Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Signing Off

I can´t believe it.
December 27, 2010.
More than 3 years ago I landed in Cajamarca, Peru full of ideas, hopes and dreams to do great things for women in poverty.
3 years later I leave Cajamarca with a full heart and still more ideas, hopes and dreams for the women I have come to know and cherish.

My work here was my life and passion. I think forward to the life I will return to in Minnesota, full of comforts (despite the winter snow) and so much access to things, places and dreams right at my fingertips. I am longing to spend time with my dear friends and family. I look forward to hot showers and my own car. But, there is a part of me that is very sad to leave the simple life, this corner of the world that has allowed me to live my dream job. Yes, I am leaving the life where things don't always work, the streets aren't always clean, and the "hora Peruana" ( 1-2 hours later than planned) is the norm. The life where people say thank you and mean it with their whole body, where noboby knows the word materialism, and where the simple smiles of determined, humble women give me energy for the week.

I will miss the chats on wooden benches in the countryside, witnessing our women learn the alphabet, visiting women's businesses on dirt streets, walking into a classroom of students at the Hope House, and the genuine feeling of doing good in the world in a place where there is a lot of good to be done.

I came here with the idea to help women lift themselves up, and I can say with full certainity, I have never done exactly that in any other job more than I have here in Cajamarca. I am so proud to have helped DiscoverHope Fund grow into the organization it is today. I know DHF will continue to grow and do good work, as DHF was born out of the beautiful spirit that Maggie created and instills in the organization still today. I am so excited to continue to witness the growth and energy that DHF spreads into the new year and beyond. My footsteps today go in a different direction, but part of my heart and soul will always be with DiscoverHope.

Thank you DiscoverHope Fund for this wonderful oppportunity and journey. Keep up the good work!

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mayor of Austin proclaims Dec 8 "DiscoverHope Day" honoring our work

Dear DiscoverHope Family,
This note is drenched with Gratitude! Last week at our Holiday of Hope event, we had an absolutely magical evening and we are glowing into the Holiday season from the beautiful people who support our work near and far. We raised $25,000 that evening!

At the event, I mused with the 250+ people there that “miracles occur naturally as expressions of love.” (Course in Miracles). That means when we are expressing love, we are actively creating miracles. That is REALLY good news for all of us.

Being the Director of DiscoverHope has put me on course to receive so many miracles. The women and their courage. Nora and Des and the entire Peru based team who ignites the program to life. The Board of Directors who passionately give their talent and love for me and this organization everyday. The incredible volunteers who are the expression of the organization in community. The donor family who provide the living breathing life force for all that we get to do. Talk about miracles!

At the event, John Thornborrow our President of the Board surprised the crowd by reading a Proclamation by the Mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, honoring DiscoverHope’s work and proclaiming Dec 8, 2010 “DiscoverHope Day. The proclamation reads that “DiscoverHope is among one of Austin’s leading, inspirational organizations that stands for a world without poverty. DiscoverHope ignites personal power with the belief that everyone has a fundamental desire to share their greatest strengths with the
world.”

This was a total surprise and all I can say is that I felt the deep and lasting love and pride that comes with everyone’s belief in creating a good and kind world. I thought of sitting in my tiny apartment back in 2006 and just trusting this was something that my heart felt was important to do. Not listening to the inner critic (or not enough), thankfully…to help build a base that is now carried by people who are miracles expressed in this world.

You are one of those people. This is your honor. Thank you for building this.

This season, we hope you’ll consider giving the GLOBAL GIFT of a future to someone you love for a meaningful Holiday gift that will build lives for years to come. The GLOBAL GIFT funds a microloan for a woman to start a business, answering how she will feed her children. This gift funds training to grow her business, answering how she will send her children to school. Your support funds a way for her to use her ideas, energy, and power to provide for her family, answering how she will get out of the devastation of poverty. With a GLOBAL GIFT, this woman, mother, and entrepreneur has the POWER to change life for herself and her family thanks to your help.

You can give GLOBAL GIFTS on our Donate link at http://www.lendhope.org/. I will personally write them a love letter honoring your gift for them if you provide their address/email in the “in honor of” field of the form.

More than I can express, as I said before, I am drenched with Gratitude.
Love for you all,
Maggie

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Red Jackets


Today was the last coffee and cake evaluation time with the final class this year. For other courses that have already finished, literacy and computer classes, I held a 'coffee talk' where each student reflected about their experiences in the class and talked about - What was new for them? How are they going to use their new knowledge? while we enjoyed some yummy sweet treats. I did the same thing for our sewing class this afternoon. Our sewing class has been meeting twice a week since April. These dedicated students boast making great strides in learning many new styles and models of clothing. In our coffee talk, the women repeated that before sewing classes they were scared to use the electric sewing machine (many have foot pedal machines in their homes), but now they feel confident that they can use those machines. Also, many women expressed that they had a base of sewing knowledge, but mainly creating one style of skirts. Now they know more than 10 styles of skirts, pants, vests, and jackets. Their sewing repertoire has more than doubled.

The women repeated over and over again that they didn't want sewing class to end. If it was up to them they wouldn't take a break and they would keep going strong through the holidays. I encouraged the women to keep practicing at home, not to lose their new knowledge and to come back next year for classes. The last project this year was a red polo jacket, as you can see pictured above. Projects for next year: new styles, models and projects not yet seen!

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Year End Evaluation in progress...


This week is purely dedicated to compiling the year end report and reviewing the successes and examining challenges in the Social Program piece of our village banking project. It is a lot of work, but so rewarding to review numbers and stories that tell OUR STORY of changing lives in our loan recipients. Above you can see the Math test results of our basic literacy students. They moved mountains and, in some cases, double their percentage test score. The same is true for their reading skills. I am so, so very proud of this group of determined and dedicate women. Congrats to all!

Paz ~ Nora

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Celebrating a year of Success!








Yesterday we celebrated the completion of our successful year working with village banks together with our local partner Multicredit. It was a lot of prep and hard work up until our start time, which of course was 40 minutes later then planned, but worth all the effort. To give you a small re-cap, I will highlight some of my favorite moments, and let the pictures tell the rest.

The idea of our gathering was to invite all the loan recipients from all 12 village banks in the same room, so we could share their successes with everyone and at the same time motivate the women to continue working hard in the coming year. We had outstanding attendance, out of 100 active loan recipients I would estimate that more than 80 women were present. Each village bank was invited to participate in the "Best Table" Competition where the women put on display their works and were then judged by 4 criteria: presentation, creativity, unity, and quality of works. In the morning when the women came to set up their tables I was in complete awe. They were taking the competition very seriously. 3 of our village banks went above and beyond. "United Women" all came in red shirts that had their village bank name on the front and then their individual names on the back of their shirts. That says TEAM to me. "Strength and Blessings" had each crochet purple vests (and also made my purple crochet cape for the occasion) and arrived in complete unison. Finally, the winner, "Start of Belen" put up a starry night backdrop for their table and every loan recipient had a star filled t-shirt. The competition brought out the best out in some of our banks, and was such a joy to see the unity that our banks have come to grow into.

Certificates were given all afternoon. I was especially filled with pride as our literacy students stood in front of the crowd and received recognition for not only for their hard work and dedication, but their personal decision to invest in themselves with a tool as basic (for many of us) as literacy. Near the end of the event I introduced the crowd to our 2011 village banking team: Desiree, Ahidee, Jheny and Oswaldo. It was an emotional moment, symbolically 'passing on the torch' and giving my blessing to our incredible team to continue the good work into next year.

We finished the event with a raffle and prizes; our friends and collaborators at GyC, as well at the head nun Sor Reyna, helped us throw numbers in the air to select our winners. Then the room turned into chaos as the drinking hot chocolate and eating fruit cake time began. All in all, Success. As I compile information for our Year End report next week I will make sure to share it here on the blog, so you all can get a better idea of specific successes, as there are many. But, now it is time for me to relax and regain strength for the coming week. Enjoy the photos!


Paz ~ Nora

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Big Event...Is Here!!!


So today is the big day! After two months of planning, DHF and Multicredit will be hosting the first Annual Village Bank Gathering at 3:00 PM where loan recipients from all twelve village banks will unite to celebrate their accomplishments for the year. We will be recognizing women who have participated in our long-term classes: Literacy, Computer, and First Aid as well as the Best Saver and Most Active Village Bank. The village banks have also selected the most Outstanding Village Banker who has demonstrated the qualities of leadership, unity, and dedication; the recipient will receive a certificate and be recognized in front of the entire crowd.  There is still much to do like setting up tables, printing certificates, preparing hot chocolate, and cutting huge slices of "paneton" (peruvian fruit cake). I'm positive the hard work and meticulous organizing will pay off. After a huge goodbye party last week, this a piece of cake. To be continued....   

~Desy 

Friday, December 3, 2010

All In A Day's Work!



Hello DHF Family! So I feel the need to share with you how Nora's despedida (goodbye party) REALLy went down. Over a month ago, more than a dozen loan recipients approached me with the idea of staging a goodbye party. I truly felt it was my obligation to take on the challenge full force. After all Nora has done so much for our women and has made the Hope House what it is today. My first question was:  "How do you organize a party with over 100 women from different village banks who don't know each other that well?" Then it came to me...POTLUCK. Nora loves potlucks. During my three months here she's invited me to over six. With the help of our village bank promoter, we went travelling all over the city of Cajamarca knocking on doors and delivering invitations. Each of the 12 village banks was in charge of bringing a traditional peruvian dish for 20 people and a small gift for Nora to take back to Minnesota. In the beginning, the task seemed daunting but somehow, someway (don't ask me how), it just came together. The nuns graciously let me borrow their auditorium and sound equipment; our cooking teacher Celi agreed to make a gigantic cake to fed an army of 150; and in true peruvian style, each bank brought dishes that could serve up to forty people instead of a meager twenty. In the end there was plenty of food, cake, refreshments, singing, and laughter. The best part of it all was that each village bank along with our Hope House instructors had the opportunity to share their thoughts on how much Nora means to them. You could feel the love in the room. I was truly humbled. In the end, although I had food in my hair, icing on my shirt, and didn't touch a crumb of anything, I felt more alive than ever. I still don't know how I pulled this off. Nora you deserved this and much more. Your love and dedication continues to inspire me and I only hope that I can accomplish at least a fraction of what you've started here. Love you much!

~Desy

The Despedida to Top all Despedidas!



I was speechless, still am.

Desi gave me the greatest gift ever yesterday. She brought all our 12 village banks together for a surprise Goodbye (Despidida) party. I knew something was up her sleeve, but I never would have guessed a room filled with so much love and appreciation. She lead me, eye closed, into the auditorium filled with close to 100 women. I opened my eyes and was surrounded by the faces that inspire and motivate me. On top of that, there was the most beautiful buffet table of peruvian delicasses laid out across the table. POTLUCK, every village bank had brought a dish to share!

But, first was the speeches and songs and poems. Desi made me sit in front of everyone, all I was missing was a queens crown. Different women and teachers and coworkers came up to give their heart-felt gratitude words of goodbye. It was incredibly touching. I felt a wave of love and gratitude so big I could have exploded right then and there. Then, the food. Nourish the body and soul.

Although it was my GoodBye party, I was infused with all the energy and power that our women hold. I know Desi will do amazing things with DHF in the coming year, I mean, She brought 100 women together in the same room and organized the most beautiful Peruvian buffet, anything in Peru is a piece of cake after that. Our women are thristy for more knowledge and learning opportunities. Only great things will be created from all this goodness.

Paz ~ Nora





Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Vision



Last leadership workshop this week. It was bittersweet. I have really enjoyed putting together these workshops as it is the confidence building and real work that opens doors for self-esteem for many women. Yea, I get them playing, laughing, listening to stories...but with the goal of new ideas and thought processing springing up within.

We talked about Vision, both personal and group, for this last session. How do you plan for the future?, a topic that is not a common topic among Peruvians. I had the women evaluate their personal motivations for being in their village banks and then we did TV interviews. What is your life going to be like in 10 years? Think about your life, job, your surroundings. What is different and (hopefully) better? How did you get there? What decisions and steps did you have to make? From these experiences the women had to write down their personal vision on a small sheet of paper. Above you can see that Olga wrote "I want to have all the basic services (electricity and water) in my house so that I can put my small business in my house." Below you can see Laura had written, "I want to be a professional and sell real estate."

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, November 26, 2010

Many, Many Thanks!


As you all celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, Desiree and I were poolside. Taking a break from the office workload and feeling the gratitude to be here, in Cajamarca, doing what we are doing. Our work is so fufilling and, although it has it's challenges, it has endless rewards. Although yesterday we took a little break, there hasn't been many other breaks to speak of. Last Saturday our First Aid students finished their health session with the topic of Diarrhea. Again, another health session filled with questions and addressed doubts. Then, as the week got underway we had a Christmas cake class and Christmas crochet class. Finally, our computer class finished their 3 month Word 2007 Documents course with flying colors. Our students made incredible strides to greatly improve not only their typing speed, but their level of comfort with creating formal documents. According to Damaris, one of our top computer students, "This course has helped me a lot. I can make all kinds of documents and I am not scared to do them on my own. Because I learned so many new things with Word I can also help my younger family members at home with their homework."


Paz ~ Nora

Friday, November 19, 2010

'Tis the Season


Yep. That's right. It's not even Thanksgiving and here we are talking about Christmas. For the end of this month we have planned some special classes at the Hope House, preparing the women for next month. Our true entrepreneurs will take advantage of the Christmas season and boost up their businesses. Come December the streets of Cajamarca burst with activity and sales. This week we held a Christmas chocolate class and a snowman class (even though Cajamarcans don't know what snow is, some symbols for the Christmas season are universal). Peru is a very Catholic country and Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays. With our classes we hope to not only help our entrepreneurs get ahead of their competition, but also enjoy the season with special homemade treats that they themselves make here at classes.



Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DiscoverHope welcomes new Peru-based Program Manager, Desireé Ledet

Dear DiscoverHope Family,

Being part of the unfolding of DiscoverHope is a magical journey. From the beginning, this organization was born from the fabric of a spiritual process and following the still small voice that ushered my journey to Peru in 2004 and eventually led to the formation of DiscoverHope as a nonprofit in 2007. In the summer of 2007, I conducted a search for our first Program Manager who would live full-time in Peru. I got 150+ resumes, and Nora Bedard’s was the very first. There was something so alive in her cover letter and after meeting her in Chicago in the fall of 2007, she and I embarked on the journey to Peru together in winter 2007 to bring Nora to her new “home”. It was an exciting time and I hoped with all my heart that this dream would unfold.

And unfold it has…a simple paragraph could not explain who Nora is both to me and to DiscoverHope. I knew in winter 2007 when I watched her with the women in Cajamarca, sitting on the ground listening so attentively, that she was PERFECT for the job. Nora has been a partner to me in the creation of DiscoverHope. We’ve been through twists and turns and valleys and mountaintops figuring out how to best serve women through microcredit + training. Very few can really understand the daily challenges of her job and the infinite patience it takes to work at the crossroads of culture. Everyday is an adventure. The fact is— the program manager’s tireless work is the lifeblood of our organization and what we do. Nora has brought to life every one of your contributions to help our women.

You can imagine how happy I was to be part of Nora’s life unfolding path also…when she met Native Cajamarquino Hugo in Peru, fell in love, and got married! It is natural that after 3 years in the field, Nora is ready to explore her life back in the U.S. with her new husband and family. Of course, the layers of love she has built in Cajamarca will be ever-present, as she will be in my life and the growth of DiscoverHope for years to come.

With big shoes to fill, once again the spiritual path unfolded and brought us the powerhouse of compassion and knowledge that is Desiree Ledet, our new Program Manager who will begin officially in this role in Jan 2011. “Desy” hails from The University of TX at Austin and in spring 2010 completed her Master of Public Affairs at the LBJ School. We know Desy’s work ethic well as she served as a summer fellow in 2009 for DiscoverHope and spent the summer working alongside Nora engaging in the everyday practice of our microcredit + training programs. In spring 2010, Desy spearheaded our site vetting committee to determine next potential sites for our work. Fluent in Spanish, Desy is no stranger to Peru as she served for 3 years in the Peace Corps a mere 6 hours from Cajamarca Peru as a Community Health Volunteer.

We know the transfer of knowledge is essential! Desy has been training alongside Nora since September and will return briefly in December for our strategic planning before she deploys to officially begin her role. Nora and Desy have forged amazing bonds and I know that having them work together has been an undeniable gift. I will let them tell you more about themselves and their impending journeys.

As we go through this critical transition, I could not be more pleased about the foundation that Nora has created and the spirit and enthusiasm that Desy now brings to Peru. I am humbled to know that, thanks to what Nora and Desy are doing in their daily lives, what started with a "small still voice" has grown to 300+ loans and 675+ classes so that women can now support themselves and their families. Please continue to support us through this time of change and opportunity. You can contribute, learn more, or tell a friend about DiscoverHope. We look forward to growing in 2011. Visit us at www.lendhope.org

Message from Nora:

After 3 years being, living and working with the women of DiscoverHope in Cajamarca, Peru, the time has come for me to return to the U.S. DiscoverHope Fund has been my lifeblood, passion and dedication during my time in Peru. I came to Cajamarca, Peru in 2007, leaving behind the comfortable life I had constructed to follow a calling to serve and empower women in Peru. It is a bitter sweet goodbye, as I have grown roots here and feel intimately connected to my work and the vision of DHF. Although I am excited to return to Minnesota with my Peruvian husband Hugo and see and live near my family and friends again, I leave Cajamarca with a small sadness, as I will dearly miss all of the incredibly courageous and talented women and our wonderful partners and friends.

It also gives me great comfort to know that Desiree "Desy" Ledet will be taking over as DiscoverHope's in-field Program Manager. Desy and I have been working together through the transition since September and I am fully confident in her dedication and drive to continue to create new opportunities for our women. She is filled with positive energy and incredible heart that will only help her do great things with DiscoverHope.

I am so proud of what we have built here, in big part thanks to you, our dedicated supporters. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this journey, as it not only has changed the lives of many humble women, but also changed my own life. It may be hard to see from thousands of miles away, but we have made an amazing difference here in Cajamarca, Peru, in the lives of many women. A difference that will last for generations.

Paz - Nora

Message from Desy:

I am so excited to be here in Peru working with the women of DiscoverHope and continuing the legacy of the past 3 years. Nora has left an incredible platform from which to build and I feel blessed to have spent the past two months working alongside her and witnessing our women grow in so many ways. The decision to return to Peru was not taken lightly. As Nora made that big decision three years ago to leave her family and life as she knew it in the States, I too had to contemplate a life away from the comforts of home. I know in my heart that I am making the right decision and I am 100% committed to helping DHF fulfill their mission of creating abundance in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Cajamarca.

I would like to thank Maggie, Nora, and the DHF Board for entrusting their confidence in me and allowing me to embark on such an exciting new chapter in my life. The entire DHF Family continues to inspire me on a daily basis with their love, dedication, and belief in our work. I promise to make all of you proud of your decision to be a part of this important labor of love.

I look forward to sending you updates as we grow the program to form new village banks and increase the number of entrepreneurial training so that more women can make the journey from poverty to prosperity. Thank you and more to come!

-Desy

Rain or Shine

It is rainy season. That means, a lot of rain. Everyday. All day. And, sometimes that also means that it is hard for women to come to classes because kids are sick, the rain swells the rivers, and makes it hard to cross, etc... But, this week when Des and I visited our crochet group out in the countryside the rain meant that they bundled up a little bit more and still went to class. Talk about dedication. All the crocheters were under an awning , staying dry, but nonetheless, crocheting in the rain. Rain or shine. We continue to teach, inspire, and work hard. That is what our women reminded us this week.

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taking the Next Step

Last Thursday was a great day for me here at the Hope House. A few weeks back I wrote a blog entry about a loan recipient named Marina from Village Bank Lucecitas (Little Lights). Marina, after sharing a laundry list of excuses explaining her lack of participation in Hope House activities, mustered up the courage to sign up for our final jewelry class of the year. At 3:30 P.M. I anxiously watched the clock wondering if she would show up as promised. Ten minutes passed. Thirty minutes. Forty minutes. Finally, with child in arms, she appeared. Late… yes, but she was here, ready to learn and return home with a pair of earrings and necklace in hand. Since it was her first class, our instructor made a special effort to show Marina how to use the wire cutters and pincers and carefully position the beads. When I asked her how she felt making her first jewelry set, she simply replied: “I feel really good.” I left the office that day with a smile on my face and with a renewed sense of hope that sometimes all it takes are a few words of encouragement to make a difference in a person’s life.
~Desy

Friday, November 12, 2010

Photovoice Voices


Juana was the president of her village bank in the first loan cycle. She was desperate to learn First Aid techniques. She attended all of our First Aid class and claims, "now I save money because instead of going for a medical appointment, I take my children's temperature at home. I know when to medicate and when not to self-medicate."

Ester is one of our younger loan recipients, but also very active. She has two little children, both under the age of 5, and is expecting another little one any day now. Even with her little one on the way now, she comes religiously to computer class because,¨I want to teach my children how to use a computer. I want them to be proud of their mother."






Tania is another young loan recipient that is testimony to the success of a micro loan. ¨Before I use to help my dad sell animals and he would give me a small tip ($2), but now I buy and sell my own animals with the capital I receive and I can make more money ($20) on an animal."


Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Village Banks Marching On!


Aurelia preparing her empanadas

Hello DHF Family! This past week and a half has been extremely hectic so apologies for not writing sooner. I’ve been dividing my time between village bank meetings, Hope House activities, and helping Nora collect data for DHF’s annual program evaluation. So there is so much to tell! These past two weeks, two village banks completed their first loan cycle. At the end of a loan cycle, each bank elects a new directive committee (president, secretary, and treasurer) and receives a new loan. Village Bank Mujeres Luchadoras (Fighting Women) were first up and extremely excited about transitioning. Their new president, Ingrid, is extremely active and is in the process of programming a fundraiser with her socias on November 15th. The goal is to split the profits and put them toward their savings so at the end of the year they can purchase Christmas gifts for their kids. Our second bank Estrellitas de Belen (Stars of Bethlehem) voted a new loan recipient in and elected her president. Aurelia is definitely a mover and a shaker. She is the eldest of the group and has dreams of opening up a food stand where she can sell fried chicken, stuffed potatoes, and other finger foods. Before entering the bank she sold school supplies and candy to neighborhood kids. As a result she saved about $150, just half way short of her goal. Now with a DHF sponsored loan, she’ll be able to go ahead and purchase her cart and start selling food this month. She too is also organizing a fundraiser with her group not only to motivate them, but to unify them and develop trust in one another.  It’s refreshing to see new leadership in our village banks and witness our women progressing. So yesterday, while Ingrid was in computer class, Aurelia came to cooking class and learned how to make empanadas (stuffed, baked treats). Both left with a smile on their face.  I left with a sense of pride and reassurance that the hard work and late nights are paying off and making a difference in our women’s lives.
~Desy

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Photovoice Evaluation

Being that there is only two months left this year, I decided to start our Photo voice project early. What is our Photo voice project? Two of our most active village banks were chosen to answer general evaluation questions with a disposable camera. Desiree and I went out to the village bank Fuerza y Bendicion yesterday morning to show the women the photos that they had taken. Their was giggling, laughing and some red faces. They weren't especially excited to share their photos with the rest of the group, but when you take photos for the first time in your life, that is what happens. The women explained their photos and shared their positive experiences with us. It was reassuring and provided a dose of hope, our work and efforts have deep and powerful impacts. You will be sure to hear more about Photovoice at the end of the year.

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pay Day

So we have 12 active village banks at the moment. 12 groups of women that have collectively taken out a loan to invest in their small businesses and made the decision to improve their lives, in one way, shape or form. I went to a repayment meeting a couple of days ago and was just shocked. Our women are running the show. They are collecting loan repayments, giving change and double checking their 'bank' accounts. Senor de los Milagros village bank, who is now in their 2nd loan cycle, was beginning to follow our promotoras' footsteps the last time I visited them. They know what they are doing now. When Pay Day comes it means business. Our women are doing business.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Taking the First Step


Village Bank President, Luz, overseeing the group's payment (gray sweater)

Since September I’ve been visiting each of our twelve village banks, introducing myself and getting to know the women one by one. On Tuesday, I visited village bank Lucecitas (little lights) to witness the second payment of their first loan cycle. Their president, Luz Perez, (bless her heart!) made a huge blunder and turned away her village bank socias thinking that their meeting was scheduled for Thursday. By the time we arrived, only four women remained. So after leaving their payments with the treasurer and agreeing to hold the president responsible for collecting the remainder, we decided to have a quick chat. Three of the eight women are extremely active, attending Hope House activities on an almost weekly basis. Out of curiosity I decided to ask the non-active women their reasons for such poor attendance. During the conversation we heard a laundry list of excuses from one particular woman, Marina. She mentioned that she didn’t have time in the afternoons; that the jewelry classes were not meant for women her age; and on and on. After some words of encouragement by our village bank promoter, Elizabeth, and a quick review of our activities for the month of November, Marina and two other women signed up for one of our jewelry classes. Afterwards, Marina confided in me that from the very beginning, she’s wanted to participate in Hope House activities but due to her husband’s jealousy, she’s been prohibited. However, that day, she decided to take a first step and enroll herself regardless of his opinion. I’m keeping my fingers cross that she shows up as planned. Unfortunately, for many of our women, male head of households can be a major road block to their own advancement. It’s extremely difficult to find a solution or even mitigate the effects of machismo here in Peru. Sometimes the first step is having the woman make a personal decision to do things differently. I’ll keep you posted on Marina’s case.

~Desy  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Computer Experts

We are entering into our last month of computer classes this coming month, November. During class today I walked around and watched our loan recipients complete their 2nd exam, the 1st was completed after the 1st month of computer classes. I was amazed. Stuff I don't even know how to do. Maybe I need to attend some of the computer classes?

Berta, our amazing teacher, knows exactly what to do with the class, with each student, to encourage them to learn and grow. She has gone above and beyond to make sure students make up classes on her own time on the weekends and stays late, comes early when needed. She introduced into the curriculum the theme of "personal maps" (as you can see pictured above). In Cajamarca, if you know how to design a personal map, you can get paid s/5, or close to $2, for each map you produce. It is a small business venture if you know what you are doing. And, from what I saw today, our women know what they are doing.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cooking Class Galore!

As we wrap up the month of October, I’d like to introduce you to one of our new additions to the Hope House Family. Celi Berdales is one of our new cooking instructors that came onboard last month after several requests by our women to learn recipes that could produce big profits with minimal investment. Celi volunteers at the Sisters’ of St. Vincent De Paul complex on Thursdays selling picarones (fried doughnuts) outside the main entrance. The proceeds from her sales go towards paying for many of the patients’ medications and treatments.   Last month Celi taught her first class on how to make two delicious appetizers, stuffed potatoes and tequeños. The class was a hit and we all went home with our bellies full. In October, the women learned how to make Celi’s specialty, picarones, as well as coconut candy and banana muffins. What inspires me most about Celi is her patience, gentle demeanor, and love for sharing her best kept secrets. She’s a self-taught cook who had to learn the hard way. Growing up she never laid a hand in the kitchen and didn’t know what to do with herself. Her love of teaching developed as she began to learn how to make pastries, appetizers, and traditional Peruvian cuisine. Now our women are benefiting from her passion. If we could all follow Celi’s example, imagine what the world would be like! You may be wondering what the women will be learning next month. We have a list on Christmas inspired recipes—empanadas and a Christmas bread known as Pan de Yema.
~Desy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Full Crochet

Today was another full crochet class, women starting and women finishing their handmade yarn products. As I mentioned in a previous post, we are filling up our crochet classes and women are selling their ponchos, shawls, baby dresses and sweaters. Our full classes = more income!

I want to share with you a little story about one of our new crochet participants, Maria, who comes from the village bank Fighting Women. I went to Maria's house a couple of weeks ago with Elizabeth, because she had come to one crochet class and then never returned. I wondered if she had such an awful experience that she didn't want to come back. But, I got a different story at her house. It turns out that she is a slower crocheter compared to her other classmates. She came to a poncho class awhile back, but couldn't finish it. So she was invited by the teacher, that also teaches knitting and crochet with the nuns, on the other side of the Hope House complex, to finish her poncho with her. But, since I never saw her again I thought, we lost her! The problem is the crochet teacher that works in collaboration with the nuns charges a monthly fee, whereas in the Hope House we only charge for half of the material costs (and no class fees!) Well, Maria liked the sound of that and now has decided to return to classes with DiscoverHope Fund. Maria lives in a very humble house made out of wood and plastic pieces. She has a small businesses with her husband where she sells an apple quinoa warm breakfast drink from a little cart. She wants to learn more crochet items so that she can have additional income. This month she has learned how to make a shawl and a baby sweater. Her hands are moving faster!

Our little shawl model! Look at that model look!
Paz ~ Nora

Friday, October 15, 2010

Buy Day Success!

Hello DHf Family!
                                    
Yesterday was DHF's final Buy Day of the year. Nora and I arrived early at the Hope House and went straight to work setting up tables, printing out sign-up sheets, and preparing all the necessary materials that make Buy Day such a special time. All eleven participants anxiously waited as Nora and I carefully selected the necklaces, bracelets, and earrings to be shipped to the States. I could feel all 11 sets of eyes burning holes into the back of my head wondering whether or not I would give a thumbs up on their handmade products. Talk about nerve-wracking! But after two hours of careful evaluation, we had our final selection and all eleven participants went home a winner. After wrapping up the day, Nora and I were exhausted. So in true Peruvian fashion, we treated ourselves to a side of delicious doughnuts drizzled in honey called picarones. Fried dough never tasted so good!

Also, Ester (the socia captured below in Nora's blog entry) created some beautiful pieces. Her earrings were a hit and we ended up purchasing seven pairs. With Buy Day finished we are that much closer to wrapping up the year here in the Hope House. Time is flying way faster than expected!

~Desy


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Subtracting with pencils

Yesterday a visit was in order to our literacy circle, out in the countryside. The women were learning how to subtract and they were using colored pencils as their counting tools. 10-3 = ....Esperanza counted 10 pencils, took away 3, then had her answer = 7! She did that over and over, not letting go of her precious pencils. Lily increased the difficulty with flashcards, but Esperanza just kept counting away with her pencils. It was so rewarding to watch. Esperanza has a little store and usually her son helps her make change when she sells a soda or crackers and the customer doesn't have change. But with a little more practice, I think Esperanza will be able to add and subtract her own change for her customers. While Esperanza and her fellow students were practicing subtracting, Ester, a fellow loan recipient, was in the back of the house prepping her jewelry for Buy Day this Thursday. DHF will hold the last jewelry Buy Day of the year - one more chance for our women to show off and sell their creations to DHF.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Busy October Start

Hello out there! Hello?

It has been a busy start to the month, so I apologize for keep you all out of the loop here. Let's catch up.

On Tuesday we had our first Animal Husbandry class in the Hope House. We have held similar activities this year with a Veterinarian in the countryside, but never in the Hope House. The turnout was fantastic. While witnessing
the session develop, my favorite parts were watching the women beam with questions throughout the power point presentation and their innocent and pure joyous reaction of watching different pictures of guinea pigs change on the wall through out "movie" presentation with the projector. There was the "ooohhh" and "awh's" throughout the afternoon. Some of the women that came on Tuesday raise cuyes (guinea pigs) for their own family consumption while others breed cuyes for their small businesses. Regardless of their reasons for breeding cuyes, I think everyone got a new tip or two out of the power point "movie" that our Vet presented. Some of the walk-away tips that our women got were; Give cuyes water (it is common practice to not give water to cuyes here), low-cost sanitation ideas, preferred breeding practices and disease treatment.

In addition to our guinea pig activity, we are continuing with our computer series on Tuesday. Berta, our amazing and motivational computer teacher, has designed a computer curriculum that allows our 7 students to practice and perfect their Word skills while creating various formal documents commonly used by Secretaries and Computer Labs here in Cajamarca. Her success can be noted in our near perfect attendance in the month of September. Our computer students come to class on time (often early!), with completed homework, and ready to engage. Amazing, really. This series will end in November when our students will receive an official certificate for their time and acquired new Word skills.

Then, yesterday one of our countryside village banks started a new knitting class. The village bank Margaritas crocheted baby dresses last month and will continue crocheting a new dress model with their teacher Nelly this month. They want to expand their stitches for future dress orders. We like that!

Finally (although there are still more activities this week), after visiting our dress makers, I got in the fastest combi I could find to rush over to the village bank Mujeres Unidas (United Women) on the other side of the city. This bank started their 2nd loan cycle yesterday. I arrived just in time to witness Desy in action, starting their meeting with a funny icebreaker to get them relaxed and laughing. The Directive was sworn in. Then, the Directive received 5,000 soles, which they then distributed to each loan recipient, and we had a little toast to the new loan cycle, with the words of the new president Socorro, "let's be united this cycle, like our name says!"

Paz ~ Nora