Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nora's visit and Building Homes of Hope

DHF had a wonderful whirlwind weekend under the rainy Texas skies. On Friday I picked Nora up from the Austin airport on a leg of her homebound adventure from Peru for graduation, reunion, and a best friend’s wedding. We smiled widely at one another as I know that feeling of setting grounded foot back in the USA after being gone from quite sometime. Nora and I spent the day together sharing news from the field in Peru and headquarters in Austin. She dumped her overweight suitcase out on the family room floor and I enjoyed the beautiful women’s products she brought back with some new latest and greatest items: plant holders, hand woven placemats, and rings. I am constantly amazed at the ever improving work of the women and how they are integrating our feedback into their colors and styles. In Peru, Nora organizes artisan classes for both local and international, so the women can attend either or both based on their desires to produce.

Nora and I shared a Mexican lunch; this is one of the foods missed most by all of the travelers I have known that live in Peru for long-term. There is a misnomer that Peruvian food may be like Mexican or even Central American. Missing from any Peruvian store: cheddar cheese, refried beans, and black beans! If you are a Mexican food fan, this is a travesty and can cause some serious daydreaming. Of course, I wanted to fulfill Nora’s desires for Mexican ASAP.

At 3:30pm after a quick day of discussion, I dropped Nora back off at the airport to fly onward to her sister’s graduation in Kansas. I was sad to not be able to spend more time together, but knew that serious joy was ahead of her. Nora left me with her beautiful handmade wedding invitation nestled in a hand sewn Peruvian pouch. I am so excited to marry her and Hugo in Cajamarca, as she asked me to share in this honor for them on Jan 2, 2010.

At 5:30pm, the memory of Nora lingering, our amazing DHF volunteers Enea and Kayleigh came over to organize women’s jewelry for our “Building Homes of Hope” event the next morning. One advantage of this volunteer job: you get to pick your jewelry before anyone else! Over snacks we worked for 3 hours together to beautify the women’s creations by organizing, hanging, and arranging the pieces.

The next morn, Sat May 16, I was off to the home of John/Renaye Thornborrow to set up for our Building Homes of Hope event. This journey was a wet and slow one, as the skies opened up with serious rainfall for most of that day. The absolutely incredible volunteers of DHF helped us re-configure the set up of the event due to the relentless rain. At 4:30pm, we welcome the first of our approximately 50 guests and enjoyed the inspired evening together. Our brilliant guests donated approximately $5000 for our healthy homes initiative, development education classes in the Hope House, and microcredit work.

We are still seeking to complete our Healthy Homes funding initiative that focuses on our work with the poorest of our women in our village banks in Cajamarca. This project was funded in large part by
Firland Foundation of WA State, but we need approximately $1000 more to supplement this for full payment of the project.

This initiative is 7 months long and provides a nurse educator to the family, building of corrals for animals, brick stoves for the kitchen, plastic skylight for natural light and circulation of toxic wood-burning gases, and three family health lessons a month on critical subjects like boiling water…all in the name of reducing respiratory illness and malnutrition in children and families. We know there is no need for children or their parents to become gravely ill or die from these absolutely preventable illnesses.

Here are examples of women in their houses and what their homesteads look like. If you are interested in helping us complete this funding initiative, write anytime to or click here for the DonateNow link.

To a beautiful beginning to your summer, MM

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


This month of May is going to be a true test of ownership. I am going on vacation for two weeks and leaving the women in our leadership workshop in charge of classes/activities in the HopeHouse. We had our leadership gathering yesterday and 9 very responsible and active women each signed up for a class day where they will be the "Class Assistant" and take care of materials, set-up and class evaluation. They have seen me do it a ton of times so I am not worried. In fact I am excited to see what happens when I return the first week in June. I will have evaluations from 8 classes, already done!

When I think about moving towards sustainability I think about giving more roles and responsibilities to the women. DiscoverHope Fund exists to create opportunities for women, but they have to be active participants for that to happen. I think this is a natural baby step for them to take to move in that direction.

While they are stepping up to the plate I will be re-charging my batteries at home in Minnesota! Until next time....
Paz ~ Nora

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

Mother's Day in Peru. Mother's Day in the U.S.A. There are some things we do share. A tremendous love and respect for our one and only Mother that has an endless and all important job. Mother's that give unconditionally and teach, support and cradle when needed. Mother's really need more than one day of celebration, but we just try and squeeze in all that appreciation that we can in the designated 24 hours we are given this Sunday.

Our Mother's day celebration went smoothly on Friday. We started 45 minutes late. There were not enough chairs. The coffee didn't have enough sugar. One literacy group didn't show up. But, it went just fine. I told myself in the morning yesterday, "we are celebrating with our women on Their Day. And we are inaugurating the HopeHouse. I have no reason to doubt, get angry, stressed out. We are CELEBRATING." And, that is exactly what we did.

It was great. We had a ribbon cutting and toast to the HopeHouse. We recognized the literacy students that had passed their literacy exam. We had T-shirt prizes and Thank You's and dance contests. The women were smiling and laughing and enjoying THEIR celebration. It felt really great to be able to let the worries of the week go and celebrate with them and really honor them.

May your celebrations with your Mother this weekend also be joyful.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, May 8, 2009

Building Your Field of Dreams

While Nora holds a solid platform for DHF to accomplish our work in the field, the amazing teams that guide DiscoverHope here in the US keep holding a vision for us to become ever more positive, effective, transformative, and loving.

This reminds me of an amazing book I’ve been reading by Mary Manin Morrissey called “Building Your Field of Dreams.” In the first pages she talks about “igniting your desire and deciding on the Dream.” While I was reading these pages on my “thinking chair” in my office, I looked over at my white board where I often write myself reminder messages…especially when I doubt myself and ego creeps its way in and wonders what in the world I am doing! One day I felt compelled to write the words “IGNITE HOPE.” I have always felt on the largest platform of my life, this is what I want to do. One of the dreams in my life is to be a participant in DiscoverHope’s evolution as an organization, and to collectively create a space that accomplishes igniting Hope in people.

Chelsea McCollough, our marketing and messaging star and Board member recently wrote a statement to describe the position we want to take as an organization:
DHF is honoring potential in people that awakens hope around the world.

Chelsea asked me to revise her statement as I felt necessary, and as I stared at it in my kitchen, there was nothing for me to change. I do feel inherently that this is the Dream of DHF. This Dream enlivens us, it aligns with our core values, it requires us to grow more into our true selves everyday, and it ultimately does good things for others.

Last night we were up working late with DiscoverHope family member Brian Massey, “the Conversion Scientist”,
who essentially works on web marketing strategies and drawing people to your message by understanding who they are, why they are coming to your space, and providing clear calls to action. The reason I mention this is because the discussion of the DHF dream became very relevant in our amazing conversation. What became even clearer was that the honoring potential in people is important to us on EVERY level. Of course we want it for the women beneficiaries of our program work. But we want it for every single person who comes our way: we want volunteers to be lit up about what they are doing, we want donors to know they are stakeholders in this story of transformation, we want people connected to us to feel inspired to have their own Dream grow, just by being connected.

As we spend the next several months redoing our marketing and communications, including pro-bono logo development with generous business
Thinkstreet here in Austin, we hold our Dream of honoring potential at highest ground, knowing that every one of you deserves this.

Honoring you and your Dream, MM

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Good things happen in the middle of it All

I have had a difficult couple of days. Working with a Peruvian counterpart isn't always easy. There are communication problems and cultural differences and a different sense of urgency. We have been jointly planning a HopeHouse Inauguration/Mother's Day celebration for tomorrow. However the details of coffee, music, and even the invitations have been left to the last minute. I do not work like this. Afider does. Tomorrow I will embrace the day knowing that things will work out according to the last minute plan.

We have also been working like crazy with GyC to coordinate interviewing our final 10 families in the health project. To our surprise this week we found out that the last village bank that was invited to participate in the "Improving Homes, Improving Health" project is under the umbrella receiving assistance from another Health project in the area. I wish in Cajamarca there was a network of NGO's that could share their projects and information with one another to prevent double "coverage" of assistance. I am happy for the families, but stressed for us as an institution, as it creates more work to locate needy and willing to work families. The wonderful thing about working with GyC is that they have such a great attitude. "We can find more families. There is a sister of a loan recipient that has 10 kids, all under 12 years old. We'll interview them."

When I feel the stressors of my work I have to remind myself of all the Good. Otherwise, I might just literally stress myself out. The Good stuff includes:

A poncho class that ran itself this week without my constant intervention. And, with a low budget - less than $10 - 11 women were able to learn 3 new stitches to use in creating their future ponchos.
Through teacher and class evaluations this week our literacy students had rave reviews of their teachers. The students vocabulary is increasing and their handwriting is becoming more clear. When one of the students, Maria, couldn't write the number 3, I felt as if my problems were minimal. Speaking of literacy - I have all 10 official Ministry of Education certificates signed and stamped to present to the women tomorrow in our celebration. WOO-HOO! To be quite honest, I wasn't completely sure I would ever receive these certificates.

There is always Good. Just got to keep your eye out for it.
Paz ~ Nora

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Prep. Paint. Stamp.

This weekend has been filled with paint and stamping. Paint. Stamp. Paint.

Today we had an all day T-shirt stamping workshop. We turned the 10 women that came to the workshop into working stamping bees. In the morning the women set up all our designs and templates and in the afternoon we set up stations and stamped like crazy. Well, only 50 plus t-shirts. The women by far enjoyed this workshop more than the first t-shirt stamping workshop because they got their hands dirty, literally, and actually did the stamping work. For their first project - we had few mistakes. I am proud of our women, and thankful, as the t-shirts will serve as prizes for our Mother's Day activity this coming week.

Paz and paint ~ Nora