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 www.springintohope.eventbrite.com.

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,


KS said...

Thank you for the lovely description of your journey so far - can't wait to read more about it. You and the DHF team are so inspiring!

Kala said...

awesome post Maggie...
xo Kala