisfying to think of an entire group or community that completes a program and raises themselves up. Also, when you think of numbers on the outcome side, One doesn't seem like a whole lot. But, from what I know of Lorenza, she has taken advantage of DHF support like none other. She now helps her children with their homework, she can add and subtract to make perfect ponchos and to assist her in her business money transactions. Join me in congratulating her, not only in being the only one in her village bank that was determined to receive a literacy certificate that says "I am literate," but also for being a strong and steadfast example of what a woman in Peru can do.

Paz ~ Nora

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dedication to Dad

A couple of days ago it was my dear Dad's birthday. I call him on skype, but the video button wasn't working, so I just got to hear his voice and wish him well on his new year. Fitting that on his birthday he received the news that he was selected to be in the finalist group of Minnesota Teacher of the Year! That is a cool present and much deserved, if you ask me. Whether or not he gains the official title, he has always been an amazing role model, teacher, and father to me. So, happy belated birthday pops. I am rooting for you down here.

This occasion is only one of many of those life events that I miss being in a far away land. I can't fly home, can't give a hug or even have a reliable phone conversation. But, I don't look at it as I give up one thing for another or that I left my MN life behind. I am living my integrity right now, doing what I believe in and following my passion. I feel purpose and inspiration here. If anything, my roots from home taught me to believe in myself and do right in the world. So, although at times while I am in Peru there is tug on my heart that misses the comfort that only family offers, I know it is family that has brought me here and will bring me home again.