Friday, March 27, 2009

The Sewing Singer in Action

Our sewing machines were in full force this week. Those of you that are faithful followers read about the whole Sewing Singer purchase fiasco last week. This week all that walking and work paid off in 3 hours of intense artesian bag class. We had 21 women join us in the Hope House to make artesian bags out of local colored woven yarn. Our patient teacher Socorro didn't lose her cool when one of our Singers started to sew backwards. She sat down, with the crowd gathered round, while she fixed the problem. Never a dull moment. It took a littler longer than planned to finish all 21 bags, but they did it. I certainly wasn't any help in that area. Today the same women will come back to put flower designs on their bags. Those of you in Austin, TX will be able to see the fruits of our class labor when we hold another BUY day in April and send the goods to DiscoverHope home base in May.
These past two weeks we have started to offer childcare during our classes. Many of the loan recipients have brought their children to class because they don't have anywhere or anybody that/who can watch their kids. But, when the kids come to class the women often can't concentrate or pay full attention to their own learning. Kids want to learn too and they want as much attention as they can get. Since we have a beautiful patio, filled with plants, toys and roaming cats... the kiddos now have their own place to be.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Living in "Interesting" Times

Probably the most common question I have gotten as of late is "Is your nonprofit suffering in these hard economic times?” I thought since I’ve had this conversation several times, I’d share my answer in today’s blog.

First, I change the rhetoric around “these hard economic times.” Instead, I call them “interesting times.” Yes, there are powerful currents of change at play right now. Yes, many people are faced with real life challenges because of this. Yes, people are watching their money and keeping it closer to them. These things I believe are true. I also do believe that the shape shifting in our culture is part of a larger context, one that is much bigger than us and our country. In a larger sense, our priorities are being rearranged on a world level. I do feel a sense of peace that out of this ride we are all on, perhaps we have a chance for an even more compassionate set of values to frame our collective position in this world. Maybe we will notice how connected we all are…and how what happens here affects way beyond our borders, and the world outside of our borders suffers daily as well. Sometimes the suffering looks different, but it is there and as a world, we have a great responsibility to care for all.

If I woke up everyday and said to myself, “well, the hard economic times are horrible and I don’t think our organization will survive”—simply put, we wouldn’t survive. Inspiring people to believe in what you are doing takes an incredible amount of internal strength, and if you approach this task with any doubt, people inherently notice your lack of passion. Add fear to this mixture, and it is the worst fundraising no-no of all time in my book.

Thoughts are the power of the world. They are part of the blueprints of our lives. Do I worry? Absolutely. Not only for this organization I love, but for people who are faced with reinventing their lives. The most promising thing I can do for myself and for others is to stay in a place of inviting abundance—through my language, my actions, my internal work and the external representation of that work. Does this solve everything? No. But it allows me to approach each day with Presence and Hope. Do I falter? Yes, I go into fear. My immediate reaction is to not beat myself up about this and to bring myself to a place internally that is filled with more kindness and goodness. It’s an everyday journey.

I was given my greatest lessons about this state of being from living in Peru and working in Guatemala and Nepal—developing life conditions. Watching people so selflessly give up their precious food to a stranger like me that could’ve fed their children. Being in family togetherness over the last of the rice where mothers know the loss of several children because of preventable illness like diarrhea and dehydration. These were reminders to me of what I do have and what I am thankful for. These were reminders to me of what I had lost along the way that was about simple Joy. The suffering and Hope was there well before we started spindling. Many of us noticed. Many of us didn’t.

Some people think my position on Hope is naïve. That is OK. I’ll say that I would much rather be in a place of internal health and transforming positive power than carry dread and fear and anger in my heart. We express what we carry through us. My life is a living expression of all of this. I will choose to be Hope.

As for DiscoverHope, it is an expression of collective love that is far beyond my control. I’ve never “owned it” and never will. I will work to grow it and bring others around it to help grow it. It will shift into what it wants to be as “it grows up.” I may not always agree with it, but whatever happens, it has Hopeful and perfect purpose.

Keeping you in my heart through these “interesting” times, MM

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Stamping T-shirts

I never would have guessed that offering a T-shirt stamping (estampados) class would generate so much excitement and interest. T-shirt stamping is the best translation I can come up with for estampados, but I think in english we would call it silk screening (although we probably have a machine sophisticated process that requires less manual labor). We had 19 women gather shoulder to shoulder in the small T-shirt stamping workshop for 3 straight days to learn the basics of starting a T-shirt stamping business. They learned everything from the price of start-up materials, how to make their wooden frames, paint mixtures, burning the design on fabric and actually "stamping" a design on a T-shirt. The women were eagerly asking questions throughout the class. Nonstop questions. Alfredo and Jaime, our novice teachers, explained the process in very simple terms and gave suggestions of good material, places to buy materials, and prices to put on their stamping products. The women got to see the whole process and actually went home with a stamped T-shirt. When I asked the women after class who was planning on using this information to start a small business, everyone nodded their head and answered with an enthusiastic YES.

Why didn't we offer this class in the Hope House? Because we weren't quite sure if, on Peruvian time, we would be in the Hope House. Hopefully next time we can have it there and not be so squished. Next time, there will be a next time for T-shirt stamping, so stay tuned.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Story of a Sewing Singer

This week proven to be a new opportunity for me to learn about sewing machines. Two months ago we priced sewing machines for the Hope House. The problem in pricing sewing machines was we asked someone who didn't know anything about sewing machines to go out and price them. So this week I consulted everyone I knew that knows something about sewing machines to help me. I had a big cheering squad.

This blog entry is about how to buy a Singer sewing machine in Cajamarca, Peru. I will shorten the story as much as possible and stick to the important details.

First of all, there are as many sewing machines as colors in the rainbow. Endless. But, all the sewing experts I know here voted time and time again for the oldest Singer pedal version. Metal. Heavy duty. Doesn't breakdown easily. It works if the electricity goes out. So I quickly crossed off the list the newest and priciest sewing machines. With one of our loan recipients we spent all morning on Thursday hunting down old sewing machines. We must have walked through every dirty, busy market street; strategically I followed Charo so that she would ask the price and the vendor wouldn't give us a gringo price. We found a couple of "oldies, but goodies." But, in order to work a little faster these sewing machines need a motor, which is sold separately and in a completely different part of the market. More walking. I arrived home absolutely exhausted with pounding feet that day.

The next day, after motors and machines were priced, I was armed with my money belt ready to make the purchases. My sweetheart Hugo came with Charo and I to make sure we were getting the real Singer deal. First we went to buy the motors. We had to go to three different stores because a) the first store had a motor that smelled awful b) the 2nd store only had one motor in stock that actually worked c) the 3rd store gave us a good deal on the motor after much negotiation.

We then headed to the potato section of the market. Located in a small, dark little workshop is an old man that knows everything about Singer sewing machines. He was our man. He must have showed us how 5 of the machines worked so that we could choose the best one. The first one didn't work so well. The 2nd one worked perfectly. The 3rd one needed a new leather cord for the pedal. He switched it out and made it work. I thought we would be there all morning. The last step in the whole "trying out every Singer machine" was switching our 2nd machine for a newer table, as we bought the Singer machines with tables because then they can work with the pedal when the electricity goes out.

We had our 2 working machines and an old man with a wheelbarrow. That is all you need to get Singers from point A to point B. We made the careful wheelbarrow trek through the market and squeezed our Singers into a taxi. It was smooth sailing. We arrived at the Hope House and installed the two machines. And that is the end of the Singer sewing machine buying adventure.

Stay tuned next week to see these old beauties in action during our first sewing class in the Hope House!

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, March 19, 2009

DHF Spring Newsletter

Dear DHF Family,
Check out our Spring newsletter at

Sending Love to you!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Literacy Launch

I have been in the comfort of my computer screen the past two days, preparing an endless list of things for this week. Last week I spent no time in the comfort of my computer. On Friday and Saturday I went out to visit two different literacy groups. The groups are both in the countryside, at least a half an hour walk from the highway, all mud, and in our case last week, all rain. The two groups that have started literacy classes again are the same two groups that finished with the Ministry of Education last year. They have requested more classes; to review, learn more words, practice making correct change for their purchases (math), learn how to write letters and official documents. Things that will help them in their everyday life; life literacy is what we are doing. Since we aren't working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Education this year (which in part has it's benefits, like not chasing the Yes Man who always says Yes, but never does anything) our literacy teachers have creatively invented a pre-post test to administer to the groups. We are planning to measure their learning successes through these tests, the first which was just given this weekend. Take a look:

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sweet End Note

This busy week ended on a sweet note. On Thursday and Friday DHF held a bakery classes where 20 women learned how to make 4 different cakes and pies. Everyone agreed that the best part of class was the end when we got to try all 4 cakes and pies. I was really overwhelmed by the interest in this class and really all the classes we have offered so far this year. We had to turn away 10 other women that wanted to join us during class. *Note: Don't despair, another cake and pie class will be offered next month. But this phenomenon of women turning out in high numbers for classes has happened with every class that we have offered this year. For this coming week I have organized a T-shirt stamping class. FULL. I have to start a waiting list already for the next T-shirt stamping class for next month. The good news out of all of this is that we have the space to accomodate the interest. Now, I just have to fill the space.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, March 12, 2009


The Hope House is now open and I let out a great proud sigh this morning after reading Nora's blog. For the women, who voiced what they wanted. For Nora, who works with courage and conviction every day in a difficult environment. For DHF, who is working on consistently creating opportunities for people to invent their own vision through their own intelligence and resourcefulness.

Every step of the work seems like a milestone. This is true for all of us. I know the cocoon of fear and doubt. We all know fear. I recall a mentor in San Diego calling it F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real). Our world grows smaller and smaller with every fear. And then, fear gives rise to pain that pushes…until the vision pulls.

And so I ask you to consider:
What step would you take today if you were brave?

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives!
Substance responds to your faith in it.

Next up on our being brave list:
Play for Hope with the Baylor Women’s Soccer ladies who are “playing” big, feel free to send it forward to youth soccer players you know in Texas
Healing Home initiative to construct new kitchens and long-term health behaviors with the strength of 30 families in poverty who want to create healthy homes for their children.
DHF Summer Supper Circles—ambassadors like you hosting grassroots dinners/events in their homes all over this country with the goal of owning a piece of a DHF initiative.

To illumination, MM

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hope House is Open!

Believe it or not (I almost can't believe it), but DiscoverHope Fund moved into Hope House, Development Center for the loan recipients, yesterday. The day we were re-programmed to move in. The handy man was still painting the kitchen and cleaning the floors, (we are in Peru) but we got everything up and running for our first activity today! We held the first of a series of leadership workshops this afternoon and had 17 participants with much space to move around. We weren't squeezed in together like our classes before. The women commented about how lovely, bigger and better this new space is.

After our leadership workshop this afternoon there was a lot of busy chaos; women signing up for classes, asking about our inauguration, returning materials, etc... And Hermila, one of the leadership participants, found her way next to me and asked me in a soft voice, "if you know anyone who needs their clothes washed, I need more money and I can do it." I was frozen. All the excitement of moving forward clashed with the realization that there is so much work to be done. I hope I do justice to make the doors of the Hope House open new doors of possibilities for Hermila and all the other women that are lacking a little bit to reach their needs, aspirations and dreams.

Besides the big work DHF still has ahead of us, there are a number of things to do to make our new space workable, welcoming and fully equipped, but we are in! The keys are in my hand. There is shopping to be done. The Hope House is up and running! Thanks to all of you who supported us here in Cajamarca to make this a reality.
Truly, this is momentous and exciting.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, March 6, 2009

Live Simply. Love Generously. Pay it Forward.

Dear DHF Family, I saw the title above recently at the bottom of an email signature line. I thought— what an amazing way to not only represent WHAT you are, but an awesome way to live.

It’s been an extremely busy week, filled with the experience of meeting intriguing, intelligent, loving people who are changing the world. These people and each one of you is growing DHF in ways that are beyond my imagination. This reminds me of what Lao-Tzu calls the “Three Treasures” in the 67th verse of his timeless writing, the Tao Te Ching: compassion, simplicity, and humility.

Compassion: Think of others (first!) by being willing to exhibit kindness and love. What if you think of everyone the way you think of yourself? They too have unbounded joys, needs, deep sorrows, constant worries, unmet needs, hopes for their lives. If we SAW people this way, we would see the great gift in front of through everyone, our teachers.
Simplicity: Be willing to take only what you need with a lack of attachment to it. The less attachment you have, the more you can give generously.
Humility: Surrendering to a force greater than your ego. Great leaders are grateful, generous servants.

February ended on a high note last week with our “Planting Seeds of Hope” event at the Great Outdoors. About 75 folks were graced by the gorgeous atmosphere of the nursery as we were tucked away so that guests strolled their way through a luminaria-lit pathway. The evening was simply magical; the people who turned out were filled with Light and a common desire to be part of the fabric of the Hope House, our women’s development center in Peru. The TX evening was filled with warm wind and the sound of 15 foot deep chimes that provided a miraculous backdrop for our presentation. One of my favorite stories of the evening rooted with a friend Ahmed, who bough 10 necklaces to send to the women in his family in the cities of Chittagong and Dhaka in Bangladesh. Talk about connecting the world, powerful women to power women, all wanting the same thing—to care for their families. That moved me.

We raised over $6000 to open the doors of the Hope House. If you missed the event and want to be part of this place of power, we continuously seek to raise funds to sponsor classes for the women inside the walls. I am simply filled with Gratitude for the volunteers who created this vision while I was in Peru and led the DHF guests to an inspired evening.

Nora and I wait anxiously for Monday March 9…when the final inspection of the Hope House takes place and the keys get put into her hand. We’ve both worked so much on the brokering of the Hope House and want to start enjoying it. The contract is signed (after many Spanish revisionsJ) and the money has been wired to Peru for Nora to start shopping to fill it up…sewing machines for classes, shelves and resource books for literacy classes, kitchenware for cooking classes, tables and chairs for women to come into. I know Nora is set to go, as she already has 9 classes pre-scheduled for this month based on what women have asked for!

March whipped in with opportunities to meet brilliant people. First, I was invited to speak at the
Austin Women in Technology conference to speak about Leadership Power. The theme for the conference was “The Power of One, the power of many.” I found myself couched between my two other panelists who taught me so much about being a woman Leader. One of the panelists spoke about Being on Purpose and Being Resilient. We had an amazing group discussion about the resilience and vulnerability that come with being entrepreneurs. I’ve mentioned that before, a true and honest part of this wild ride.

On Monday March 2, someone (unknown) nominated DiscoverHope to be featured amongst Austin’s young philanthropists in the upcoming digital issue of
Giving City Austin. I will let you all know when the issue goes live—but talk about humbling! I was honored to share an evening with nearly 40 young philanthropists. I walked away literally on fire with Life and Energy.

The week, I enjoyed the networking during
RISE Austin, entrepreneurs giving freely to entrepreneurs. I attended about seven sessions to help DHF’s work grow, including subjects like using social media for growing your organization and engaging the Latino community. I was also a host for a session, How to Start a Nonprofit, where I had the pleasure of sitting with nearly 15 folks with nonprofit visions. I am thankful to be part of their paths and hope my session helps them on their journeys. I also met some lit-up ladies at the Austin Women Entrepreneurs mixer and the week ended with another dose of woman power as I sat amongst the ladies of Dell Computers at the W.I.S.E. Women gathering.

Last but not least, I wrapped it all up by listening to an unbelievable entrepreneur, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, founded here in Austin. Last night he lovingly versed several hundred people on
conscious capitalism and the not-so-secret success of Whole Foods. He noted that conscious capitalism has three components: 1) a higher purpose 2) considers stakeholders on every level of the organization 3) leaders are servants to the organization. It was really fascinating listening to this man who puts his employees (team members) first on the stakeholder list, knowing that they will serve the customers well because they are valued as employees. That brings people coming back, and helps profit, which the investors as stakeholders like. He spoke about his role as a servant to Whole Foods, seeing himself as a person who is on this planet to assist others, not to make money as his purpose. I left once again, humbled, inspired, and ready for another day as a Leader.

To being leaders who are eager to serve the world, MM

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The waiting game

I could say I am playing the waiting game. The "test my patience" game. The pull my hair out of my head game. This week there has been no activities or classes planned because the plan was to move into our Community Center space, set things up and make it a welcoming, working space. Alas, I am in Peru. I am at the mercy of Peruvians that work on a different time frame of getting things done. I have gone in circles this week...

I was told Monday.
Monday I was told Wednesday.
Wednesday I was told Thursday.
Today I was told next Monday.

On Monday I will put my faith in Peruvians that they will come through. We will do an inspection of the new space, new keys will be in hand and I will go out that morning and buy tables and chairs. That is the new plan.

I wish I knew the basis of this no hurry attitude. I wish I had the remedy to speed things up. Or if not the remedy, the patience to go at a slower pace. I find that at times I can foster that patience and other times it is no where to be found. Besides running in circles, like a dog chasing his own tail, I have been busy preparing for our first leadership workshop next week, signing women up for bakery class (also next week), and getting our literacy launch under way so that next week we can start literacy classes again with two previous groups from last year.

Now, we only have to wait until Monday.

Finding Paz ~ Nora