Monday, August 31, 2009

Band Together for Hope tix now available!

Dear DHF Family,
Please join us for our 2nd annual Band Together for Hope event on Sept 26 from 6-10pm in East Austin at the beautiful backyard outdoor venue of the
Good Life Team! Limited tickets are available so take advantage of the $25 online price by purchasing early. Your ticket gets you food, drinks, music and a great shared experience. 100% of the proceeds go to the work of DiscoverHope to create opportunities for women in poverty through microcredit and sustainable development training.


Looking forward to sharing a great time with you all,

THANK YOU to the sponsors who helped make this event possible:
501 Studios/"PEGALO"
Austin Management Partners
Cantina Laredo
Conversion Sciences
Dwyer Murphy Calvert
Fair Bean Coffee
Good Life Team
Jen Spencer Coaches
Law Office of Virginia W. Greenway
MotorBlade Postering Service
MS Music Management
Tech Ranch Austin
Tequila Azul
Tito's Vodka

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Animal Adventures

On the theme of animal adventures - my personal animal adventure continues...

Last night after some late night grocery shopping I got home close to 10pm. The outdoor light was on, but no one was home. I live out in the country and I walk past a corn field and up some broken stairs to get to my house. I walked up the stairs with chicken bones for our new house dog, old office dog 'Sexy' who barks at her own shadow. She is proving to be a good guard dog, but truthfully it is tiring to listen to her bark all night/morning/afternoon long.

Sexy got her bones and she was happy, I was happy. It doesn't take much to make her wag her tail and slowly but surely I may be becoming a dog person. After I left Sexy to eat, I gathered my bags to make my way to my apartment door. To my surprise there was a mean looking alpaca in the front lawn starring at me. This is my future mother-in-law Martiza alpaca who last year spit in my face. I remembered this incident and scared myself silly. How on earth was I going to get past this alpaca and come out alive? I called Martiza. She was going to send reinforcements my way, but I talked her out of it. I said I would wait until the alpaca sat down and was in resting position and then I would make a run for it. I waited for what seemed like the longest 15 minutes of my life. The alpaca sat. I dashed by him. And made it safely to my apartment.

This morning was the funniest site to see our little dog Sexy (the size of a cat) start barking at the alpaca thinking that she was going to defend our house. The alpaca just starred at Sexy, much like he did last night to me.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, August 28, 2009

Literacy Prizes

At the end of the week I went out to our 2 literacy circles to present the prizes of the month. It didn't go how I had planned.

I had suggested to our 2 literacy teacher at the end of last month - what would be a good way to motivate students? How can we get your students to come on time, do their homework and participate in class? Together with Lily and Nelly, our two spectacular literacy teachers, we came up with the idea of a visual competition. The teachers put stickers under each students name when they do something noteworthy during class, not unlike what I am sure many kindergarden and 1st grade teachers do in the U.S. My job this week was to visit the classes, count the stickers, and give out prizes for 1st place work.

The reaction I received from the class when handing out the prizes wasn't a reaction of 'I am going to motivate to get a prize next month,' or 'wow, all my hard work paid off.' The reaction was more of, 'why didn't I get a prize?' and 'we all have been working hard.' As I was walking past the cow pastures and adobe houses on my way back to the office I thought to myself 'why didn't I see it coming?' Peruvians are notorious for sharing - especially when it comes to food and gifts. Everyone present always gets something. Nobody is ever left out. I was totally counter culture here. I am already brainstorming for next month. I am thinking everyone will get something - like a pencil - and then still give out another smaller prize for 1st place work. That way no one goes home empty handed.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Animal Talk

Yesterday I escaped from my office routine to visit one of our health talks with Tula and our guest Vet Vanessa. The topic this week is caring for animals - everyone has them - and how to keep them healthy while also keeping our house environment safe and healthy. The focus was sanitation and cleanliness. Things I am sure our women know, but a little reminder never hurt. The women in the village bank La Perlita were listening very intently. I learned some new fun facts too:
  • Guinea pigs can't eat cilantro - it has poisonous substances that can harm them
  • Guinea pigs drink water, just like humans (None of our women give their guinea pigs water for fear that they will get bronchitis)
  • Pigs shouldn't graze on grass; Increases the possibility of them getting sick.
  • You can check a pig's tongue to see if it is sick with "cistecercosis"
  • If your pig's hair is "on end" or standing up that is a sign the poor guy has intestinal parasites.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, August 21, 2009

Final Days in Cajamarca...

Today is “Dia de Compras” at the Hope House. From 3 until 6 PM people are coming by to check out products made by the DHF women. It’s a great opportunity for the women to get feedback on the items they make and to earn some money for their work. Yesterday we organized all the of the items being sold. The women brought their earrings, necklaces and purses, and Nora, Desiree and I picked out the items to take back to the States. My expertise in women’s fashion was much appreciated in the selection process.

So this will likely be my last post from Cajamarca. The weekend is here and I’m going to try to do some sightseeing before I leave. I have really enjoyed my time here working with Nora and the DHF women. It has been a great experience seeing the reality of microcredit and how powerful a tool it can be for development. I look forward to turning my interviews and workshops into a resource guide for the women.

Additionally, I have greatly enjoyed Cajamarca. The scenery is beatiful, the food is good, the people are extremely nice and life is pretty slow. It was a great experience to stay with a family. It definitely helped knock the rust off my Spanish and opened the door to culture in Cajamarca.

I’ll be heading back to the States on Sunday and arriving in Houston on Monday. Thanks for reading and following my trip!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Save The Best For Last

Hello Everyone! As you can see we’ve been keeping pretty busy around here. Wednesday I completed my final interview and am now in translation/writing mode. On Monday I had the opportunity to accompany Brad in the morning and witness magic in the making. The socias really enjoyed his talk on the importance of creating a unique product.

Monday afternoon I visited several socias from “Banquito San Juanito” and “Banquito Los Chorritos.” On Tuesday I went to the community of Tatar Grande and did some serious walking with Tula. We visited two banks, “La Perlita” and “Jehova Es Mi Pastor.” The cocinas project is in full swing and I was extremely impressed with the changes the women have made to their homes. That afternoon Nora and I went on an expedition (yes, that’s what I’m calling it) to visit “Banquito Las Rositas.” We visited two socias. The first visit was Amparo who joined the bank to begin her pastry business. She mentioned that she new how to make delicious cakes but had never learned how to decorate them. After attending a cake decorating class organized by DiscoverHope she decided to grow her business. She used her loan to buy ingredients, cake decorating tools, and decorations. Her business is doing well and she even mentioned that the she had just arrived from Lima after being hired to bake a cake for a wedding anniversary.

I’d have to say that the second visit was a perfect last interview to end on. Nora and I went to visit Lucia, the former literacy teacher for “Banquito La Perlita.” Because Nora had never been to her house, Lucia offered to wait for us at the bus stop and bring us to see her home. Nora had reassured me that it was a quick walk. Actually, that five minute walk actually turned into a thirty minute test of endurance up a ninety degree incline. I was lucky this time. Since I’d been doing some serious walking with Tula for the past week my body was now adjusted to the altitude and climate. Lucia was so appreciative of our visit and Nora and I felt really bad but thankful that she had served us her only box of peach juice (obviously intended for family).

Lucia joined the banquito to further her sewing business. Unfortunately, business has been moderate but she has suffered a few setbacks because her sewing machine keeps breaking. She continues making jewelry on the side based on the models she learns at the DiscoverHope workshops. I was happy to see her in attendance yesterday at Brad’s second business workshop. At the end of the class, we served the socias fruit salad. I made sure to give her the leftover strawberries and grapes to make up for the juice she served us.

Overall, the interviews I have conducted for the week and half have been so rewarding. All of the women continue to amaze me by their strength and determination to better themselves. Despite their setbacks or misgivings, the socias continue to push on and seek to provide their families with opportunities they have never known. The microcredit loans together with the educational workshops serve as a foundation to improve their economic condition.

Tonight I’ll be on the bus to Chiclayo in route to visit my Peace Corps host family and friends in Salas. It’s been such and adventure and the time has passed so quickly. I thank Maggie, Nora, and the DiscoverHope Family for welcoming me into their hearts and literally into their homes!


Second Day of Workshops

Hello everybody...

Today was the second day of workshops. As I mentioned in my post about the first workshop, today the lesson focused on basic accounting / "is my business making money?" A few of the common issues / problems in this bucket:
  • Tracking costs and profits
  • Managing inventory
  • Separating business money from personal money

In order to touch on several concepts in a short amount of time, I made up a scenario for the group to work through together. The scenario centered on a small clothing business that starts with a 500/s (el nuevo sole is the currency here) loan at the beginning of 2010. This loan is used to buy material for 10 units of clothing.

We traced through the direct and indirect costs of the business and then calculated a unit cost for each piece of clothing. Next, we used the unit cost to determine our target price and unit profit. We continued through to the second month and discussed the various options for investing profit. At the end of the second month, I made sure there would be extra inventory so that we could talk about keeping track of inventory in a systematic way.

Along the way, we discussed the various options one has for investing money, how to think about opportunity cost and the importance of tracking credit terms with materials providers. I gave the women an example "registro" (accounting / bookkeeping sheet) along with the scenario handout so that they can apply the example to their own businesses.

That's it for the workshops. I learned a lot from the women and gained great insight into the challenges they face. Now I will turn the workshops and other ideas into a resource guide for the women. Tomorrow the women are coming to drop of their goods for the market that is on Friday. DiscoverHope buys a certain amount of the goods in order to sell for fundraising in the States. On Friday the market will be open to the general public.

Finally, a few highlights from Peruvian radio. They love the 80's here, especially Bryan Adams. First I heard this in the DHF office then A-Ha, INXS, Bryan Adams, Edie Brickell and and B-52s.


I am finding my way to the computer again after a number of days away. It has been a wonderful, crazy, busy week.

I went out with Desy on Tuesday to visit some loan recipients and help her conduct some of her last interviews. As she mentioned in her post, we hiked way up high, to one of the higher points I have been to outside of Cajamarca. Lucia showed us her adobe house with a spectacular view. While I was complaining about the hike, Lucia was laughing as she carried her 2 month old baby and Desy was keeping up right along with her.

On Wednesday I went out to monitor our Health/Stove project with GyC. We went out with one of the stove technicians to make sure the stoves were working properly and also that the women knew how to use the stoves and maintain their stoves - to ensure a long lasting stove life. Many of the women have never cooked with this type of mud/cement stove before so there were many tips and recommendations given through out the morning. Some women started their stove fires with leaves - a definite NO (as this can actually harm the stove by making the smoke accumulate and return out of the entrance) . Other women were covering their stovetops with large metal tops that heat up the stovetops and actually degrade the stove opening. I was impressed, as always, as GyC staff kindly and assertively gave usage recommendations and assisted each family with their stove.
When I returned from our stove monitoring tour I was beat, tired and hurting. I was planning on returning to the office that afternoon to help Brad with his second workshop, but I was no help to him. In fact, when I arrived at the office with a throbbing headache the DHF women came to my rescue. They said, "You have Chucaque." Chucaque is caused by 1.the air in the countryside, 2.the sun and 3.being embarrassed. I think I only had the 2nd (plus a little stress and worry about my rodent problem at home), but whatever. The cure for Chucaque is plunking (until your head makes a popping sound) hair from your head to release the tension that had accumulated in my head. Both Jesus and Rosa massaged my head and eventually "plucked/popped" my hair. They released some of the tension, but I had to head home to get the full relief. As I was leaving the office I could hear our office dog 'Sexy' barking when all the women clapped as Brad finished his 2nd workshop, so I knew it was a success.
After I rested and recovered from my Chucaque, I prepared Desy and Brad for a long Buy Day yesterday. We were in the office until 8:30pm last night eliminating, choosing, organizing and labeling the women's products that will soon find their way to Austin. Desy took the night bus last night and Brad only has a couple of days left. It has been so wonderful having them here and I truely wish their stay was a little longer.
Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First Workshop

Hello everybody…it´s a nice Tuesday in Cajamarca. Yesterday I gave the first workshops to the DHF women. Below is pretty detailed description of the class. Today I´m working on the lesson for tomorrow. I´m writing up the lesson at a coffee shop here called Bella´s – the owner lived in Dallas for 12 years and loves Austin…small world. On Thursday I´m going to go here.

First Workshop

Well, the first day of workshops is over. There were two classes, one at 9:30 and one at 3:30, with about 10 women in each class. The first group was very interactive. I was a little nervous about teaching en espanol but they made it easy. A pair of the women even stepped it up a little bit to ask questions that were far beyond the scope of the class. They are thinking about starting a business together and were interested in the pros/cons of forming a partnership. I pretty much told them to be nice to each other and put everything in writing.

The second group was interactive but less vocal with their ideas. There was also a little bit of a class clown. When we were talking about the importance of choosing a name for one’s small business, Wilma asked me if she should call her store “Tienda Sexy.” Um…probably not…maybe…best let a native Cajamarquino decide that one. Also, Nora and Desiree were invaluable in helping facilitate participation and helping me where I couldn’t remember a word or didn’t understand one of the women.

Today we talked about several topics. First, a little background on some of the common issues and problems that come up with the DHF women. I gathered this background through conversations with Maggie, Nora and the DHF women. The various issues and problems fall into two main buckets: one is the¨”vision thing” (ie what the big picture of having a small business is all about) and the other is accounting / figuring out if my small business is making money. I´ll talk about the first bucket today and the second after Wednesday´s class.

The first workshop (”taller”) was designed to get the women thinking about the first bucket – the “vision thing.” The common issues and problems in this bucket are:

  • Marketing: pricing, segmentation, differentiation, understanding customers (ie, many of the women design and make products that they like rather than what customers want), etc.

  • Where is my business going?

  • How do I grow my business?

In general, the DHF are very savvy about business. Because I don´t fully know and understand the market in Cajamarca, my goal was and is simply to bring in a few ideas and methods to help them think more systematically about the issues they face. Today I learned a lot about what makes the Cajamarquino customer tick.

That said, I started the lesson today talking about branding. What is a brand? What characteristics describe the products and services of a company with a strong brand? We did a little brainstorming exercise to come up with strong brands from both global and more local companies. I started with the example of Coca Cola. We talked about the different qualities that make up the Coca Cola brand (products in the Coca Cola brand). On the good side, flavor, quality, image and reliability. On the bad side, lots of caffeine and chemicals. We then discussed more brands and the characteristics that describe these different brands.

After that, I had them think out loud about a dessert store (tienda de postres) in Cajamarca. What do they look for from this kind of tiends? The women came up with price, quality, service / attention / overall customer experience, hygiene of the store, presentation of desserts and reputation among others. We talked a lot about pricing and how to set the price of a product.

The point of the various discussions on branding was to get the women thinking about how customers view businesses, products and services. By talking about what they value in a product or service, the women were able to think about how their potential customers view the products and services they offer. We came to the conclusion that in Cajamarca customer service / attention is the most important characteristic a small business can have. The women said they highly value the personal touch and an owner who is willing to listen to what they want. I was glad we came to that conclusion because one of my recommendations focused on service.

I ended by making two simple recommendations. First, give your business a name. My belief is that, for a small business, word of mouth is your most powerful tool for promotion. A name makes it easier for a customer to tell his/her friend “hey, you should buy your next bolsa from Nelly.” Second, I encouraged them to be all about service. Not only be attentive, friendly and helpful, but also listen to the customer. These women are making small quantities of different artesanal goods so they really can´t compete with other tiendas on volume. However, they do have opportunities to reach customer segments by being very attentive and providing personal service.

The next workshop will cover more of the accounting issues. We´re goign to talk about basic budgeting and how to determine whether a business is making money.

Thanks for reading…if you have suggestions on the specific topics I´m covering or think of something that would be helpful for a small business owner, please let me know.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday internet access

I know, I know...I wrote in my last blog entry that I would write at the end of the week - but there was no internet access - so early Monday morning blog will have to replace end of last week blog.

We had a great week last week and DHF was crazy with classes late into Friday afternoon. Thursday and Friday we held two very popular classes: scarves and artisan bags. Pictured here you can see the proud faces of some of our women that finished their bags on Friday.
I was also hoping to post some pictures of Brad and Desiree today, but realized I have no pictures of our awesome Fellows students. That is my job this week. Desiree will continue interviewing our loan recipients this week while Brad has been busy preparing for two business workshops. Then the three of us will be consumed by Buy Day on Thursday and Friday; working to bring to you all in Austin the best of the best products made by the women we support!
Paz ~ Nora

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cocinas Mejoradas

¡Buenas Tardes! The weather in Cajamarca is crazy!!! When we arrived on Monday I went to bed with about three layers of clothes and three blankets. Today it feels like Austin weather, warm enough to make me break a sweat this morning. Did I mention it rained for a few minutes on Tuesday?

Today I visited the community of La Retama with Tula, located high in the mountains in the District of Baños del Inca. We took a combi to the farthest drop-off point and hiked the remainder of the way to visit five families participating in the cocina mejoradas project. The altitude got the best of me…after ten minutes of an uphill climb I was out of breath and in desperate need of some oxygen. Lucky for me there was little climbing after that first climb. I was extremely impressed by the progress the women have made with their cocinas. Most are missing the final section of their chimney and have about two more weeks before they begin using them. Tula was on the phone today pressuring the mason to attach the final section of the chimney by Sunday or else. She desperately wants the project to be a success and wants the women to have the best product before the project culminates in October. She is defintely the women's best ally and strongest supporter.

One of the last women we visited today really broke my heart. Maria is twenty-seven, has three kids and another on the way. Her youngest child is a year and a half and won’t be able to breastfeed with the new baby due in October. Maria and her husband are currently rebuilding their house and have made wonderful progress on their cocina. They even decorated the kitchen countertop with beautiful tiles. Her situation really struck a chord with me. Here I am twenty-six years old, one year away from finishing grad school, and have all the opportunities in the world at my feet. Maria is one year older than me and fears the possibility of having more children. Although we cannot change her current situation, the project has given her a new set of skills that will help her better care for her family and eliminate the risks from smoke inhalation. I look forward to following her progress.

Until then…


Wednesday and Thursday: Working with DHF Women

Hello everybody…(wrote this last night but couldn't post from home)

The end of another day has come in Cajamarca. As Nora mentioned in her post, we spent yesterday visiting various women to talk about their businesses. It was amazing to hear the vision each woman had for her business. Charo, Lizeth and Nancy each have a clear idea of what kind of business she wants and how to run it, but external issues (debt, family emergencies, timing) keep getting in the way. Although it was heartbreaking to hear the stories, I was encouraged by the fact that each woman continued to speak passionately about her dream. Now that they have seen opportunity, they are unafraid to think outside the old constraints of poverty and lack of opportunity.

Today I spent most of my time in the office observing two classes on scarf-making and interviewing women. The definite highlight was my conversation with Nelly, a 67-year old Peruvian woman. She makes all different kinds of jewelry, purses / bags and adorns clothing. In terms of her business, she gets after it. She was adamant about the importance of great service and the need to understand her customers’ preferences. While the typical method of sale in Cajamarca is the tienda or street stand, Nelly seeks out customers in office buildings around town. She has developed repoire with her customer-base and takes custom orders for jewelry sets.

We also talked for a little bit about the classes she has taken at Hope House and how she has utilized the different skills. At several points she teared up and expressed how important the classes have been to her life. She speficially mentioned classes on managing personal finances and accounting as being extremely important. As a business student who has complained and griped about studying these topics, I stand humbled at the empowerment she felt as a result of these classes at Hope House. Interestingly, she cited a class on Leadership as one that she really loved. Not because she is planning on leading a particular group in the near future, but simply because no one had ever taught her about leadership before.

Tomorrow I will continue to work on the two workshops for next week. I have narrowed down the topics and am developing a more specific lesson plan for each class. The first class will cover general business / business plan topics: vision for business, service and developing a brand. The second class might be a little drier (hopefully not ”Bueller…Bueller…” dry) and focus on basic accounting / bookkeeping.

Oh yeah…one more thing…tonight our host “madre,” Vicky, served us her family´s secret alternative to cofee. It tastes and looks like coffee but is actually a combination of 4 different ingredients with a small portion of coffee beans mixed in. The great thing is that it doesn´t have caffeine and is much cheaper to make than coffee. Perhaps coming to a store near you…

Also, Just a few random observations on Peruvian cuisine/eating:

1. Peruvians like to eat. Although they do not eat on the run like Americans, they will stop at any time to enjoy food.

2. Guinea pig is consumed regularly. I noticed that G-Force is showing at the local theater…not sure how that will go over.

3. Avocados are cheap and really good here. The other day we had avocado with bread for breakfast.

4. Each night at about 5 PM vendors start selling plates of fried chicken, french fries and cole slaw.

5. Peru is the birthplace of the potato. Who knew?

Thanks for reading - Brad

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Out In The Field With Village Banking

Hello DiscoverHope Blog Readers! Apologies for not blogging sooner! As Brad mentioned earlier, we’ve had a pretty hectic schedule these first couple of days. It feels great to be back in Peru. My last trip down here was in December of last year. This is my third trip to Cajamraca but the first time that I am venturing out into the countryside.

On Tuesday, I decided to dive head-first into the DiscoverHope Experience and began interviewing socias from the various village banks participating in DHF’s Building Homes of Health Initiative. Most of the women participating in the project are village bank members, so I am taking advantage of the outings to evaluate the banks and the health initiative. Tula, my guide, is a nurse from Cajamarca overseeing the families’ improvements as they make changes to their homes and build their cocinas mejoradas. Tuesday we went to the Village Bank “Jesus de Nazareth” to deliver a talk on the importance of cleaning and covering eating utensils. The women made receptacles out of empty three liter plastic bottles. Unfortunately, several of the women forgot their materials but promised to complete their projects by tomorrow. I took advantage of the moment to pull several women aside and ask how village banking had changed their lives. I was surprised by the women’s hospitality and candidness. Had it not been for their micro-credit loans, all four of the socias I interviewed would not have been able to start their small businesses, which range from raising guinea pigs and sheep to crocheting sweaters and decorating cakes.

Wednesday I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to hike to Village Bank “Azucenas.” Once I explained that I had come to visit the socias on behalf of DiscoverHope and Norita and Magdalena, the women welcomed me into their homes with open arms. The reoccurring theme for the day was the women’s love of Nora’s workshops. Three of the women displayed the various products they had made during the classes-earrings, rings, shawls, handbags and sweaters. I took some really great pictures of their businesses. My favorite interviewee was a woman by the name of Maria Luisa. She sells potatoes on the side of the road from 5:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. She also makes house visits to deliver packages of potatoes upon request. She expressed her love of selling products, which beats the monotony of attending to daily house chores. These first few days have been eye-opening and has reaffirmed my belief that village banking is an opportunity to both empower women and lift them out of poverty. In the coming days I’ll have more stories to share about the trials and tribulations of village banking.

¡Suerte! - Desireè

Business Problems

So I have water and the week has gotten better, just as I had expected.

Desiree and Brad are in full action here. Desiree has been going out with Tula, our health nurse/facilitator, to visit our families in the countryside and do in-house interviews. Brad is hanging out with me and we have been visiting women's businesses and doing informal interviews to get an idea of their business problems and struggles to help us form our business workshops for next week.

I have been surprised to learn about the struggles of some of our women. Charo, who operates a small sewing business out of her living room, has recently decided to stop her sewing business and buy clothes from the Coast and sell them here in Cajamarca. People in Cajamarca won't pay the higher price for a better finish that she can offer. She can make more profit if she actually buys the clothes already made than buying material (more exensive in Cajamarca) here and making the clothes herself. She loves sewing and I was shocked to learn this and a little sad for her. However, she doesn't have enough capital to buy the amount of clothes she needs/wants to start her business and rent a space. She makes jewelry with her girls in the meantime to have some little income.

Then we visited Lizeth while there was a jewelry class going on in her patio. Lizeth has a small little tienda with limited things. Her problem is that she doesn't always have cash on hand to buy merchandise and she buys a lot of things on credit. Her customers will come looking for something in her store and she doesn't have it. So they go elsewhere. She loses businesses. Plus, she has a little two year old that takes crackers and lollipops from her store and eats away all her earned income.

Finally, we visited Nancy. She makes fried chicken in the afternoon. She wants to buy a big stove to be able to produce more chicken and she has been saving for it. However, an emergency comes up and all her business savings for the stove go into emergency hospital bills, house repairs, etc.... Her house last was destroyed and currently Nancy lives above her fried chicken business in a little room made out of scrap pieces of metal and plastic. It would break your heart to see it.

These are just some of the issues. There are also the reoccuring themes of husbands out of work, never-ending debt and children's school and household costs exceeding income gains. Life is hard.

So that is the mid-weekly update. Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First Days in Cajamarca

Hi DiscoverHope blog readers...I'm Brad Wright, one of the Fellows working in Cajamarca for the next two weeeks.

We arrived yesterday after spending the night in the Lima airport. Thankfully the airport runs 24/7 so plenty of restaraunts were open. However, I wasn't quite sure I'd left the States when I saw the foodcourt offering: Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Papa John's, and McDonalds. The airport was full of people waiting for morning flights. It appeared that most were headed to Machu Pichu. I slept a little but then gave in to Starbucks before going to board our 5:35 AM flight. Final thought on the Lima airport: the Starbucks barista played Merle Haggard on the radio...nice.

Our host, Vicky, picked us up from the airport at around 7 AM. We went to her house, had some warm tea and then crashed for a few hours. The rest was much needed. Next, we had lunch with Vicky, her sister, her daughter, her niece and Nora. Desiree and I talked a little "business" with Nora and got caught up on our schedules/projects. Once Nora left, Vicky (who is a tour guide in Cajamarca) took us for a walk through the town. We trekked to a high point above the city and were able to see the whole valley and surrounding mountains. The scene was very beautiful. The night ended with dinner and then a long, restful sleep.

Today we met Nora at Hope House in order to continue refining our projects and ask questions. We got the lay of the land and met the other people who work in the office. We ate lunch at home and then were off to work on projects. I have been at Hope House this afternoon observing a sewing class - 4 women are learning the basics of the sewing machine. It's encouraging to see the desire to learn and teamwork amongst the women (2 sewing machines for 4 women). It's also helpful to just listen because I am still knocking the rust off of my Spanish.

This week my job is to talk with women about their businesses and try to lend my "expertise." I'll be observing several classes and continuing to learn about the various businesses run by DHF entrepreneurs. I'll continue to report back throughout the next two weeks.

Thanks for reading! - Brad

Save the Date September 26 6-10pm: Band Together for Hope

Dear Austinite Family,

Please join us for our 2nd annual Band Together for Hope event on Sept 26 from 6-10pm in East Austin at the beautiful outdoor venue of the Good Life team! The festivities will include a myriad of music, food, drinks, and of course, amazing people who support the work of DiscoverHope Fund. Keep your eye out for the official invite at the end of August with ticket purchase details. Your $25 ticket treats you to all of the above and 100% of your contribution goes directly to the work of DiscoverHope to create opportunities for women and families in poverty to ignite their own life transformations through microcredit and sustainable support systems. We're looking forward to having you with us and we are grateful for your absolutely incredible support!

Various sponsorship opportunities are still available, to learn more contact

Can't wait to see you there!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Monday morning. It is going to be a good week, I just know it - but I am having a rough start. This weekend we didn't have water in our house. I was hoping to wake to the sound of dripping water in the downstairs faucet, but nothing. Not having an element so essential - water - is a really difficult thing. No dish washing, hand washing, toilet flushing, plant watering, brushing teeth or even cleaning the tabletops. I know many of the families with work with struggle with lacking essential elements in their daily life. I should feel fortunate that I only complain about a weekend without water.

This morning all the kiddos that have been on vacation for almost a month (Independence Day celebrations + swine flu scare) went back to classes. That meant that I was waiting for a 1/2 hour on the street for a bus,mototaxi, taxi...hey I would have ridden a donkey to work even. Full cars everywhere. I eventually got my transportation worked out to come to the office, and thankful it wasn't a donkey, and now DiscoverHope is prepping for a busy week. Our fellows landed in Cajamarca this morning and once they get adjusted we will be pretty busy this week.

Stay tuned.
Paz as always ~ Nora

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer of Hope Update

DHF Family,

I hope you are having an incredible summer! The TX heat is keeping us absolutely warm here in Austin. I haven’t been blogging much lately, as I love Nora’s entries from the field, and more than anything, reporting to you on the work we are doing in the field is the most important aspect of this blog for DHF.

First thought—for you Austin folks, save the date: Sept 26 6pm “Band Together for Hope” event, we will post the invite soon, but prepare for an evening of music, food, drinks, and fun featuring the Mother Truckers and other great music...true Austin style.

I wanted to let you know that on Sunday August 9, our two Meadow’s Fellows, Brad and Desiree, will be traveling to Cajamarca to work for DHF for two weeks. The Fellows were funded by the
RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Services at The University of TX at Austin. Nora has been making the preparations for their visit and arranging interviews, focus groups, business workshops, and more. Brad and Desiree are both fluent in Spanish, and will work directly with our beneficiaries on the ground to focus on field impact evaluation and development of business resources for our village bank participants.

Beginning next week, Brad and Des will be blogging on Adventures in Hope (under my login). They will ID themselves in their messages so you know it is coming from them, but wanted to let you know to standby for some fresh perspective from these amazing intelligent folks!

Our Building Homes of Health initiative is in its fourth month, providing health education and infrastructure improvements to 30 families in extreme poverty, with the ultimate goal of reducing respiratory illness and child malnutrition. Thus far, 100% of families have completed their family vision plans (pictured here) to serve as a roadmap for the changes they will make in their household to promote healthy behaviors. As of the end of June, twenty-one of the families completed the construction of their new stove areas with the materials purchased for them. In the next several weeks, all of the families should have their new stoves completed! The families are undergoing monthly health educational sessions with the field nurse as well to learn how to practice healthy habits such as boiling water in their lives. We are happy about the progress of this work, generously funded by
Firland Foundation.

Summer Supper Circles series has been going well with six suppers thus far supporting DHF’s work. This is a low-key way for people from any location to help lift DHF and contribute to projects they love. There are five more scheduled this summer and we are thankful for the amazing support!

Our new logo is close to completion and we look forward to unveiling it to all of you soon, thanks to
Thinkstreet here in Austin for their work on this. Our new website development is in process and will likely be completed in the fall.

I was recently asked to write about the DiscoverHope Fund “creation story” for the second volume of
A Cup of Cappuccino for the Entrepreneur’s Soul, a compilation of entrepreneurs’ stories. The final edits are in the works, but I figured I would post it here in case anyone wants a sneak peek at it: The Still Small Voice. The process was so much fun to document the story.

As always, we love the family of people around DHF.
Endlessly thankful, MM