Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Money!

As I may have alluded to in previous posts, this month has been busy, busy.

Since this week is Semana Santa, Holy Week, I didn't program activities at the Hope House. But, that doesn't mean it hasn't been busy. I went out to the countryside yesterday to visit loan recipients in their homes and businesses to invite them to our April activities. The women were really excited to see the new calendar and new classes that will be offered. Some of you may remember Precila from last year. She is part of the village bank
Jehova es mi Pastor and was involved in literacy courses last year. She had shared with me in a previous visit that she was calling her literacy teacher from last year for help this year. She forgot how to multiply and wanted some quick tips on the phone so she could help her son with his homework. Starting in April she won't have to do that, since we will be offering literacy classes again. I visited her in her countryside store, which has grown since last year, and she looked over the class list and signed up for 3 classes right there on the spot. This is usually rare as the women I work with don't have extra change laying around. I meet all kinds of women on this microcredit journey, and I have learned that when you find women that have inspiration, drive and desire, You Invest in Them.

After walking along cow pastures all day, my day finished with yet another new village bank formation. A village bank called "Margaritas" formed outside of Banos de Inca. This group is talky, active and full of energy. After their loan dispersement I invited the women to participate in our April activities and nearly 1/2 of the village bank signed up for classes. Below is a new loan recipient receiving her new loan money! Gotta love it!

Paz ~ Nora

Saturday, March 27, 2010

248 Entrepreneurial Trainings Sponsored!

We are so Grateful to all the folks who were able to make it out to Spring Into Hope on Wed March 24! The rain held just long enough for us to enjoy a balmy evening and one another in the spirit of supporting entrepreneurial trainings for women who receive our microcredit loans. As of today, we’ve raised $6200 to support 248 trainings in literacy, health, business, personal development, artisan and culinary education. Our goal is to support 300 trainings this year. A training for 15 women costs $25; if you want to sponsor a training or a series of trainings, everything makes a difference. Read about all the wonderful trainings happening with our women right here on this blog…giving personal power, courage, knowledge, behavior change, and sustainable practice to families is an amazing gift. Visit the DonateNow link if you are interested in supporting trainings to help us to our 300 class goal!

Thank you to Winery on the Gruene for sharing their wine, Cojo Catering for the beautiful presentation of delicious food, Sledd Photography for capturing the event with incredible shots we will soon share on Facebook (like the one here!), and the Latin sounds of The Brew

We are so Grateful to all of you,

Friday, March 26, 2010

Machine Power

DHF has really increased it's machine power this year. We went from 2 old Singer sewing machines last year to 8 machines this year. Where our Hope House is housed, with a small group of nuns that believe in serving the poor, there is the capacity to hold sewing classes like we never have before. We held an Introduction to Sewing class yesterday, where women learned how to make a simple apron pattern. In the beginning of class all the women gathered in the sewing room around the long tables where they were instructed to cut their material. The 18 women in class divided into 2 smaller groups and it was really fun to watch them help each other and even teach each other. Our new sewing professor, Sonia, hails from a technical institute in Cajamarca and was so calm, patient and composed as she made the rounds of all 8 sewing machines to get them working. Once material was cut, some women made their way straight to the machine, while others handsewed their material pre-machine pass. I only got to witness a few finished aprons, as I had to run off to a new village bank inauguration, but from the sight of the work level, the women I am sure went home content with their newly made bright aprons.
As the sewing class was finishing their aprons, I ran to another new village bank inauguration, thankfully in the same building complex as our class. The village bank "Women Entrepenuers" formed last night with a 'semilla', or seed money of s/2,000.00 soles (roughly $704) . This bank is composed of many recovering mental health patients that the nuns here have served and rehabilitated. They are women with work skills, but up until this point haven't worked with business capital to use and grow those skills. The best part of the inauguration was the ending when one of the women said, "too bad we couldn't do a toast for this special occasion." At that moment I remembered the extra orange Fanta soda that I had leftover from our business charla. I ran downstairs to grab the sacred orange drink and served the new village bank members their plastic toast glasses. There were heart warming words and the actual toast, which made the meeting complete.

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Smokey Cheesecake

There is always room for something crazy to happen in Peru, and DiscoverHope classes are no exception. Let me share with you some of the events that unfolded in our bakery class yesterday. First of all, we had record breaking participation in our class. There were 22 women that attended class, and many more that had expressed interest in coming but didn't sign up. So we had a very full house of eager students. Which also meant we had a full house of little children running around, and if it wasn't for Socorro, our amazing childcare provider this month, our full house would have turned into a crazy house.

Class started, women receieved their recipes and the baking got underway. I skipped out of the classroom to meet with another teacher and when I came back I found all the women gathered around a plastic chair. They couldn't find the socket to plug in the blender, so the entire class moved to the only visible plugin and were cooking on a plastic chair. I quickly showed the teacher the plug in close to the cooking table, but the women seemed very content with the current set-up so they continued to work in their huddled position.

We put the cakes in the oven, first the Cheesecake and then the Lime Pie. While we were waiting for the oven to do it's work, Oswaldo joined the class for another Business Charla. He had a captive audience until the moment when we noticed that the kitchen was filling with smoke. Upon closer examination the actual oven was leaking smoke. The rescue team, Oswaldo, our teacher and another student, opened the oven to try and resolve the problem, meanwhile all the women had fled the classroom because they couldn't breathe from all the smoke that had traveled out of the kitchen into the classroom. Oswaldo solved the problem. A piece of cloth was stuck back in the oven, caught on fire and was causing all this chaos. He removed the cloth, we faned the kitchen and eventually all the women returned to their seats to finish class. Thankfully, both our Cheesecake and Lime Pie were not damaged. Everyone had a chance to taste the baked goods when our class ended. But lesson learned, check the oven before baking.

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The" Plus" of Microcredit

I was incredibly motivated by our new village bank yesterday. They surprised me and filled me up at the same time. After a new village bank forms I ask the group to gather to have a microcredit "plus" meeting. During this gathering I explain to the women the work of DHF and why we believe that loans coupled with education are key to providing support and a path towards a successful businesses, as well as opportunities to grow personally.

So we do a couple different activities in this meeting, first so that I can get to know the women and their individual businesses. Secondly, I want to know what their desires are, where they need/want support, what they want to learn. I use pictures of activities (for example literacy, sewing classes, etc...) we have done in the past or would like to do in the near future and ask the women to prioritize if any of these activities would help the women in their lives. "Strength and Blessings" village bank had a lot of ideas yesterday; they want to learn more about how to care for their animals, get their pigs good and fat for market day. They also want to learn more about sewing clothes, since almost all of them sew in some way, shape or form. Finally, a number of women want to improve their math skills, so they can keep better track of their business money. The ideas just kept flowing all afternoon. On top of that, 5 of the village bank members signed up for bakery class this afternoon. They are all meeting at 2pm at the presiden'ts house so they can go together and be early, .."we don't want to get lost." Class starts at 3pm. There are really no words for me when I witness a group of women coming together, organizing amongst themselves, and motivating for self-improvement. It is my inspiration.

I gotta run to class, don't want to be late, and have "Strength and Blessing" beat me.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, March 19, 2010

in love with hope.

I am in love with Hope.

Today, as many days, I began the day being Grateful for having so many amazing people around the energy of DiscoverHope. As we prepare for the
Spring Into Hope event next week, it struck me again that the energy of good things and how they show up in the world is beautifully Guided. At least that is how I see it, at the helm of DiscoverHope with a view on all the amazing beautiful acts of love that uplift this organization. I simply feel ultra amazed that I get to experience all the intertwined personalities, intelligence, joy, Hope in so many people.

On the outside of an organization, you just witness things as they happen in their completed form…but they happen thanks to the interworkings of effort, time, and giving. Today I’d like the share just a small list of ways our work “gets done”…and let you witness the layers of who we ARE. The heartbeat of DHF is in every one of you.

o Program Team in the field in Peru, makes our work happen
o Event Team plans event details down the the nitty gritty
o Business Corporate Team connects for in-kind donations, goods, relationships
o Revenue Development Team driving our relationships with all donors
o Marketing Team drives messaging on everything
o PR/Media team prepares for our Microcredit Martes informational sessions
o Speaker Leader Team books us gigs to share our work with public audiences
o Microcredit Toolkit Team compiles research on all aspects of how to build this development model for public sharing
o Individual Lending Team finds folks who want to give larger micro-loans to DHF to loan in the field
o Board of Directors drives me and the organization with so much commitment
o Donors give us energy, life, and hope to keep on doing what we do
o The women we serve…are examples of courage for everyone

Be in love with the Hope around you today.

"Strength and Blessings"

Strength and Blessings, translated in spanish as "Fuerza y Bendicion," is the name of the new village bank formed yesterday. I went to the bank formation thinking I would witness, take pictures and invite women to classes at the Hope House. I did that and a little more.

So the bank formation went like this:
Women trickle in two by two into the open patio space that was surrounded by mud walls in the countryside, Tartar Chico, outside of Banos de Inca. The rain softly reminded us that we were safe and dry under the tin roftop. Elizabeth took the newly elected President, Secretary and Treasurer aside to give them a quick pep talk about how the meeting would go. The formal speeches started. A meeting in Peru is not complete without a long winded formal speech. Then, yours truely - with no advanced notice - did the swearing in ceremony. I admit, I tried not to fall into the long winded speech category. Since our new bank members are all evangelical we had a toast with Pepsi, instead of the wine Oswaldo brought, and congratulated one another on the bank formation. Oswaldo presented the loan money to the president, who together with her new directives counted the money. It was all there. The 3 directives then sat down in front of a wobbly wooden table covered with a blanket to give the corresponding loan amount to each respective bank member. It ran so smooth and it was all so well orquested by Elizabeth. We had little chickens running around at our feet and small children asking for more Pepsi, but nothing crazy. After the loans were dispersed Oswaldo explained the pay back system, including savings account and accrued interest. I also added my invitation to the group to participate in classes. The final part of our meeting was a plate full of potatoes covered in spicy yellow sauce. A perfect end to a perfect village bank formation.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A little warm fuzzy

As the U.S. is prepping for spring, we in Peru are eagerly waiting for the raining season to end. Yesterday was a perfect example of rainy season madness. I had left the Hope House to buy some things for our afternoon class. The sky was cloudy, but I didn't pay any attention to that. I made my way to the busy market street, when not even 2 blocks later, I found myself hugging the outside store walls and thanking the overhang for protecting me from the brutal downpour. The streets turned into grey rivers and everybody stopped in their tracks. 15 minutes later the downpour disappeared, but the riverflow in the streets stayed heavy. My shopping trip that normally would have taken 20 minutes took almost an hour.

When our afternoon class started my shoes were still soaking wet. The women took pity on me and suggested we make a 'chanchita,' the commonly used word for piggy bank when a group of people all put together a little money to buy something. With the chancita the women bought sugar, hot tea and bread and we had a warm little snack that didn't dry my shoes, but definitely warmed me up.

Today the sky is cloudy, but I am proceeding with caution!

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Business Charla

We are trying a different approach to business classes this year - businesses charlas, or chats. Before some of our more popular classes at the Hope House we want to give business advice to the minds and bodies of the women that come to classes. They are already here in the Hope House and an extra 15-20 minutes before classes to get business advice takes away very little class time. Plus, it gets our women thinking 'business' while they are working on their scarf, jewelry piece, etc... Oswaldo, our business advisor, talked about business plans with the 10 women that came to class this afternoon. He did a great job of speaking to their business level and relating to them. The women were quiet during the charla time, but after Oswaldo left I heard the aftermath..."It is really important to seperate our capital business money from personal money, that is why we don't make money. I use to have a name for my business, but didn't think it was important. It is important to think about price of our products, otherwise we don't make money....." and on and on. Oswaldo gave the women some business homework and they started on their scarf projects. It was interesting that throughout the afternoon the women kept coming back to the business themes. That means the ideas are ringing in their ears.

The next business charla will be next week where Oswaldo will repeat the same business themes with a different group of women.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, March 12, 2010

plane hopping home

Maggie is back in the good ol’ USA and truly inspired by the journey in Peru . We’ve founded solid partnerships in our work that are established on value systems of integrity that serve the women and their desires. I am so grateful to Nora and the team in Peru for what they do to make this work actualize on the ground…and equally thankful to the team of people in supporters in the USA that give this work a lifeline of pulse and energy.

I had a wonderful last day in Peru taking the early morning flight out of Cajamarca to Lima . Watching the lit up tips of ice-capped mountains in Huaraz peeking above the clouds reflecting with the sun is absolutely celestial. Into the hustle and bustle of the 12 million folks in Lima , the capitol of Peru …I found my way to the apartment of good friend and amazing advisor Mahlon Barash, who worked with CHF International in a microcredit housing project in Cajamarca for several years and for me, is a microfinance guru who asks amazing questions. Over lunch, had the good fortune of meeting with the FINCA Peru Executive Director, Iris Lanao Flores who runs a microcredit portfolio of nearly $3 million with Peruvian women in South Peru and Lima . I felt incredibly blessed to be sitting with two amazing people like Mahlon and Iris and sharing feedback about how Microcredit Plus programs function in the field. We collectively agreed to visit and learn from one another at our sites. A peaceful day of sharing before the all night red eye flight home to Texas !

Back in the energy on the US side, I wanted to remind any of you TX present folks to us for a special evening to cultivate the entrepreneurial passions of women in poverty as we seek to fund 300 classes at the HopeHouse, our women's development center where women walk through the doors into their own power. Come enjoy complementary food and drinks, music, and plenty of parking for all. We'll be creating magic in the green of the Spring! Please visit our Eventbrite link here to get free tickets and information about the event: or visit

What can I say except you all give me the strength to open my heart every day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Hope House classes have officially started. Woo-who! Yesterday we started our March classes with a crochet class - to be more specific the women made Ponchos. We had three tables and three models of ponchos, so women were directed to select their table according to the model they wanted to learn. The women didn't make a full adult size poncho, but a number of women finished their small poncho model, so they can go home and replicate the stitches to make a bigger poncho. Although we offered this class last year, we had lots of new poncho makers in the class. In reality when I asked the class, who has made a poncho before?, only 4 women replied with a Yes. That means that 11 women learned a totally new skill yesterday. I love it!
Paz ~ Nora

Monday, March 8, 2010

On and Off the Field

So all you faithful blog followers know about the Sunday soccer game .... After a long week of working hard morning, noon and night we were due for some serious physical activity yesterday. A fun filled sunny day in the countryside was just what the weekend ordered for us. Walking today was a little painful, but the joy of coming together as a team, both on the soccer field and in the office, makes all the pain and work worth it.

Maggie is heading
back to DHF headquarters tomorrow and leaving the field workers with the enormous task of changing the lives of poor women in and around Cajamarca. I can say with full confidence that our team is ready to do just that. We had a full and powerful week of prep for our work ahead of us. Our time together with Maggie was spent not only mapping out the work plan for village banking and development classes, but also getting to know our fellow "teammates" and their strengths and ideas. It is an uplifting and powerful thing to connect with co-workers in a deep and personal space. It creates a work path that is so much more meaningful and supportive, thus allowing amazing changes and ideas to take shape.

Our last activity together before Maggie finds her way to the early bird flight out of Cajamarca tomorrow was a village banking repayment meeting this afternoon. It was so amazing for the 2nd time in a row this past week to watch a
completely successful, women-run bank meeting. Women leaders gathered round with soft, yet firm, instruction from Elizabeth (our awesome bank officer) running their own repayment. Dirt floor, sunlight streaming in, little dirty faces running in and out.... There was a missing .40 cents that was somehow recovered, saving accounts that were misunderstood, and group decision being was all figured out.
Pride, Joy, Team.

On and Off the Field

Paz ~ Nora

Sunday, March 7, 2010

weekend of connecting

A great Sunday full of family soccer, volleyball, and food in the countryside with our local partners here. I think Nora and I held our own and represented the “gringas” from all over the world. Having played soccer competitively in the US through college, I couldn’t help but take the familial game seriously (I don’t know how to play for fun with anyone when it comes to soccer). Needless the say, my body is aching all over after working out at 8500 feet and tackling in 2 foot high grass.

Yesterday, Saturday, was an exciting day as Multicredit hosted their first payback meeting of the year with one of our newest village banks, Las Triunfadoras (The Triumphant Ones). Depending on the microcredit methodology and who is delivering the service, payback meetings can be weekly, every fifteen days, or monthly. Women trickled in with babies tied to their backs and Elizabeth our promotora (bank officer) managed the meeting so well as she allowed the bank President, Treasurer, and Secretary to take ownership over collection of payments with simple monitoring from the outside. The sense of ownership and responsibility within a bank is key to the health of the group and an underpinning of village banking all over the world. It was very interesting to see that one of the socias (women) forgot her money as she thought it was in her bag…and the women covered this for her for the time being so their bank payment was given in full. Watching village banking happen in the field is absolutely awesome!

When this meeting ended, we began a “fraternal gathering” that included the Multicredit team from Cajamarca and San Marcos offices. Peruvians gathering all share certain ceremonial elements and worth noting for you, always an interesting time for sure…

1) About 98 percent of the time, the meeting starts 30 mins to 1 hour later than planned. During these minutes of waiting, people usually sit around the outskirts of the space (I have this image of junior high dances and the girls and boys around the outside of the room). There is minimal talking, and often just staring into space. There is comfort in this time of waiting and total PATIENCE. I’ve noticed no matter what the situation, 3 people or 30 people, everyone is accustomed to waiting patiently. This is so counter to how we do business in the US. I find myself asking about every minute during this waiting period, “what the heck is going on here?” Much of the time, there is no clear indication of what is happening; who is leading, what you are waiting for…and all of the sudden…it begins somehow.
2) There are very formal introductions during meetings here. While everyone is seated around the room, all guests must introduce themselves. You must formally stand up and say something. The art of the introduction is big time here. It goes something like: full and formal given name, the neighborhood you represent, and your business of being there. Applause for you before and after…see next step.

3) Applause is huge. When someone is going to begin talking, you clap for them. When they finish talking you clap for them. You clap throughout Peruvian gatherings, when something exciting is said, when you are thanking someone, pretty much you clap at everything. Clap on. Clap off.

4) Prayer…of course in a Catholic nation, you will usually give some sort of thanks to God at some point. I appreciate their love and commitment to their spirituality, since it is the guide in every home, no matter how poor or rustic….you will always see a picture depicting their strong connection to their religious roots.

5) There is always some kind of refresco (refreshment). At one point during the meeting, someone will bring by a plate with tiny cups of pop (they love this), or juice, or wine…depending on the situation. This refreshing drink comes with crackers most of the time. The cracker plate comes around 2 or 3 times and suddenly you have a love affair with delicious crackers. (And since meetings start late and can go for many hours, you usually want these crackers).

6) Because I am a special visitor, there is a special something prepared for me all the time (both food and celebration). Today it happened to be hot milk and presentation of a traditional dance by two young amazing kids (see picture). The preparation of special food is always a little shaky for me, since I am a vegetarian and you never know what is coming on your plate (i.e. chicken feet)! The “invitation” here means a ton…and the verb “invitar” (to invite) is used with all seriousness. When someone invites you to a lunch, a drink, to their house, etc…it is very formal. To turn down an invitation is pretty much an insult. (This can be hard to understand since in the US we get invited to a lot of things and we simply say no, or we can’t, or we are busy.) if you do this here, you will really hurt people’s feelings big time…so an invitation is serious business!

7) Most gatherings that are about family and being together eventually end up with salsa dancing. If you don’t dance, they think that you are sad and lonely, so there is really no sitting off to the side just hanging out. I love watching Peruvians dance because for me, this is where their joy shines. These amazing people celebrate so wonderfully together the fact that they are with one another and alive. It always leaves me remembering what matters most.

I am so thankful for all of the goodness I have in my life. This is what matters to me.

hope in the campo

Morning hopes float over the green countryside cradled by hands of clouds splattered across the sky. The campo (county) is one of my favorite parts about visiting the Andes. Rolling green hills seem to extend forever, and because the road infrastructure is rudimentary after twists and turns and climbs and falls you feel like you are somehow lost and found in the middle of these powerful mountains.

Thursday we left Cajamarca at 7am to visit the town of San Marcos, about 1.5 hours through the countryside from Cajamarca center. The mission of the trip was to visit loan clients at Multicredit’s site there and to meet with a group of women to discuss village banking in the town.
On the ride there, we took turns listening to “gringo” music and Peruvian music. As co-pilot, I told Oswaldo one of my primary jobs was to “wo”-man the music—Nora brought some country, rock, pop, hip-hop and at one point laughed to myself while skidding around curves on the mountain road as we sang “One Love” by Bob Marley. It is refreshing to find yourself in scenarios you could have never dreamed up for yourself.

Once we descended into San Marcos, which is literally in a hole surrounded by mountains, we visited different clients in the field who raised cuy (guinea pig) as their main source of income. I am adding some pictures to the blog since we have guinea pigs as pets in the US, but here they are a total delicacy and everyone eats them. From the frame of reference of the US, it is a little bit different to walk into a room where hundreds of cuys know they are there for eating. They actually sense this and when you walk by their cages they all begin to squeal loudly and pile on one another to hide so that hopefully they won’t get chosen for the next meal. They sure aren’t waiting to be lovingly petted or to eat yummy pellets and run around a wheel like they are in the US!

We even visited the husband/wife team who proudly celebrated their victory producing “La Reyna Cuy 2009” (The Queen Cuy of 2009). Yes…there is a pageant and everything, and yes this is a picture of the queen’s cape and crown! These types of visits are wonderful in really assessing what kind of capacity training you can give to people based on their passions and desires. For example, the community of cuy growers here talked about benefitting in the past from classes about animal care and prevention of disease, as well as needing space and training on proper sanitary butchering to reduce incidence of contamination.

The visit with a group of women later was an incredible experience. Every village banks starts with a promotional meeting about what village banking is and how it works. Women from different neighborhoods may come depending on where the meeting is and how it formed. I really enjoyed listening to women talk about their businesses, what help they could use, and to watch them organically form themselves into smaller interested groups to move forward with bank formation (usually 3 more meetings if a woman is interested: baseline interview-home and business visit; bank actualization and election of board of directors of bank, name chosen, foundation docs agreed upon; and then formal final meeting to celebrate the bank, swear in the board, receive actual first loans).

On the ride home, we were all beat from the sun and walking and dusty day and I enjoyed hearing the healthy discussion about capacity building in a community, and the despite the ease of trying to tell people what is best for them…the key to everything being the creation of everything from the inside of a community and listening to their hopes, cradled by those amazing clouds hovering in the sky.

Sending all my love.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Buy Day Success

The excitement hung in the air before Buy Day got started and continued all throughout the afternoon. DHF had a great turnout of women and jewelry yesterday at our first official event of the year, Buy Day. We had new loan recipient soak in the creativity of old loan recipients showing off their jewelry creations. The new twist on Buy Day this year is that our loan recipients placed their jewelry on very slick and professional earring cards. You could feel the pride as women were asked to sign their earring card and place their earrings 'for export' on the branded DHF cards.

My favorite part of the whole afternoon was my conversation with Nancy, pictured in the middle of the picture below. Nancy was a very active loan recipient last year, trying to attend classes as much as she could while juggling her fried chicken restaurant every evening. She loves making jewelry and when I called her days before the event she reassured me she wouldn't miss this Buy Day. After all her jewelry was selected we calculated her payment together. She sold almost 100 soles, or $30, worth of jewelry to DHF. I paid her and her eyes got teary. " Thank you. Thank you." I reminded her that I wasn't gifting her any money. She said, "I know, but with this money I can pay for my children school inscription that I have to pay this Monday, so they can enter into their classes. All three of them. Without this sale I don't know how I would have paid for it. I worked so hard to make this jewelry, it hurt. Look at my hands (arthritis). But, I didn't want to let you down, I wanted to come to the first activity this year. And it was worth it, because now my children can go to school on Monday."

We are indeed touching and changing lives....
Paz to all ~ Nora

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back and Forth

Back and Forth.
Diving In.
It is always so good to have Maggie come down to Cajamarca, she brings loads of positive energy and pushes me to brainstorm, think big and make adjustments or changes in the programming part of what I do. As you all know, we have been meeting up with our new village banking partners throughout this week and have started to brainstorm, discuss, break-down our methodology, best practices, and yearly work plan. It has been all interactive and energizing, catching me offguard as I feel a bit like we aren´t in Peru. I am use to dry, unproductive meetings in this country (although I know unproductive meetings happen in other countries, too!) Our new partners, Multicredit, are very professional and dedicated to doing genuine, good work. You can feel it in their ideas and energy. This week has been a re-charge battery pack for village banking for me. I love it!

I am waiting for the afternoon to start, in only a half hour the Hope House doors will open it's doors to welcome old faces and new loan recipients to our first activity of the year - Buy Day. The excitement is hanging in the air as DHF will purchase women's goods to bring back to Austin, TX. Next week classes start, so these next few hours will act as a type of inauguration of our bright, new learning space.

Gotta go put up the last minute signs....
Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


A new day. Truly deep goodness gifts itself to everything in this world. Everything.

The day began with beautiful sun reflecting off the green sea of grass in the morning. I found myself riding on the back of a motorcycle inhaling black exhaust with little boys calling me Barbie on the streets. Walking the streets today in between meetings, I simply watched people. People are beautiful. Everyone of us has deep connected lit up roots to something amazing, and you can see it on every human, if that is the projection you want to see in the world.

The kindness of people here in Cajamarca amazes me. Today Nora and I had amazing conversations and confidence building with our partners here, creating even more new routes to add in more amplified business, leadership, and health training in our development curriculum. So much occurred in the spaces of the day filled with meetings, but TRUST is the overriding feeling I have in my heart. I adore the transparency of our partners here and the willingness to work absolutely hard to make this project a systematic collective change opportunity for women who want to be involved. I am looking forward to DHF including all of this awesome information in the development of our Microcredit Toolkit…essentially a manual that answers the question HOW DO I DO THIS in (any) country. We are in process of putting together the first stages of this A-Z compilation so that people can benefit from the model and knowledge of this work. We have a dedicated team of 12 interns in the USA compiling the data around their research pieces for this project. All together exciting stuff going on, all made possible by the effort, love, and desire of so many beautiful folks.

A reminder of the gifts in life came in a conversation with wonderful longtime friends of mine here, Wally and his wife Miriam. Over a full Spanish conversation and some pisco sours, I listened to Miriam tell me about birthing her second daughter two months ago and a day later her child dying. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the pain she was feeling, and I knew my job was just to listen. Her strength was incredible. This little girl had a heart defect and there was only one surgeon in the country that could perform this heart surgery to save her life. They were in Cajamarca, and this surgeon was in Lima, 20 hours by bus or 1.5 plane ride. They called this doctor and asked him to perform this surgery and he said he had 15 other children in line for a similar procedure and he couldn´t do it. Little Alexandra died after 18 hours. I couldn´t help but pain inside, thinking that if she had access to modern medical help, she would have had an amazing chance at living. Miriam told me after all of this, that she just wanted to tell me one message: to be Grateful for what we have when we have it. I just felt this ruminating in my soul on the way home and wanted to share that.

I am blessed with you all in my life.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

maggie in the mountains

Dear DHF Family,
Back in the Andes for another round of exploration on my annual trip to our microcredit plus site here in Cajamarca Peru. The smell of dust and mountain air remains the same after five years since I once lived here…the familiar sound of horns honking and colorful campesina women walking the streets with plants on their backs and children at their breasts. We are surrounded by a sea of green mountains that engulf the “caja” (box) that is this town of Cajamarca sitting high in the Northern Andes.

It is always wonderful to get back to the field. I think at heart I have always felt akin to program field work, as this is how the DHF roots began when I had the awesome chance to work with the humble people of this place back in 2004 as a pilot project. I remember the pulse of everything close to my heart as I see the faces of women who are grateful to us for giving them opportunities on the streets with their children. I can feel the excitement of women as our 2010 entrepreneurial trainings are set to begin in the new and improved Hope House women’s development center. DiscoverHope and Nora are deeply loved in this community and that makes my heart soar, especially thinking back to days in 2004 when I sat in an old beat up velour red chair someone gave to me for my simple apartment…reading about the power of creating what we desire and wondering why I had given up my life in San Diego and what the heck I was doing in the mountains of Cajamarca, doubting. Those journeys always show us the way and what is meant by their existence in our lives…I am learning little by little to be patient as they show the path.

And now, years later, DHF is supported by more than 30 volunteers. The team of people that lift the work daily continues to amaze me, in the US and Peru. I attribute it to all of the amazing souls who are attracted to DHF feeling our utmost value…that we all deserve to wake up each day and give our greatest to the world via our passions. When we do this, we shine, individually and collectively. We hope this transfers into our work and all those that work with us. The greatness of all this I am breathing in today in the crisp mountain air, and simply Grateful.

I arrived to Caja yesterday after a 20 hour journey and an all nighter at the Lima airport. Nora picked me up graciously at 6:30am from the airport and brought me to her home. Nora is now married to her Peruvian love, Hugo and they are generously hosting me for the week I am here; they live in an amazing campo (countryside) home that belongs to Hugo´s family. I love the picture here of the trek with my suitcase full o goodies …you can see the house in the distance. Eventually two small children under 8 years old came down the long path to greet us with a wheel barrow and to push my luggage up the hill! The giving of people here has always warmed my heart and the willingness to do things simply because they want to give what they can to you.

Our work schedule is jam packed with newness. Nora begins her third year in the field with DHF and when we have moments to ourselves, we are building out her program goals for the year and how the DHF team can support those program goals on the US side. We established a relationship with a new microcredit partner (the folks who help dole out our microcredit money here in Cajamarca). MULTICREDIT, an NGO of Peru and a local agency who provides microcredit to for small business, is our new partner for this side of our work. We met with them all morning and they are incredible. The level of integrity, work quality, and professionalism is absolutely exciting for us as we grow up as an organization. We started brokering a contract with MUTLICREDIT back in the early fall as we sought to find partnership with an organization that could grow our microcredit programming into sustainability with their skills, connections, ideas, etc. Today I met with Oswaldo, the Founder, and Elizabeth the promotora (bank officer). We had an awesome discussion around the quality of the microcredit process and the importance of letting women direct the formation of their village banks so that the ownership and responsibility is engrained in the system of microlending. We opened our first new banks of 2010 in February (Las Triunfadoras and Las Progresistas) and we are set to dole out 100 new loans this year. Exciting stuff! We will spend much of the rest of this week with MULTICREDIT and making sure all expectations about process, reporting, etc are understood. This is going to be an incredible year for DHF.

Nora is back at leading the helm for our second goal of microcredit plus, which is to provide women with entrepreneurial training after they receive their loans. All trainings are based on what women say they want to compliment their lives as entrepreneurs, mothers and women. Nora is beginning to meet with all the new banks to assess their class desires, and setting up the monthly training schedule for March based on what our older clients asked for. We expect to do more than 300 trainings this year for women. If you are in Austin and want to come join us at our first event of the year, Spring Into Hope, our entire goal of the evening is to raise support for 300 classes at $25 a class at HopeHouse. See the details at

As you might have read, we moved into the new HopeHouse development center. Some folks have asked me WHY we moved from our old location? Essentially, we found an incredible space with much more space for less money. We developed a partnership with local St. Vincent de Paul sisters who opened their doors to much of their unused space, including a computer room (picture to the left), a sewing machine room, an auditorium, classroom, childcare room etc. The space is clean, light, and gorgeous. Another new great beginning for our women.

It will be an exciting week filled with meetings, field work with banks and women, HopeHouse activities, and 2010 programming. I will write as much as I can while I am here. So many good thought crossing my mind as we move into 2010 and a year of exciting work for DHF: site vetting in Mexico for our 2nd site, anywhere from 2 to 7 interns who will be working at our Peru site this summer, launching our new website and branding soon…we are growing up! In the meantime, know I am breathing your life into all that we are doing here and into the future. We are the collective of every person who is connected to us and one thing I know, is I never want to lose that.

Sending love from the Andes,