Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Just a little short note that I have proof, not visual proof, but take my word - women have used their new found knowledge of pinateria and balloon decorating this past weekend. I went to a 15th Birthday party for a daughter of one of our loan recipients this past weekend and she had the cement hall lined with balloon arcs. One of the arc wasn't perfectly made, but you got the idea. There was also cake (recipes from our bakery class) and appetizers (from our classes last year). I felt like I was walking into a DiscoverHope Fund showcase of class work.

The Birthday party was more like a wedding celebration - the birthday girl came down the isle in a huge princess dress and recieved 15 roses as she approached her alter, while simultaneously blowing out 15 candles that her girlfriends were holding. Before approaching the alter the elegant clown on stilts that accompanied her broke a pink bell that showered the poor girl in little plastic pink balls (not sure what that signifies). At the alter she gave away a baby doll to a younger cousin, signifying her goodbye to childhood. Her father changed her shoes and put on these silver delicate high heels, also representing her path into adulthood. She gave a speech, there was a long toast and many important dances that followed. I didn't stay for the midnight dinner, but I imagine the party went to sunrise, as they usually do here.

Long story short - I was able to see the fruits of our labor on Saturday night and it was a pretty good showcase.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, June 26, 2009

Work and Tea

It has been a busy, crazy week with classes, meetings, activities and on top of that headaches with my new apartment that is out in the countryside - one day there was no water, the next my cooking gas ran out and that night I found myself running after the motorcycle gas guy with my flashlight so he would find my house. The little things make for a full week.

But instead of writing about apartment issues, or new classes, I had this cultural exchange this week that was so surprising and funny. Our fourth leadership workshop was held this past Thursday. We talked about Vision. It was a great session - and I thought to make it even more great I will offer the women some fruit tea from Minnesota and crackers while they work on their personal vision homework. We were mid-way through the session when I served the tea and crackers. As soon as cups were on the table, everyone put their pens and pencils down. Instead of motivating the women to do more work (while snacking), their work took a complete stand still. "We can't work and eat at the same time," were Aida's exact words. As a die hard American I was ready to push them to continue, but thought, you have a point. Let's enjoy our tea.

When we finished our tea, we started again on our vision homework, not multiple tasking by any means. I have learned my lesson - don't mix tea and work in Peru.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, June 19, 2009

Long Division!

I am swimming in amazement and pride. Seriously. I went to visit one of our literacy groups this afternoon and they were working on long division! and writing official documents! (I just recently learned how to do that in Spanish). This group was only forming sentences last year. Truly, they have been working very hard. I definitely give credit to the 5 students that show up twice a week, do their homework and practice their new skills. But, I also give credit to Lily, their literacy teacher, who is amazing. She prepares every class with challenging, yet fun, activities that really engage the students. Our women often joke with Lily, but at the end of the day, she gets her job done. This month our two literacy circles will have completed 3 months of continued literacy classes and our verbal agreement was to test the women at 3 months, evaluate progress and assess commitment level to continue for another 3 months. My guess is that this group is going to want to continue. What a great way to start the weekend.

The Still Small Voice

Recently, I was honored to be asked to write up the DiscoverHope Founding story for an upcoming book called A Cup of Cappuccino for the Entrepreneurs Soul, kind of like "chicken soup for the soul" for entrepreneurs. I realized I had told this story many times in different ways, but never put it to paper. I just sent in the first draft and figured I would share it here for you, our DiscoverHope family.

The Still Small Voice

Flying high above the Andes Mountains, a voice kept echoing through my head over the hum of the old jet engines... “What are you doing, Maggie?” My hand skimmed the unused smoking ashtray attached to my seat and I began to wonder what made me trust getting on some old rickety plane passing through the clouds above the rugged caps and green valleys of Peru.

It was that damn still small voice in my head. The one that doesn’t go away if you ignore it. The one that likes to plant possibilities and ideas. The one that causes you to wonder your whole life long if you just let it go. Maybe it can be called God, Spirit, Universe, or any of the things that I comfortably believe all are the same great thing. What I did know was that this small voice came to me for months in 2003 everyday amidst my silent morning: “Go see con otros ojos.” And yes, the voice was half Spanish, which I figured was slightly comical inspiration.

I remember the first time I heard it. The phrase meant nothing to me: Go see with other eyes? It certainly didn’t sound like a slick business plan. So I kept asking for more. For months, images and thoughts started to form in my head until I finally had the answer: I needed to leave the boundaries of the United States to see myself from a different perspective, to see with “other eyes.”

Now, coming from a Midwestern family of eight children who are chock-full of successes in law, medicine, education, business, and professional sports, an announcement like “I’m leaving the country to see with other eyes!” is bound to meet confused silence. After all, I was leaving behind my community of friends, part-time undergrad teaching at San Diego State, six years of nonprofit work as a Program Director that I adored and also paid well, not to mention a good set of beaches and really good California wine…all so that I could go “create something” that kept resurfacing in me.

So when a mentor, entrepreneur, and friend Dan told me of his business trip to Cajamarca, Northern Peru and invited me along for a 2-week stint, I knew I was going because it felt exactly right. A week later, I told Dan I would be moving for an unknown amount of time to Cajamarca to create something there, and that he could drop me off in the mountains once his trip was over. Without question or hesitation, he said one word: “OK.” And the journey began.

The eight months of trip preparation was filled with the conundrum of doubt and excitement. I gave the organization I respected a long notice to have months to prepare someone new. I paid all my bills off. I sold my car. I gave away all my “stuff” to people who needed or wanted it. There was so much initial fear in letting go of things that seemed so important to me. Yet once they were out the door, I realized how little I needed them. On March 2, 2004, the day I left, I officially owed nothing and had no money to my name, a perfect zero.

But I knew what I wanted and what I had been directed to do: I wanted to explore the change-agent in me. I wanted to know about myself from a framework of newness that didn’t include the comforts of my own culture. I wanted to see myself as a person who could truly seize the opportunity to affect change in the world.

I’ve heard many people scoff at the phrase “Be the change” as if it is unobtainable. I didn’t and still don’t see it that way. We have the opportunity to change this world everyday! Changing the world is possible and easy for all of us—it means you follow your bliss by giving your greatest strengths to the world moment by moment. When you do this, others do everything in their power to help you succeed because they are magnetically drawn to you. This means that you inspire everyone you know to do the same, as they want the same feeling for themselves. Then they create their own paths and draw people to them. All of this equates to affecting countless people who are just like us. We (together) change the world.

In the rolling green farmlands of Peru at 8500 feet in March 2004, I found myself at the beginning of life amongst the gracious people of Cajamarca, a very blond woman in a traditional Latin culture 20 hours off a rocky rubble road from Lima.

My study of anthropology and communication led me to spending my first four months simply speaking to women, particularly because of their role in developing nations as having the ultimate responsibility for the well-being of their families. In my rusty but ever-improving Spanish, I spoke with women all day in fields, muddy kitchens, and in the streets. I asked them all the same question: “what do you need?” And then I learned my most important international development lesson of all time: listen.

After 800 cups of Nescafe coffee powder, it was unanimous…they wanted a “hand up”, not a hand out. They wanted income, to create jobs, to launch businesses, to use their own power to help transform their lives and the lives of their families. And with this, the still small voice that had guided me crystallized into the launch of a two-year pilot called HopeBank. HopeBank focused on giving women small microcredit loans averaging $100 to initiate small businesses, borrowing from best practice microcredit institutions like Grameen Bank, recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for their microcredit work and core belief that credit is a fundamental human right. And thanks to generous friends and family, I had $5000 in a savings account earmarked solely to help fund the project once it took form.

In 2006, I returned to the USA to formalize the nonprofit structure into a 501c3 public charity and HopeBank became the nonprofit DiscoverHope Fund (DHF) in February 2007. I now oversee our operations at our headquarters in Austin TX with an incredible Board of Directors, and work with our full-time Program Director in Cajamarca and an inspired group of over 20 volunteers who are key stakeholders in our story.

What I’ve learned from all of this is that we all share a common connection—a desire to realize potential…in ourselves, in each other, and in the world around us. DHF is founded upon the belief that one of the most powerful things you can do for another human being is to honor the potential in that person. When we do this, we awaken hope in their hearts. With hope, opportunity is born.

DHF provides microloans for macrodreams. Through microloan increments of $100, we invest in the entrepreneurial courage of women living in poverty so that they may grow their small businesses, cultivate their knowledge and skills, and create prosperity for themselves, their families, their communities, and the generations that follow. This money continues to give year after year and as women repay and reinvest, they create a way of life where they are responsible for their transformation. DHF knows that women believe in this ownership and responsibility as they’ve returned their money with a current 100% success payback rate to fund future loans. They do the work, we just get them started!

While microcredit is fishing pole to “teach a person to fish”, our model considers our next responsibility to teach women HOW to maximize the use of their fishing poles. We know that true change has to come from the resourcefulness and intelligence of the women we work with. To flourish, women need to be given the opportunity to maximize their skills as entrepreneurs, women, and mothers who have the ultimate responsibility for their children. We ask them what they need to flourish, we listen, and we connect them to the resources. They ask for literacy classes and learning the power of simple math and the alphabet. They participate in health projects and learn how to adopt behaviors of well-being for their families. They learn business and financial concepts. They partake in a myriad of skills development and personal readiness classes we offer. They become powerful agents of change—because they are ready and willing.

Trusting my vision has framed my life with transformative and positive power. I want my life to be a living expression of Hope. Even when the days are difficult (and they can be), I recall the magic in cultivating mastery in people to grow and help them step out of their boats to create vision. This lifts me again.

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

And it is never too late to begin. MM

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fun with Chocolate and Balloons

This week has been all fun for the loan recipients. We offered a Chocolate Making (and filling) course and a Pinateria (working with balloon decorations) course. Both of these courses offer the women an opportunity to learn something new where they can form a small business from their new skills. Apart from generating more income, women can also save money with these new skills. One of our participants is celebrating her daughter's 15th birthday (Quinceanera - the biggest birthday party in a young girl's life here in Peru) this Saturday. Instead of spending between $40-80 on decorations for her party, this loan recipient can do it herself. Furthermore, she can make the chocolates for the party too, since she came to both courses this week!

We definitely had kiddos hanging around the classes this week. For our chocolate making class the kiddos helped us clean the spoons and bowls. During our Pinateria class the kiddos wanted to take the flower balloons home. Since we still have another class today, our balloon garden will blossom for the afternoon and then we will 'cut' the flowers and let the kiddos go home happy with their flower balloons.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, June 11, 2009

DiscoverHope Newsletter Summer 2009

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

Enjoy the beauty of the weekend, MM

Butterflys in Business

Today is Corpus Christi, a holiday that no one told me about - until just recently on Monday. I thankfully only had to reschedule one activity, our leadership workshop, that was scheduled for tomorrow. The past two days we didn't have to cancel any classes - actually we had a record number of women at our class - 25! DHF held a Earring Holder class - very HOT right now, everyone is making them, selling them, buying them. Our women love making jewelry and this is a natural skill for them to learn how to make earring holders; a presentable and decorated butterfly that holds their jewelry creations. Many of our women sell jewelry from their homes or little tiendas. If they have a better presentation of their jewelry, we can only hope that sales go up. The women and their daughters loved this activity - it was a hit! I hope their butterflys translate to improved presentation and sales.
Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

House Health Tour

So I am in my almost full swing of work here in Cajamarca. It feels good to return and jump into a moving schedule instead of a empty week. It was a lot of work to set up classes for this month before I left in May, but I organized the schedule to continue as if I wasn't even gone, which makes things easier on this end.

On Saturday I went with our health partners GyC to take 20 of our families on a House Health tour. The families that are participating in our health project were invited to visit families that participated in a similar project that recently ended in March. You could call it an interchange of ideas (which sounds better when you say it in Spanish). We had families of the previous project share with families in the current project their experiences and what changes/improvements they made in their houses including; the new mud and brick stove, organizing their kitchen items, seperating parent and children's bedrooms and creating animal cages. Good stuff that makes for a healthier household.

We visited 7 families homes. Inbetween the visits we ate bananas, drank IncaKola (the bubble gum soda drink of choice here in Peru) and talked about how beautiful, clean and organized the houses were that we visited.

Just as we wove our way up the mountain, we wove our way back down. The roads we took were made for smaller vehicles, but our driver managed to transport us through the endless curves and bumps just fine. It definitely made my heart skip a beat as we curved around the mountain and on each turn the mountain seem to drop off just a little more.

Safely we arrived back to Cajamarca for lunch time. The women enjoyed their 3 course meal that was prepared for us at a little restaurant. Hungry and Happy. I could tell the women were motivated to take the new ideas, exchanges, and motivation back to their houses. I hope to visit some of their houses this month to see what kind of motivation turns into action.
Paz ~ Nora

Friday, June 5, 2009

Landed, Well, and in Gear

I madely it safely back to Cajamarca on Wednesday after an extremely long, exhausting travel agenda. I was restless to land, but anything but full of rest. I think I have caught up on my sleep now, and I am just taking it all in again. Cajamarca feels familiar, but still a little distance. I don't feel like I have culture shock when I return here, but do feel like I need a couple of days to adjust my own being to the smells, foods, routine, and other little daily things. I have gotten the mini report from a couple of loan recipients and my Afider co-workers about how things went according to plan (except for 2 cancelled classes), but that they missed me and when am I coming back?

Now, I thought I had told everyone June 3. Maybe I did, Maybe I didn't, but Nora's arrival was a hot topic this week. In part I definitely feel loved and needed when I hear this. On the other hand I would love to hear that the women feel so self-confident and strong in their organizational skills that they could just keep running the show without me. That to me would feel like success; I was able to put loan recipients on the road to sustainability.

Next week we start classes for this month so I am sure I will receive a more complete report of the end of the month activities through chit chat at our classes. Actually, before the first class this month our Health partner GyC is taking our 30 families on a home tour up in the mountains tomorrow. They are going to visit families that participated in a similiar project with GyC earlier this year (the one Maggie and I went to visit in January). So, I'll join them on their home tour and come back with a full report.

Paz, Nora

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Welcome to Cajamarca...Almost

This is just a short entry, although I have plenty of time. I am traveling back to Cajamarca from my wonderful biking, family reunion, BBQ with brats, summer wedding and graduation vacation. It was lovely.

Welcome back to Peru. Last night I entertained myself by watching the welcome video Peruvians show you as you weave back and forth while waiting for your turn in the immigration line. One of the tourist recommendations was to avoid getting into taxis if the taxi driver is shouting-yelling at you to use his service. I thought, I am in Peru. Then I thought, Thank Goodness, I am leaving in the morning so I don´t need to worry about taxi drivers shouting at me.

Well, it is the morning and I am not leaving for Cajamarca quite yet. I am currently living in the Tom Hanks world - the world where he gets stuck in an airport. My arrival into Lima last night happened only after a long delayed flight. I was exhausted, but anxious to get on my Cajamarca flight early this morning, so I rallied all night pounding away at my laptop with some past months DHF documents and catching up on the podcasts I still hadn´t listened to. When I went to check in this morning I had a little surprise at the check-in counter. Your flight isn´t leaving until 3pm today. They gave me a breakfast voucher, but what I really want is a bed. Any bed, really.

Good news is that I will be in Cajamarca today. Not-so- good news: it is taking a really long time.

Welcome back to the Peru adventures folks!
Paz, Nora

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer of Hope

Dear DHF Family,
The Summer of Hope begins!

Can you believe June is already here? Nora is on her way back to the mountains of Peru after two weeks of joy with her family in friends in the Midwest, and a well deserved rest! We are excited to see how the women at our site in Cajamarca carried on without Nora’s Presence, as we are training a generation of local women leaders so that the community can truly have sustainability in the future.

DHF is busy working on creating our own sustainability as we grow and mature. The inner-workings of a nonprofit are indeed a winding road. Of course, the entrepreneurial culture of Austin makes this a truly inspiring place to share with so many other stimulating people building their field of dreams. Speaking of exciting people, back in March I was invited to a photo shoot for Giving City Austin—an online guide to doing good in Austin directed by an amazing community leader, Monica Maldonado. Monica recently finished the latest issue of
GivingCity Austin called The New Philanthropists, and DHF is grateful to be included in this issue with so many incredible leaders. Click the Philanthropists link above to see DHF on page 22; the entire is tremendous and worth reading.

June marks the beginning of our “Summer of Hope” initiative, including several exciting projects:
We are beginning our
Summer Supper Circles series. This is a low-key way for people all over to help lift DHF’s foundation and contribute to our projects they love. The idea is simple: host some friends, serve a simple meal, talk about what is important to you (including DHF), and change the lives of the women we serve. Click the link above to open the document and read more. Our goal is 20 suppers, and we’d love to have you join us as a host!

With the generous help of
Thinkstreet here in Austin, we are working on a new logo and website launch, culminating in an end-of-summer Austin party where we celebrate YOU and let you have a peak at our new “look.” We’ll let you know the launch date.

We’re also moving along in our Building Homes of Health project and wanted to share some of the Health beneficiaries’ profiles with you. See some of the beautiful and humble families we are working with.

We’ll be launching the DHF Seeds of Hope Society during the summer, so stay tuned. This is an opportunity to join the Society and make a multi-year pledge to DHF to help us pave the path for the future. On June 13, the Board of Directors will gather for a full day to talk about the long-term vision for DHF. We’ll make sure you are apprised of our journey and what the vision for DHF look like.

May the sun shine on you during these days, MM