Friday, August 14, 2009

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

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