Friday, May 28, 2010

So much in so little time

Have I ever mentioned that I love my job? Well, I do. Every week is full; new things, new stories, triumphs, and yes, struggles. When I wake up I never know what I am going to experience, hear or learn. And I love that.

Another week is coming to an end. This week our partner Multicredit formed a new bank 'Fighting Women' just in time for Amy Knop-Narbutis arrival. Amy is our new volunteer from the LBJ school in Austin, TX joining DHF on the ground in Cajamarca until August. She witnessed the song start and loan reimbursement for 'Fighting Women' on her first day in high altitudes.

Besides the bank formation this week, we also had sewing classes, an appetizer class and finished making children's sweaters. This afternoon we will finish poncho's in the countryside, have more literacy learning and define the leadership directive of yet another new village bank. So much good stuff in one short little week.

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I enjoy a lot of perks with my job, just like I struggle with many frustrations. One of the perks I got to enjoy today was the sweetest of freshly made truffles and manjar blanco (dulce de leche) cookies. DHF held an appetizer course and by my taste buds, the women did a fabulous job of creating sweet appetizers. There were some extra truffles (after everyone got their fair share) for me to take home and eat as desert later tonight. Yum.

Paz ~ Nora

Monday, May 24, 2010


A start on leadership this month! Finally! I have been working for the past two months on starting our leadership series and it finally got off the ground. Like last year, I want to work with our new village banks to create a learning space where our bank members can grow into leaders. Give them the tools, ideas and safe space to try out new things and self-evaluate their self-esteem, strengths and vision.

This group is much different than my leadership group last year. During this leadership workshop ( which is a total of 4 workshops) I invited all (27 women) bank members from 3 different village banks. This loan cycle a women may not be President or Secretary, but next loan cycle she might. We want to find the leader in all our women.

Although the majority of women I invited to the workshop know how to read and write, the majority of women that actually came to the workshop didn't know how to read and write. This created some difficulty when it came time to do certain exercises. Furthermore, although we had a childcare provider, many of the women didn't want to leave their toddlers in someone else's care. So we had some little crys from below the table, here and there, throughout the workshop.

However, since I have such great co-workers, they helped facilitate the movement of our first workshop despite the little crys and other problems that came up. And, they were full of ideas of how to improve for the 2nd workshop. My favorite comment from the workshop was from Nancy in our village bank Margaritas, "I want to learn how to speak in front of people, like leaders do."

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dreamtime Circus

Besides the Pennsylvania University students that visited us this week, there is another group of gringos in town. The Dreamtime circus ( They are finishng up their 2nd International Tour and Cajamarca happens to be their 2nd to last stop. I have invited all our loan recipients and their kids to attend the free shows this week, as it is a presentation that is unique and rare in these parts. Hugo and I took his little brother yesterday and the result: laughs and a future juggler. Sebastian, Hugo's brother, couldn't stop juggling all night long after the inspiration from the show.
Paz and laughs ~ Nora

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

From Research to Field

This week DiscoverHope Fund hosted a group of University students from Pennslyvania that had collaborated with Maggie on the U.S. side to research information for our Microcredit Toolkit. Since they had read and researched microcredit work they wanted to see firsthand; Is the fieldwork really like what the research says?

They were here a short two days, but made the most of their time. They met our village banking team at the Multicredit office, visited Hope House classes, walked to countryside village banks to hold focus groups, and ended their visit with a business tour (among transportation strikes and street blockage!) They came thirsty for experience and that is what they got, along with a bug or two that dwindled their group down from 6 to 4 people.

On our business tour this morning we visited 7 businesses: Quinoa apple breakfast drink streeet cart (which the group gave 2 thumbs up for service, cleanliness and flavor!), an orange juice stand, a small little store, a house filled with duck-chicken- pig-sheep all being raised for market, a ceviche and frito food stand, a blanket knitter and finally a candlemaker. The group fell in love the kiddos along the way, who wouldn't?

For me the business tour was also an eye opening experience, as I got to visit new loan recipients' businesses in banks that had just formed last month. According to the Penn group, they were surprised at how business savy some of our women are; for example the women who adds spice to her ceviche in order to promote the sale of her soda and our orange juice seller who knows exactly how much oranges (and which kind) she needs to buy and how much juice she needs to sell to make a profit. It filled me with such good energy to listen to our women's stories, celebrate successes and really show-off the good stuff that microcredit does. Imagine, we got to do all this in the midst of a citywide transportation strike that closed off the main streets in town. Goodness prevails!

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Check out DiscoverHope's New Look!

Our New Look!
The spirit of spring is in full force with DiscoverHope. In this time of renewal we are excited to announce the launch of our new logo and new web site! Inspired by the hues of the Peruvian community and culture, our new brand reflects the vibrancy of the women and the hope they generate by participating in their own prosperity. Many thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make it all happen: Andrea and the team at ThinkStreet, Adam at Creative & Sons, Eric McGregor and Tracy Kuramoto. We love our new look and hope you will too. Please visit the Web site and share the link –

Update from the Field
Microcredit: Executive Director Maggie Miller made her annual visit to the field in early March to work with our local nonprofit partner, Multicredit. We are truly proud of their integrity and work level. Seven new village banks have been formed in this new year! Our goal for June is 200 new first time loans.

About Hope House: Our HopeHouse women’s development center is the nexus of development training for the women. Every day in April, women filled the rooms with their desire for new knowledge. We’ve provided nearly 50 training opportunities in 2010.

UT Interns in Peru: We have two full-time summer interns from UT Austin working with us in the field from May – August. Amy Knop-Narbutis will be focused on business training and evaluation monitoring and Blake Messer will be implementing our Global Technology computer classes. For the first time DiscoverHope is meeting the voiced desires of women to learn computer basics and use tools such as YouTube to learn about artisan and jewelry designs.

Handmade with Hope
Our gorgeous women’s products went through an amazing face lift as our products team, led by Jen Lucas of Ethical City, developed the new packaging for our Handmade with Hope designs from the women artisans at our site in Cajamarca, Peru. DiscoverHope products will be available on May 30 from 9am-3:30pm at St. Ignatius Church. For those of you who have purchased in the past, we would TRULY appreciate your feedback about the products you bought as we hone in on improving the models and designs. Please take our 2 minute survey – we would be Grateful!

Spring Into Hope
Nearly 100 amazing DiscoverHope supporters gathered at Mercury Hall on March 24. Thanks to their generous support, we raised enough to sponsor 275 entrepreneurial trainings for our microcredit loan recipients. The trainings are a critical part of our Microcredit Plus model. Thank you to the 100 champions who gave the gift of access to knowledge to these beautiful women we work with, including event super-sponsors Winery on the Gruene and Cojo Catering.

Play For Hope
For the third year in a row, the incredible Baylor Women’s Soccer team held their annual Play for Hope soccer clinic. Despite the rainy wet day, the women coached nearly fifty soccer club youth ages 5-17 in a competitive afternoon of soccer best practices. The day was framed with laughter and giving as the clinic generated funding to support a village bank of ten women with their first time microcredit loans. We are so grateful that the women Bears so lovingly invested in the entrepreneurial courage of women so that they may create prosperity for their families and communities.

Taxi on Tax Day
Tax day brought a little more sunshine for the folks who attended the Great American Taxi benefit show for DiscoverHope in Normal, Illinois. Inspired by DiscoverHope friend Bridget Pleines of Groove On Music, the show featured the Great American Taxi family from Nederland, Colorado. For the past three years, the Great America Taxi has generously donated the proceeds from one show per year to support our work. Just one more example of people coming together for women in poverty. Absolute goodness!

On The Horizon
DiscoverHope is searching the heart of Mexico as we continue forward with our new site vetting project, investigating potential sites for DiscoverHope to launch out in 2011. Led by an ambitious team of volunteers, we are building a network of conversations and knowledge around community based organization that would benefit from the energy and resources of the Microcredit Plus Model. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Goals and Ponchos

The week end on a good note. DHF held two activities this afternoon. A Poncho class in the countryside, for women that don't have the money to cover transportation costs to come to the Hope House. And, literacy class in the Hope House. Our attendance for literacy went from 1 student last week to 7 students this week. A huge literacy boost, I think partly due to recruit help from Elizabeth doing door to door visits. Also, I went to meet a newly formed village bank "United Women" and during our meeting I invited the women to literacy (and other development classes). As part of our literacy program this year we are creating individual goals for each student. What is it that you want to learn in regards to literacy that will help you in your daily life? And each women knows the answer to that, so we just help frame it. And put in on paper. And then work on that.

Going home today happy and healthy. Resting up for another full week; join me on Monday to start the good stuff again.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Finding a Room

I have been drinking hot limeade and orange juice, which has helped tremedously in the battle against my cold. My energies are almost 100%; which is amazing after I have used a lot of energy to find a room in Banos de Inca.

We are holding our first leadership workshop next Saturday for our rural banks located outside of the small town Banos de Inca. At first I thought we could hold the workshop in one of our loan recipient's houses - she has a great big room that is perfect for this activity. But, after talking with some of our women in another village bank, I found out her house is a good 45 minute walk, and "if we went, what time would we get home to feed our animals?" Good point.

So I started on a search this week to look for a common room that would fit 30 women comfortably in Los Banos. I went to the Municipality and they have this official form that you can fill out to request the auditorium. I filled it out on Monday and returned 2 days later, as indicated. When I returned to the same office to find out if my request had been processed, they sent me across town to another municipality office. There the guy in charge wasn't around and often leaves "whenever on the fly" so I had to return the next day. Today.

Sr. Rosario informed me that they can't honor my request because the Municipality doesn't work on Saturdays. Could someone have told me this when I first filled out the form? Or when I came back two days later? No.

In the meantime, I went to the Parroquia, Catholic Church near the Central Plaza in Los Banos. They have an auditorium that they rent out for a ridiculously large sum of money. I asked to talk to the administrator in charge to see if there was the possiblity of renting a room for a lower fee. Administrator wasn't around, but he would call me. 3 days later, no call.

Oh, and I visited a local restaurant too. I asked about using a room and they just looked at me funny, like I wasn't speaking spanish.

So I went back to the Parroquia 3 days later to encounter - who else? - the administrator. He showed me another room, for a lower fee, that was perfect. Only took 3 visits to Los Banos and some mean negociating skills to get our Leadership Workshop Room!

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Meet Bertha (Elizabeth)

This is a little overdue, please forgive me. After months of good health, the cold/flu bug has attacked and much of my energy has been going towards the cold fight this week.

Last week DiscoverHope Fund welcomed a new member to our village banking project. Elizabeth Bertha, but we'll just call her Bertha, otherwise you'll confuse her with our village bank officer Elizabeth. She is our new business advisor and will dedicate her time to listening to women's business difficulties, providing simple business solutions and do individual follow-up with business progress. She brings a wealth of experience working with women in poverty and her professional background is accounting. I love having her as part of our team as she is a strong woman filled with ideas and totally committed to our work. Since she started she has been meeting the various village banks and visiting women in their respective business. We threw her into the fire and this past Saturday she did a pre-programmed business session with our bank Las Progresistas. Since it was on the eve of Mother's Day, the village banking meeting was filled not only with loan re-payment and business tips, but a small lunch and cake. A nice way to start out on the job.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sales for Mom


I am so happy. Finally 6 of our loan recipients organized themselves to sell their jewelry and other crafts for Mother's Day. I had been encouraging the women since our first Buy Day this year to sell to locals, now that we have a prime traffic space. Our office and Hope House learning space is on the 2nd floor of the community complex that is only 2 blocks from the Central Plaza. 1,000's People walk past our office every day and don't even know it. The loan recipients that motivated to sell for Mother's Day approached the Head Nun earlier this week to ask permission to sell on the 1st floor, right in front of the main doorway. They said, Yes. BINGO!

So far, sales have been steady. Not over the roof, but the women are making just a little bit more money compared to their normal sales.

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May Start

This month has started out with a bang. I usually wait the first couple days of the month to get started with classes, because I use the first days of the month to purchase materials, 'pass the word' and get everything in order. But, since I traveled to Lima last week (to become a legal Peruvian resident with the immigration office!) I handed out May class calendars to loan recipients the last week of April. And, I had women sign up early for classes, which in and of itself is a miracle.

This week so far women have made jewelry, organized themselves for jewelry sales, started computer classes and our sewing class is finishing their skirts for Mother's Day. All of that in only a couple of days. We still have a whole month ahead of us to do so much more.

Our sewing class is moving along and sewing their first project. They are making skirts. Just in time for Mother's Day. So, we will have a lot of happy moms that will be wearing new skirts on Sunday.

It has been such a joy to witness women learning how to use the computer for the first time. Two of our computer students today mentioned, "WOW, now I know how to turn on the computer and write something."

Paz ~ Nora

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Biz Prep for Mother's Day

This week was filled with classes to prepare our loan recipients for Mother's Day business. Mother's Day is just around the corner, a week away. Many of our contract teachers know this week and have been preparing for weeks for big sales this coming week. However, many of our loan recipients haven't been doing the same thing, either because they have never made Mother's Day crafts or haven't targeted their businesses in this holiday. The women learned how to decorate chocolates during one of the classes this week, which can be used either as a personal gift (thus saving money) or making more and selling them (making money)! This week will be the test to see if women are able to implement their new skills into new business.
Paz ~ Nora