Thursday, April 30, 2009

Building Homes of Hope/Meet DHF's newest Board member

I wanted to introduce our DHF family members to Scott Blackshire, the newest Board Director for DHF located here in Austin. Scott brings his specialization in nonprofit management, development, and strategic planning. This background offers a unique perspective to the goals of DHF through a business–creative career path that intertwines the nonprofit, investment banking, and performing arts sectors. He has served as the Managing Director of Golden Children, Inc. constructing a children’s village in Cambodia and managing its organizational and programmatic development in New York City. Currently, Scott coordinates the efforts of the University of Texas Urban Leadership Collaborative Project (UTCULP), a $3M federal grant committed to preparing educators to lead and promote academic achievement in urban and high-need secondary schools. We are excited for Scott to bring his passion to our family and looking forward to you “Austinites” meeting him personally.

On May 16 at 4:30pm we’ll host our next event, Building Homes of Hope, at the home of John Thornborrow, Board President. We’ll be done in time for you to enjoy the rest of your Sat evening plans if you are here in Austin. If you are interested in attending, email me at

We hope you’ll consider joining us to support our three initiatives for the event:
Provide 10 families with 7 months of home focused health education training to improve health conditions, including weatherproofing their earthen homes and installing brick stoves for cooking and sanitation.
Provide at least 120 women in poverty participating in microcredit village banks with access to training and education in order to support personal, financial, and entrepreneurial goals.
Provide small microcredit loans to 35 women in poverty to initiate and grow small businesses

Wherever you may be, we invite you to consider contributing to an entrepreneurial framework for women in poverty to actively participate in their own economic advancement, personal empowerment, and life transformation.

Honoring you, MM

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Compras, Compras

Today is registration for BUY DAY (Dia de Compras), right here in the HopeHouse. It is a fun day for me because I get to see the labor of our women's work and select their best work to send to YOU in the USA! This morning one of our women, Aurora, who makes really great macrame belts, came to the office with more than 20 belts. We had put a limit on the number of items that each women could enter to make it fair and even for everyone and also respect the space we have. I had put a cap on belts: 6 max. I wasn't going to turn away all her lovely work, so it is in the office on "Exposition" in hopes that tomorrow the belts that DHF doesn't buy (which will be more than 6, by the way) other invited community members might buy. Everyone is hoping for a sale, including me.
Paz ~ Nora

Monday, April 27, 2009

Play for Hope

On Saturday, I had the amazing fortune to spend my day with the Baylor Women’s Soccer Team. What an absolutely beautiful group of young women. This is the second year in a row Baylor Women’s Soccer has hosted the “Play for Hope” tournament and clinic—an-all day women’s spring season soccer tournament with several Universities featuring an end-of-day clinic for youth soccer players ages 5-18.

On the sunny and windy Saturday in Waco TX, Baylor women won both of their games to end their off-season and hosted approximately 50 kids at the clinic, yielding just over $2000 for DiscoverHope’s work.
What astounded me was the kindness of these young women, and their willingness to serve as positive role models for younger soccer players. The day began with clouds and ended with sun and laughter and cheering youth who boasted their “victory dances” with the Baylor team. Marci Jobson, Head Women’s coach (and my little sister!) even sported her “Sprinkler” victory dance for the young kids with her almost 10-month pregnant belly. The young girls from the local church fell in love with Marci’s soon-to-be baby boy and temporarily named him “Raindrop.” I am thankful for the boldness of the team in spreading the world in the local soccer community to generate abundance for DiscoverHope. Equally amazing were many of the parents of the players who came out to support the soccer and our work. I’m looking forward to supporting these women in their fall season as the Bears look to “sic ‘em.”

As the day came to a close, I snapped pictures of the entire group. I thought about how I was witness to true selfless caring and spreading of joy under the beautiful skies. There is something really incredible going on inside of us right now…and that is LIFE.

To awakening Hope, MM

Friday, April 24, 2009

Faces of the Week

Just a brief picture show of the faces of the week. What was Discover Hope Fund up to this week? Ribbon, Fashion rings, Artisan bags, Marmalade!Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The shape of the world

Any John Gorka fans out there?

I was listening to Gorka as I sat in prayer last night before resting my eyes. It was a tough afternoon. Sometimes my afternoons are filled with joy. Sometimes sorrow. Sometimes both. The shape of my world changes daily. We held some fun-filled classes this week - Artesan bags, fashion rings, and marmalade still to come. I see women gather, learn, listen, share, grow. But, I also see women in pain, suffering and surviving in violent homes and uphill battles. I seek peace as I enter into these two arenas that consume the women's lives. I take in both and I struggle. I cry. And I pray.

Don't want to waste what I have to give.
In all the time I have left to live....
Don't want to waste what I have to give. In any of the time left.
I can do more than I thought I could.
Work brings more luck than knocking on wood.....
more Good luck...

You ask the world and the world says, NO.
It's the world's refrain.
Mine says GO.

May peace enter the shape of your world, as I open my heart for it to enter into mine.
~ Nora

Monday, April 20, 2009

Technology in the Campo

We held our third health presentation in the countryside today. I found it especially striking today that GyC shared their information with the small little laptop that they had brought along. The past two presentations were also held in the countryside, underneath a humble roof and dirt floor, with successful projections from the laptop to projector to wall. Home movie! We had a connection mis-hap that kept us from showing the "movie," which caused some disappointment. As we were setting up the projector and the initial image of birds (that is the set-up image) came up, before we found out the connection wasn't going to happen, the women were getting so excited and impressed with the projector set-up. Probably something they have never seen in their community. We'll have to get it working for next time.

Any at rate, the presentation was a smashing success as we huddled around the laptop images. Everyone in the group motivated to sign up to....better their homes and ultimately better their health!

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, April 17, 2009

Volunteers make the world go ‘round

I grow everyday from the people who work so hard to lift DiscoverHope Fund. This week I was ultra-inspired to be in the Presence of absolutely amazing volunteers—who indeed frame DHF with positive power to ground and grow. I was reminded of my thoughts on servant leadership and letting people do what inspires them and TRUSTING!

At the beginning of the year, the Board of Directors challenged me to “let go” of some of planning details to other talented folks. Most of you who know me know that I am all about the nitty gritty fine points. I am a “list making” woman through and through. For example, I just came home from a fun evening of bluegrass music at Old Settler’s music fest here in the muddy Austin rain (to personally thank
Great American Taxi who has done two benefit shows for DHF and never before met me). But alas, on this Friday night I have two more things to check off the list, and I will do them before I lay down to watch a movie. Trust me, I don’t always “love” this quality of mine, but it does help organize DHF to some extent and has its positives. Regardless, my challenge as issued by the Board this year has been to ask people to do what they love and to trust them to do it.

This week it really dawned on me how joyful this process of letting go can be. Maybe it’s because I’ve truly noticed that three months of trusting and cultivation of relationships with people who work as volunteers for DHF is blossoming into vision beyond what I imagined. The volunteers around DHF are absolutely powerful, compassionate, and loving people. The implementation of our programs thousands of miles away begins with motivated people who are working to create a web of energy: For example,

The Board Finance committee creating our projections that…
drive the fundraising plan created by the Fundraising Committee that…
is carried out by really zealous volunteers who sit around tables and figure out how to enact the plan that…
intertwines with the Marketing committee and the sense of building brand for DHF that…
is planned and carried out by the Website Team and Branding Team that…
creates messages that interest people who work with our Speaking Engagement Team that…
spread the vision of DHF into the world that…
brings in support for what we do and we are humbled to send forward the abundance.

All accomplished by volunteers. People who give of their time because they want to be part of something. Wherever I look in the folds of this organization, it is flowing with awesome Beings. They teach me so many things. They open my horizons in unspeakable ways. At the beginning and throughout and the end of all these circles within the circle of DHF, I have absolute Gratitude. They give DHF charisma and strength.

It reminds me of a Rumi quote I love, “Be a lamp, lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”

I am so thankful for all of these that have come my way.

Be strong, be wonderful, be you, MM

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Some things just go right. Some things feel right. Sometimes it goes according to plan. Satisfaction.

Today we held our 2nd leadership workshop. The first workshop in March we had 17 participants, today we had 10. I am happy. I am happy to work with a group, whatever size, that is committed, energized and very participatory. I was especially excited about this workshop because the agenda was to do self-reflection and some internal searching. The women that came today really have big hearts and curious minds. They are thirsty for more information, to grow, share, learn. I love feeling that through their energy.

We did three exercises: 1) Examining leaders in on own life and how they have influenced us. 2) Looking at our own characteristics and what leadership characteristics each one would like to have 3) A meditation/internal journey exercise where the women find their internal voice and light.

After a brief evaluation the women stayed past the hour to chat and drink coffee. It was such a great satisfaction to see the women sharing and being in each others presence long after the set agenda. There was lots of talking throughout our workshop about how women don't have the confidence to do or say the things they wish they could. A result of machismo? Culture? Lack of self-esteem? Whatever is contributing to this, I am arming the women with tools to gather the confidence they need and want. Part of that is homework. Internal and external homework. Their external homework is to go out and find future and new teachers for our classes. Another satisfaction, spreading the work around.

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

He wasn't going to do it anyway

This is a short little story of Peruvian culture and (mis) communication.

I have been waiting since January for literacy certificates for 2 groups that finished their 1st phase of literacy training back in November 2008. Jose (I will leave out his last name to protect him from humiliation) has been my main man since last year. He signed our institutional agreement with the Ministry of Education, stating his institution would provide our groups with literacy material. Jose would facilitate the gathering of documents. And when all was said and done, send our documents to Lima so that little workers bees could produce an official certificate of literacy success and then send those certificates back to Jose. Jose would then give them to me. And I would then give them to the women. In February. February came and went. March. March came and went. April.

Well Jose is nowhere to be found. He is in the mountains supervising another group. No, he is in Lima receiving training. No, No, no one is quite sure. He told me week after week, the certificates are on there way. I called him weekly, often times only to find an empty dial tone. I visited his office and when I was luck I would find 'Panchito' sitting there reading the paper. But his partner-in-crime 'Panchito' can't help me. He doesn't have the authority.

Today I put my foot down. I entered the Ministry of Education doors with the mission to talk to the higher up and get an answer, a date, a something! Panchito greeted me at the office door and told me Jose isn't here this afternoon.

"But he told me would we meet at 4pm." - me
"He was here this morning." - Panchito
" But Jose didn't tell me to come this morning. He told me to come at 4pm. Listen, I need to talk to someone who knows about these certificates, I have been waiting for 4 months now." - me

In walks a new face, a new literacy supervisor that works with Jose. He doesn't have any real answers, but he listens to me. He takes down my name, number and explains very clearly and respectfully how the process of receiving certificates works.
"You need to make another document B so we can send it with your document A in order to get the certificates. (Really? - Jose didn't tell me this). I am going to Lima this month so I can help you.
" - The new guy

"Yea, why don't you help this woman, since Jose was never going to do it anyways." - Panchito

Paz ~ Nora

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Better House for Better Health

What a humbling and inspiring afternoon! I went out with GyC, our health project partner, in the absolute worst rain I have seen all year. The streets of Cajamarca turned into dirty rivers as the drainage system unleashed itself upon the city. With the GyC crew we nearly had to swim in the brown river in a little VW bug to escape the city and head out to our first countryside group. We will be working with 5 village banks to help them make improvements on their homes and thus improve their health and today was the first group visit. We arrived to the group and began the set-up of laptop and projector immediately, as the rain kept us from arriving on time (which is all relative in Peru). The group we met with today consisted of 8 women and a bunch of kids and on-lookers. The GyC team did an absolutely fantastic job of explaining what our health project hopes to accomplish this year and that we want to invite families that want to participate in the improvement of their homes to join us in this project.

The main objectives of project: 1) Lower incidences of respiratory infections and 2) lower incidences of diarrhea.
The main idea: By improving the health and cleanliness of the house the objectives (stated above) will naturally occur, this is what studies show.

The health promotoras will help families clean up and organize their kitchen (ex. put plates on the wall in a wooden holder instead of on the ground), educate about animal husbandry (and animals not living in the house with people) and hygiene and sanitation issues. But the big AAAhhh getter was the improved mud stove, or cocina mejorada. The women, as soon as they saw pictures of what the stove looks like - and that they would have one in their own kitchen! - it was like everyone was on a game show and they had just won the grand prize. Ohhh. Ahhh. Ohhh. Seriously. Currently, many of the women cook on the ground with big stones that hold their pots in place over an open fire. The improved mud stove would save cooking wood, decreases smoke (thus decreasing respiratory infections) and saves money too. The next step is for each family to interview with the health promotors to find out if the entire family is committed to working to create a better, healthier home - including the grand prize - improved mud stove! See model stove below, only missing the top metal covering and final touches.

Paz ~ Nora

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ribbon Everywhere

Greetings - I am back into normal Peruvian life now, now that the excitement of birthdays and engagements has sizzled down a notch. Tis true what Maggie shared in the last post. My sweetheart and I engaged each other last week and plan to marry early next year. It was very exciting, emotional and most of all, natural. I never would have imagined when I came to Peru with Maggie in December 2007 that this would happened, but now that it has, I just can't imagine my life without Hugo and without a shared life together.

So these wonderful and amazing moments happen, but the regular day to day still calls my name. We have been busier than ever with classes - and the classes these past two weeks have involved ribbon, ribbon, and more ribbon. This coming week we will take a ribbon break, but then be back at it the following week. I never would have imagined ribbon design would be so popular. But, I always remind myself, if it helps the women in some way, a little more income than before, go with it. So, for awhile anyway, we will have ribbon everywhere.
Paz ~Nora

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Getting out of the Boat

Dear DHF Family,

The winds are whipping here in Austin, and it reminds me of the ever-changing internal landscape of our lives: sometimes calm, sometimes crazy, sunny and joyful, rainy and cold, but always changing and never static.

Yesterday, our very own Program Director extraordinaire, Nora Bedard, turned 31! I found out this morning that on her special day, Nora became engaged to Hugo, her loving partner of a year she met in Cajamarca. This is so special to me, because Nora and I had such an organic process of finding one another when DHF was looking to fill our Peruvian program position. Nora had steady and solid work in Madison Wisconsin as a social worker, and she made an incredibly courageous decision to follow a path that felt right for her and take the job for DHF. I know there are frustrating days and extremely uplifting accomplishments, like the whipping winds of change…but I am so happy that this journey of Trust also brought her to a life partner in Hugo (not to mention the countless women whose lives are better because of her). Her mention of a January ’10 wedding coincides beautifully with my annual visit to Peru; Peruvian weddings call for some all night dancing and celebration.

Mostly I am really proud of Nora and all the work she does. She had enough conviction to “get out of the boat” and trust—to move to Cajamarca Peru and assume the work she does. A friend and I mused the other day: “What would you get out of the boat for?”

Thinking about Nora and her quest connected me to my role as one of many leaders of this organization. I strive in my growth to become a servant leader. We spoke about this in my
NLMI nonprofit program (10 months of training with 20 other Executive Director-like folks). A servant leader finds the right people, shows them how good they are, and gets out of their way. Now I just need to ask people how they perceive I am doing, and work onward from there!

In a sense, I feel that the entire culture of DHF is founded on this premise of cultivating mastery in people to grow. This is my goal as a “boss” and ambassador, this is Nora’s program goal for the women we work with, this is our goal in the way we work as a Board and with other volunteers, and this is the relationship we want to create with donors. DHF exists within the realm of a much larger goal “to inspire greatness in people” and this goal means seeing people as creative Beings and helping them step out of the boat to create what they want.

Look at yourself in the mirror. Ask yourself what is the uniquely special gift which makes you you. This is what it is about. We all have a gift, something unique to express, to do, to become. It is your responsibility to discover your unique gift. What is it? Do you already know?

Dare to be yourself, MM