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