Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cow Tips

We did it - another animal session in the countryside, just as I had promised in a previous post. Last week was pigs, yesterday was cows. We had a small group of 7 village bank members that gathered round in the same, dark living room with listening ears and curious faces. We set up the projector and had "movie" time again. These women have been raising animals for practically their whole life, so they know a thing or two. But, as Esperanza said, "Sometimes you just aren't sure if you are raising your animals the best way and we don't have anyone to ask. This was good because we got to ask questions about our cows." They learned some hygiene and nutrition tips, along with recommendations to control disease. I learned a thing or two, too.

Paz ~ Nora

Monday, April 26, 2010

2nd 3-in-1

Last Friday was another 3-in-1 afternoon. The three activities were thankfully all in the Hope House, so there was no need to be running to the countryside to meet with a group. There was a crochet hat class going on the 2nd floor while our literacy students were working on the 3rd floor. And, just as our literacy class was ending, another village bank was gathering for their first loan repayment. As part of their loan repayment meeting, Oswaldo prepared a "business tips" session. There was so much learning going on last Friday, it was amazing!

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, April 23, 2010

Makes the Job Easier

Yesterday we finished a three week crochet course. 14 loan recipients learned how to make baby blankets. The group met every Thursday for 3 weeks; which for some was just enough time, and for others, well... their poor little blankets are still very little. (Don't worry, our unfinished blankets will be finished by the crochet class next month, when the students will bring their work to class again) What I really appreciated about this course was that Nelly, our crochet teacher extraordinaire, lead the group with her soft, gentle leadership, individual coaching each participant in their work.

I talked with all the women in the class yesterday about other possible crochet/knitting projects. They were not short of ideas. In fact I think we have enough yarn projects to bring us through the end of the year. This makes my job easier. When the women are eager to learn and know what they want to learn, I can plan it. Make it happen. Next yarn project: children's sweaters.

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Community Classes

As many of you have probably gathered from previous posts, the Hope House is busy. There are activities everyday. Women gather, learn new skills, forget their problems, sell their products and leave empowered. But, that isn't the case with all our loan recipient women. Some of the newly formed banks are located in the countryside, a good 45 minute bus ride to the Hope House. That is 45 minutes of ride time (not including wait time), if the women are lucky enough to find space on the one busline that goes out to their community. One of our new village bank members, Tania, was telling me that she really wanted to sign up for sewing classes, but because class ends at 6pm, she would have a hard time getting a space on the bus to get back home. Tania came to bakery class last month and in order to get home, she had to squeeze on one of the last buses, while her arms dangled out the window. Not especially comfortable with two small children. She went so far as to ask her other bank members if they wanted to split the cost of a taxi to come home after sewing class, but there just weren't enough women to make the cost economical.

So what does DHF do about this? Yesterday we started our first community class, where we bring Hope House to the homes of the loan recipients. In Tania's village bank, Strength and Blessings, many of the women raise animals as their business. So we invited a Veterinarian to give some "Animal Tips", specifically about pigs, to this village bank. Attendance was great, almost all of the village bank was present. And, the women had loads of questions. We set up the proyector in a dark living room with a bedsheet as our background. My favorite quote from the afternoon was, "Well, now I am not going to buy sick pigs again." There was so much interest after our session ended that we are already planning a Cow Tips session.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, April 16, 2010


This afternoon was a 3-in-1 afternoon. Three different activities all going on at the same time. On the 3rd floor of the Hope House there was literacy class. On the 2nd floor we had women selling jewelry to the general public. And, in Los Banos I held a microcredit plus meeting with our new bank "Margaritas" to get to know their businesses and tailor classes to their desires and needs. It is so exciting to be part of DHF right now and feel the grow, learning and amazing energy that is created among our women. But, it is also exhausting. So, I am checking out for the weekend. Until Monday...

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Healthy Homes Re-visit

Those of you that were following us from last year will remember our 'Healthy Families, Healthy Homes' project. We worked together with a local partner, GyC Salud y Ambiente, to improve the homes of 30 of our loan recipients. One of the biggest improvement that occurred in the duration of the Health Project was the construction of a wood fire stove. This simple adobe and brick structure saves firewood while simultaneously significantly diminishing the smoke in the kitchen. 6 months ago we left our families using their new stoves with no maintenance or usage trouble. 6 months later I visited the 'Healthy Homes' with Tula to evaluate the sustainability of our project and possible problems that may have developed during our absence.

During the 2 days of our evaluation we encountered everything and anything.

*The sustainable part:
  • The majority of families are using their wood fire stoves daily. They have minimal problems, mostly due to smoke as a result of less desirable firewood usage & pots that don't fit their mold. Both of these problems are preventable, but when working with families in poverty in marginalized rural areas they don't always have access to ideal firewood or an instrument that would cut mental rings to prevent leaking smoke. Tula was able to give the families some practical and simple solutions to their problems.
  • Some of our families have made even more household improvements. Did our project serve as a motivation to continue improving the conditions in their homes? For example, one family had built a coral for their hens, which were often running wild, in the kitchen, creating unsanitary conditions. Another family built a kitchen shelf to store their food above the ground.
* The hard part:
  • Some of our families have had to relocate, travel outside of Cajamarca to care for other family members, or have suffered severe family trouble, thus abandoning their stoves and household improvements. Families in poverty do not have the stability that other families enjoy. Income and survival is a constant struggle; in this struggle, time dedicated to survival basics wins over healthy habits.
  • Our families really thrived when they had that individual, constant attention that Tula provided weekly. She feed our families with praise and motivation. Without that constant presence, some of our families tend to put healthy habits and improvements on the back burner and other things become priority.
Tula reminded our families, we will come again and visit you by SURPRISE! and we want to find your stove and home, clean and in order. The families nodded in agreement. My curiousity is what will happen in another 6 months with our Healthy families?

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Export Prep

Another Buy Day has come and gone. I packaged up the $300 purchase in candlelight yesterday, as the electricity went out in our block in Cajamarca. Today I went to the Serpost office to "Export Facil" (Easily Export) all our goods. This time was more smooth. With Oswaldo we only spent 2.5 hours filling out the 1 sheet form on the internet, instead of 2 days last year. And, instead of 2. 5 hours at the Mail Serpost office, I only spent a grant total of 20 minutes. The true test is the arrival of goods in 7 days.

Paz ~ Nora

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sewing for the Long Term

Today we started a whole new chapter in DHF activities. We started a 3 month long sewing course in collaboration with Sonia, my new favorite teacher. She taught our women apron's class last month and now is teaching our women a complete sewing women's clothes course, complete with a certificate at the end of 3 months. A certificate from a technical institute here in Cajamarca is the equivalant to post-secondary learning in the U.S. DHF has helped women learn new things, try new things, explore new things. But, this course is an amazing opportunity for our women to really develop their sewing skills and professional/business skills too. Those women that want to root themselves in sewing and grow, this is their chance. I will keep you all posted about our sewing students and their projects as the course takes it's course.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mud Recruitment

Hope House classes have started this month and I haven't seen some of our new loan recipients around or signing up for activities. So, yesterday I slipped out of knitting class early to visit a couple of loan recipients in their houses. Many of our new village banks are in the countryside, where there is dirt, rain and mud. I walked through the thick mud to get to the homes of some of our women. I found many village bank women and was able to give them the "official" invitation to come to class. In my experiences these past couple of years I have found that women need to make a personal connection with you before they will do anything else with you - or me.

For example, if I send the activity calendar of classes to women in a village bank, and there is a woman in that village bank who is interested in classes, she will be hesitate to sign up if I haven't laid the groundwork. She doesn't know my name. Doesn't know where the class is. And, she for sure isn't going to go to Cajamarca alone to class. Peruvians work in groups and the way to motivate one woman is to motivate many. I encourage the women to take advantage of these learning opportunities and come to classes with other bank members. Walking through the mud, dodging angry dogs and knocking on doors yesterday; the mud recruitment paid off. I got some new loan recipients to sign-up for sewing and chocolate making classes this month. And, yes, they are coming with their fellow bank members.

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ring, Ring, Ring

Amazing the strength of my telephone the past two days!

I had to travel to Lima these past couple of days to visit the Immigration Office and take care of business with my visa and permission to stay in the country. Lima and Immigration is a whole other world from the rest of Peru, and I could write a long blog entry about all the signatures, stamps and random requirements that they ask for, but I won't bore you.

Hope House classes start today and since I wasn't in the office the past two days my phone has been ringing off the hook. I was in the interational police department office (one of the requirements to get a temporary resident visa) and women were calling me about jewelry class. I was in the smelly, dirty public bus and women were calling me about jewelry class.
I was in the bus station checking in my backpack and women were calling me about jewelry class. I love that so many women are interested in class this afternoon, I just need a secretary!

As DiscoverHope Fund grows, a secretary may be part of that future. But, for now, the reality of a small international NGO is having few personal on the ground and doing whatever, whenever to make things work. This includes class sign-up on the nightbus from Lima to Cajamarca.

Paz ~ Nora