Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Life before Independence Days

The 28th and 29th are Independence Days here in Peru. The streets are bustling with people and military parades right now. In the air is the feeling of celebration and vacation.

This work week was short, but full. I already feel like a Friday, even though it is only Tuesday. How is that possible?

Our two literacy groups took their literacy tests and did quite well. We didn't get 100 % goal achievement, but close. After the literacy tests we played Alfabet Bingo to give away some fun prizes. The hardest thing on Monday for one of our women that just kept winning Bingo was identifying all her letters. Will still have to work on that when we start a new literacy series next month.

Today I slipped out of the office to visit our 9th new and active village bank: Amigas (Friends). It was so very cool to be in their humble cement living room, watching them learn for the first time how to collect the loan repayment. They didn't hesitate or say, "no, we don't know how to do it." They just starting doing it, under Eliabeth's direction, of course.

The Hope House will actually be closed the rest of the week. So we fit into 2 days what we normally do in 5. I am going with Hugo (and a much larger group including Amy & Blake) to an Open air Art competition this week in Cajabamba, 3 hours down the road from here. We are going to cheer Hugo on while he paints beautiful countryside panoramas alongside another 400 Peruvian artists!

Paz to all ~ Nora

Congratulations Maggie-winner of 2010 ABJ Profile in Power Award

On behalf of the DiscoverHope board, volunteers and family of supporters, it is an honor to congratulate our very own Maggie Miller, named one of 2010's Profiles in Power & Women of Influence by the Austin Business Journal. This annual award is presented to outstanding leaders who benefit the Austin community and inspire future generations. We are so fortunate to have Maggie's talent extend beyond Austin to the women of Cajamarca. Maggie, congratulations and thank you for all that you bring to DiscoverHope and to the world.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Update from the Computer Lab

Greetings from the HopeHouse Computer Lab!

The women in Intermediate Computer Literacy have progressed a lot over last month. Specifically we've been working on ways to use the Internet and MS Word to better our small businesses.

I've also been working on the curriculum for the beginner computer class, which now also includes a bit more applied Internet research. We're looking up articles on small business administration, customer satisfaction, and the latest styles in jewelry and weaving.

Olga working on her typing skills by copying an article about raising cuys (which happens to be her business).
Esther writing her email address on the board so all the women in her beginner class can connect to her digitally.
Our new computer assistant, Rosío, helping Esther set up her email account.
And this is Santos, writing an email to Nora.
Also, in my spare time at HopeHouse, I've been helping our local partner, Multicredit, build their web presence by creating a new website for them with Wordpress. Here's a sneak preview of the new site for the Spanish-savvy -- and the old site, for comparison.


This week we are testing our literacy students to see how they have progressed. We made personalized tests for each woman based on the goals she set for herself at the beginning of the cycle.

The women concentrate on their exam. Fani (on the left) was learning how to multiply and divide by one digit. Andrea (on the right) was learning how to multiply large numbers and solve basic algebraic equations.

Friday we proctored our first set of exams - and good news, every woman met some of her learning goals! And some women met all their goals.

For example, one of our loan recipients, Fani, scored a perfect 20/20 on her exam (Peruvian schools grade out of 20). She met all her goals! Now she can set new goals for the next cycle and keep learning.

Nora offers Fani a prize (knitting needles) for achieving a perfect score.

The woman who scored the lowest on her exam was also the woman who had set the most ambitious goals for herself. Juliana, who couldn't even write her name when she joined us, wanted to learn the alphabet, learn how to add numbers greater than 100, and wanted to learn to read fluently (all in three months!). After three months, she has learned to write her name and add small numbers, but is still working on her advanced goals.

Juliana, our ambitious literacy student, shows off three scarf models she learned to make during our knitting sequence this month.

We also had another set of First Aid classes, this time in Cajamarca at our office.

This is an impressive visual aid that our new First Aid teacher Patti made for the class.

Nancy, Carmela and Milagros learn to take blood pressure.

Today we are holding an Intro to Sewing class to see who might be interested in signing up for our next sewing module with CETPRO in August (the module is a three month sewing sequence in which women earn a certificate from the institute CETPRO for learning to make various types of women's clothing, like pants and jackets).

Four women from our new village bank, Las Azucenas, work on sewing aprons. This village bank has been very active so far, and many of them are also in our beginners computer class!
A woman from the Azucenas works on her apron.

Mirian shows off her finished apron.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sneak Peek into New stitches

Here is a recent video of our scarf series that finished this week. Women loved learning scarf designs and claimed that they would beef up their crochet sales with the new scarf designs. Here it is:

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Campo Catch-Up

Since my arrival back into Cajamarca I have had to play catch-up and do some Campo (countryside) visits. On Monday I went to our literacy group outside of Los Banos to remind them that their 3 month 'test' is happening next week. I had to explain that the test is a good thing (not a scary thing) and it will help us see if they have improved and moved towards reaching some of their individual literacy goals. There was still a little fear in their eyes when I said, TEST, but hopefully that will go away come next Monday when we celebrate their advances.

Following the literacy check-in I visited the village bank Progresistas who were scheduled to prepare to start their 2nd cycle of loans. The group had their Acta meeting; where they agreed on group rules and bank regulations, voted on their Directive and came to other bank agreements. There was some miscommunication
about place and time so we started late, but in the meantime there was plenty going on. Paola, former bank treasurer, came early and shared with us the story of her sick daughter. She has tried medicine, doctor's visit, other remedies, but nothing works. Her daughter is permanently sick. The women listened to her story, syptoms, etc... and came to the conclusion that Paola's daughter was 'scared.' She needed a cleaning (either with a candle, newspaper, egg or guinea pig). The closest available cleaning object was a candle, so the older grandmother that was strategically positioned next to Paola, took charge. She whispered something into the candle and then passed the candle over the little girls body. At the end of the process, they lit the candle and the cleaning was done. Let's hope this poor little thing gets

Then on Tuesday I accompanied Elizabeth to form yet another village bank, Azucenas. I was so glad that I had accompanied her; this group of women is just plain energetic and full of life. When the formal process of forming the bank, swearing them in and giving them their loan money was done, I invited them to participate in Hope House activities. I didn't really need to do that since half of the group had already signed up for computer class. That same half, plus a handful more also signed up for sewing and cooking class. I hope their excitement and interest doesn't fade as they begin to participate with us. Finally, we took a group picture. I said, 1, 2, 3, Cheese! The group burst out in laughter. The word Cheese appeared to be one of the funniest thing they have heard all year.

Paz ~ Nora

Monday, July 19, 2010

Jumping back ... Right into First Aid

I have landed safely in Cajamarca and made my way back into the world of village banking, once again. It was as if I hadn't left. There were classes going on the day I returned, women showing up late, children trailing after their mom's footsteps and teachers asking for copies. The same stuff. Time stood still. Actually, it was nice to see and know that things can happen while I am away. That is a sign of sustainability. Although it was Amy and Blake taking over for a bit, and not Peruvians (the ultimate goal of sustainable village banking), it still points to the direction of sustainability.

My arrival conveniently came right before the 2nd First Aid class in Los Banos. So I was able to witness the class learn and practice taking respiration counts and blood pressure readings. It was very cool. Women really enjoyed using the stethoscope and taking each other's readings. Elizabeth encouraged the women that enjoyed these first First Aid classes (we plan to hold continuing classes on burns, cuts and injections) to consider purchasing the tools to take blood pressure reading in their communities. People pay for that service. Another business idea! I saw a lot of women nodding their heads in agreement.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This week in review

On Monday we had our literacy and sewing classes as usual. In literacy, the students are nearing the end of three months of classes so we will soon be testing them on their progress. At the beginning of the cycle we asked them to identify learning goals (like learning to sign their name or multiply 7s, 8s and 9s) and at the end of three months we will test them on those goals to see how they are coming along. As an intern, one of the projects I have been working on is designing the literacy progress exams.

In sewing, we are about to begin making blouses to go with the pants and jackets women have already sewn.

Tuesday we had a class on healthy and economical cooking. Women learned how to make chicken fried rice (using salt substitutes and lots of vegetables) and a delicious pudding made out of beans.

Wednesday we held our second scarf knitting class. This time we learned how to use thick knitting needs to make a loosely knitted scarf.

Juana models the scarf she finished from last week.

Elena, Josefina and Carmela start the new model under the teacher's supervision.

Thursday we had one of our most popular classes, chocolate making. Women learned how to make bon bons and chocolate covered marshmellows.

The teacher shows our loan recipient Elsa the consistency of the marshmellows as they begin to cook.

Ingrid and Elsa paint chocolate onto the bottom of their besos de mozo.

Ingrid and Elli show off their finished bon bons.

Today we ended the week by founding a new bank, Las Azucenas, and holding an information session for another group of women interested in forming a bank. We also started a new cycle of Beginner's Computer Classes, taught by my fellow intern Blake. The computer class was packed full of interested students!

Tomorrow, Saturday, we will hold the second half of our First Aid classes in Banos del Inca!

Tarjetas de Presentación de Negocio

This Tuesday, in Intermediate Computer Literacy, the women used MS Word to make their own business cards using their logos from last week. And of course, knowing that you blog readers love to see things for yourselves; here are the women working on their business cards and the fruits of said labor:

Also, since I'm sure you have missed Nora's presence on the blog almost as much as we have in real life, I'll just inform you that she'll be back at her post tomorrow : )

Monday, July 12, 2010

Last week in review

Saludos from Amy!

Last week at Hope House was a busy one.

Las Triunfadoras and Las Progresistas are the first two village banks we formed in partnership with Multicredit, and last week they paid back their loans in full. Over the coming week we will evaluate each woman individually and as a bank to see if they qualify to graduate to the next loan cycle, which is a slightly larger loan dispersed over a slightly longer period.

The president, secretary and treasurer of Las Progresistas collect the final loan payment.

In Hope House, we held our sewing and literacy classes as usual. Both classes are approaching the end of three month cycles. At the end of the sewing cycle, the women will receive an official certificate of graduation from a local sewing institute. At the end of the literacy cycle, we will evaluate the women to see if they have made progress on their learning goals (like learning to sign their name, or learning the multiplication table).

Tuesday we had our first intermediate level computer class. Blake already shared his impressions on that class in a blog entry below.

Wednesday we had our first in a series of three scarf-making classes. Each week the women will learn how to make a different style of scarf using a different technique, like crocheting on wire, knitting with wide needles, and knitting on wooden frames. Last week we learned how to make artsy looking scarves on wire frames.

Josefina happily crochets away.

Saturday we launched our First Aid classes in Banos del Inca. Elizabeth, our Multicredit village bank promoter, taught the class because her educational background is in nursing. The women learned how to take temperatures using basic thermometers, how to identify and treat a fever, and how to take a pulse.

It's tricky to find the temperature line in mercury thermometers.

Elizabeth shows Blanca how to read the temperature accurately, to the tenth degree Celsius.

Elizabeth and Rosa practice taking their oral temperature.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First day of Intermediate Computation!

Yesterday we started with our first day of Intermediate level computer literacy classes. The women made logos for their small businesses! Next week we'll be printing out official flyers and business cards, logos included.

And, for your viewing pleasure, here's a selection of logos from our intermediate computer class's first foray into graphic design:

First month of computer literacy: wrapped up!

Last week, we completed our first month of basic computer literacy. Most of the women went from never having used a computer before to understanding how to turn on and off the machines, drive the mouse and keyboard, create basic documents in MS Word, send emails, add contacts to their email lists, attach documents to emails, and conduct basic research using Google and Wikipedia.

Each woman had a different level of experience before the start of the class (some had used a typewriter before, for example), but none had used MS Word or an email client.

Ingrid even made a Facebook account (I know, arguably not the best use of time, but she really really wanted one, so I showed her how to make one during "computer free time"). She's actually become something of a social networking expert, which can be easily dismissed as pointless but I think actually ends up having a lot of value insofar as it has fueled her interest in using the Internet and the computer. Her questions about how to use Facebook invariably led to other questions about how to do more useful things like download and email photos.

All of the women who finished the course took a typing test in the end. They scored between 9 and 16 words per minute. Pretty good, considering that typing in Spanish is inherently a little slower than English due to having longer words, a few extra letters, and accent marks. (For comparison, Amy, Nora, our assistant teachers, and myself scored between 26 and 65 words per minute in Spanish).

The largest hindrance to the success of the course turned out to be poor attendance. Attendance for the computer classes was about the same as DHFs other course offerings, but missing one computer class prevented students from moving to the next. Between child-rearing, taking classes, fostering small businesses, and climbing out of poverty, most of our women have busy schedules and things just tend to come up. We are trying to encourage better attendance next month by refunding the sign-up fee to any student who comes to every class and completes all the homework. I'm also altering the curriculum for next month to make the course more relevant to the women's businesses.

We started today with the first level of Intermediate classes for the women who "graduated" from the basic level. More updates on that to come!


Saludos from Amy!

Since I’ve been in Cajamarca I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the awesome staff of Multicredit, our microfinance program partner.

First, there is Bertha, who is in charge of business support for our loan recipients. She teaches our women about useful topics like customer service and marketing. She also makes periodic follow-up visits to see how they are implementing what they have learned. Have they named their business? Do they have a visible list of prices? Do they know how to treat their customers? Loan recipient Nancy Cacho says that Bertha taught her how to differentiate her business by giving it a name and a logo. She plans to decorate her ice cream stand with the logo “Helados Nancy” to stand out from the competition.

Bertha giving business chats.

Another gem from the Multicredit staff is Elizabeth, our village bank promoter. She gives information sessions to women who are interested in forming a village bank to make sure they know about all the requirements from the beginning. She talks about the three pillars of a village bank: repaying your loan in a responsible manner and saving, business assessment, and integral human development through participation in Hope House classes. Women love Eli and say they have learned a lot about values like punctuality and responsibility from her. Loan recipient Fani Saldaña says Eli taught her the importance of coming to meetings on time.

Elizabeth teaching the women about group loan requirements.

And of course there is Oswaldo, the director of Multicredit, who enthusiastically takes on the village bank project in addition to running Multicredit’s personal loan and savings plans.

DiscoverHope is very fortunate to have women like Bertha and Elizabeth as program partners. They are willing to do whatever it takes to make our village banks successful, whether it means trekking through the countryside of Baños del Inca to reach faraway houses, meticulously compiling monthly reports, or spending long hours meeting with women.

Elizabeth and Bertha.