Monday, August 30, 2010

3rd annual BAND TOGETHER FOR HOPE with Mother Truckers and DertyBird

Mark your calendar for October 2nd at 8pm and rock HOPE for DiscoverHOPE to the sounds of the Mother Truckers, Dertybird, Special Guests and DJ at Spider House. 100% of proceeds go to funding 200 microloans for women in poverty living on less than $2 a day.

Tickets are limited, buy yours today:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Talkin' about business

My poor coworkers are getting their exercise today, visiting 3 village banks for loan repayment and business sessions. Unfortunately all banks are located in different extremes of the city, and even one of the banks is located outside of Cajamarca.

I accompanied my coworkers this morning to support Mari and her "marketing" business session. The village bank Estrellitas did an amazing job of participating when Mari asked them questions. Our women already know a lot about basic business tactics, they just don't put a name, like marketing, onto what they do. For example the loan recipient Miriam makes curtains and mototaxi seat covers. At the end of the year she gives her customers a small keychain if they purchase more than x amount of material. That is her promotion, marketing, catch to remain and attract more clients. The women had a lot of ideas and questions about how to improve their marketing. This was definitely a hit business topic.

Yesterday was my exercise day. I went to the bank Margaritas located above Los Banos to visit our knitting group. The group started to make baby blankets 3 weeks ago. The target date was to finish them yesterday, however we had a lot of slow knitters and most of our women didn't finish. I explained to the group we can start another knitting project as soon as everyone finishes their blankets. There were some groans. They want to start on their baby dresses already next week. My rationing is that they get discounted material from DHF, we want to see them finish their projects and not have 1/2 done baby blankets sitting in corners of houses waiting to be finished. We want to see them all the way through their project, no matter how tough it may be, until they use start using their blanket or get ready to sell it. Tough Love.

After my knitting session I ran to the Hope House to see the last bit of jewelry class and finally witness our 3rd village bank this year, Mujeres Emprendedoras, move into their 2nd loan cycle.

Paz to all of you in your days of exercise ~ Nora

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sewing Course Graduation

Presenting DHF's 1st graduating class of the 1st Sewing Modulo: Women's Clothes, held in conjunction with the local Cajamarcan training institute CETPRO

We arrived at the finale of our sewing modulo. The one that started back in April. Remember those posts? Women that hadn't sewed in a long time, women that wanted to improve their sewing business, women that wanted to learn how to make their own clothes, etc...

That group of 11 women finished their coursework this month and yesterday was our graduation ceremony. We held the ceremony in the 3rd floor auditorium above the House Hope classrooms. The students were there, some accompanied by family members (and screaming kids), other loan recipients (and future sewers!) and we had a table of special invited guests, for example our angel nuns who provided the sewing space, Oswaldo representing Multicredit and CETPRO representatives.

The ceremony consisted of lots of speeches in recognition of all who made this course possible, especially our beloved teacher Sonia who taught with such passion and patience. Vilma, one of our star students, also spoke on behalf of her fellow students, giving thanks and reassuring the crowd that the group will take advantage of their new knowledge and use it in their daily lives and businesses, "because not everyone has this opportunity and we are very grateful." Prizes were given out to the students with best attendance and we enjoyed cake and tea afterwards.

But, really, the best part of the ceremony was our 'Runway Model Showcase.' Yes, we had all our students model their skirt, blouse and suitcoat for the crowd. I turned on the the music. The women were announced by name. And, one by one, they modeled their work. Their beauty. It was fabulous!

The women didn't want the celebration to end, so their was the famous Peruvian broasted chicken and french fry meal afterwards.

It was so rewarding for me to see the pride and happiness that each of our students radiated yesterday. It is confirmation that DiscoverHope instills Hope and Opportunity in the lives of humble women. And the good news continues: the 2nd Modulo Sewing course is starting next week (no vacation for sewers!) and we will have even more sewers taking advantage of yet another Opportunity of learning.

Congratulations to all our Sewing Graduates!

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"At first I was scared"

That's what Ingrid from the village bank Mujeres Luchadoras told me, "At first I was scared, I felt all alone. But then as I went walking more into the forest I realized I was surrounded by a lot of beautiful things. There was a river, birds, lots of flowers and trees. I realized I wasn't alone and I felt at peace."

During our 2nd leadership workshop yesterday, our final activity was a 'silent, internal trip' to the place where our internal voice is born. The place deep inside ourselves where we affirm our goodness and strength. All the women closed their eyes, I put on soft music and I lead the women to the spring of their internal voice. When we were done the women drew on pieces of paper memories of their trip. It was interesting to hear their comments, especially Ingrid's. She didn't like the idea of being alone, but once she realized she was in a safe place with herself she felt peace.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, August 20, 2010

Meet Hope

I can't even begin to tell you how excited and proud I am. Today was the start of the 2nd loan cycle for Strength and Blessings. They elected a new Directive to lead them in their 2nd loan cycle. So, new secretary, new treasurer and new president. The new Directive will be fabulous, I just know it, but I am especially excited about the new president. Her name is Esperanza (translated from Spanish is Hope) and she is dynamic. You can not miss her laugh and her energy when you are in the same room as her. She jokes and motivates. She pushes her fellow loan recipients, "Neighbor, you can work with more money. I know you. You are a hard worker. Take out s/600 in your loan, invest it and you will make more. s/400 is nothing for you."
Esperanza is special not only because of her incredible spark, but also because she has been a dedicated literacy student these past 3 months. Esperanza never finished elementary school so when her village bank formed and she had the opportunity to attend literacy classes in her community she signed up. She has learned how to write her name and basic numbers. This month she started her 2nd literacy cycle, together with her loan cycle.

Strength and Blessings is one of our village banks that is located in the countryside. As I got on the combi to head to the countryside this morning I spotted Esperanza. We rode together to the village bank meeting. We stopped in the dirt road next to the river bridge to walk the rest of the way together. Esperanza had two big heavy (30 lbs.?) bins filled with "dirty water" (pig food, but often called agua sucia here in Peru, easier to say than restaurant leftovers) She travels into the city daily to gather 2-4 dirty water bins for her pregnant pigs. Together her two pigs consume at least 2 full bins of dirty water daily. They will give birth soon and soon she will need to increase their food availability so that the piglets grow big and strong and ready for market. Since her husband works and her kids are little, she doesn't have anyone to help her. She travels daily, sometimes waiting long hours for a combi that will take her and her bins close to home. Not all combi drivers want to take her bins on their short-of-space minivan. Sometimes they charge her 50 cents a bin, and that is after she pays s/3 a bin for the restaurant leftovers. Esperanza carrys these heavy bins on her back, daily. I couldn't even lift one.

So, these are just a few reasons why I think Esperanza will make a great president. Yeah for Hope!

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Start of Cycle, End of Cycle

Pictured Above is the Village Bank "Strength and Blessing" during their last loan repayment meeting of Loan Cycle 1.

This week it feels like we are in the middle of movement. Then again, it always feels like that. But, if I sit down and reflect (which I have been able to do quite a bit of since I am sick with a cold again) I found myself one day going to a close of loan cycle 1 meeting with a bank and the next day celebrating the start of a loan cycle 1 with another bank. It is really rewarding to watch a bank grow into their 2nd loan cycle. I don't have kids, but I suspect that it is like watching your child grow and marking the milestones of their life. Pictured below you will see a new member of our village banking team: Mari. She is pictured next to Elizabeth helping the Directive of the village bank Violetas administer their first loan reimbursement. Mari hails from a rich background of helping women in poverty, graduated from law school in Cajamarca and is infusing our business assistance program with dynamic and participatory activities. In our village bank 2nd loan cycles Mari wants to get the women thinking about their accounting. Can they figure out how much they make? If they are making a profit? If so, how big or small? Pictures and more stories to come....

Paz ~ Nora

Elizabeth and Mari helping the village bank Directive of Violetas sort through their first loan paperwork.
New loan recipient from Violetas showing off her first loan money.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Leadership Drama at Hope House

Another Leadership Workshop started this week, but this time in the Hope House in Cajamarca. We invited 6 village banks to participate ( 3 banks participated in Los Banos in the previous sessions). There was participation from all 6 village banks that were invited: a total of 23 women. This time around I took into consideration the literacy levels of our women and added a new activity to the 1st session - Theater! We (me and my lovely co-workers) introduced the theme of leadership using Sociodramas and asked the women themselves to participate in acting out scenes from repayment bank meetings. We acted out 3 scenes to show the group different types of leadership styles. After the 3rd scene we reflected on how the different leaders reacted to bank problems and what is the best type of leadership we can practice within our own banks. It was a hit. The dramas got the women laughing and participating much more than in the first series of workshop that we did in Los Banos. However, to be fair, we are working with a different group of women this month. The literacy levels are a bit higher in this group, but the group itself is much more active and talkative. And, this made for a excellent workshop.

I received headnods (women agreeing with me), questions and really great comments throughout the workshop. A couple of my favorite moments were :

1) When Juana, president of Amigas por Siempre village bank, asked me during our brainstorming activity, "I have never heard of leadership? What is it?" I replied, "Well, that is why we are here. If I tell you the answer now then you will all leave and the workshop will be done. What do you think it is?" Then a couple minutes later she replied, " Isn't a leader a responsible person who is in charge of a group." BINGO, she answered her own question!

2) Ingrid (our super star computer student) asked me at the end of the session, "Isn't this a capacitation? Because we are learning new stuff. Does that mean we get a certificate at the end?"

During one of our dramas. Elizabeth, our bank promotora, is acting as the authority (president) and different bank women are acting along with her.
We did group work within our village banks, reflecting on a leadership story and what it means to be a leader.

Paz ~ Nora

Monday, August 9, 2010

Amy & Blake - THANK YOU!

So I came to my office this morning all alone. Only to hear the sound of my own thoughts. Blake has left town, Amy leaving today. They have been so generous with their thoughts and words and I just need to set the record straight - DHF owes them a great big THANK YOU. They came to this country with open minds and hearts to help DHF in any and all ways possible. They did just that. Blake created a computer curriculum from scratch and designed a new website for our local partner. Amy took over Hope House during my vacation and did all kinds of (sometimes unglorified) work tasks to make this place run. She worked tirelessly on evaluation and monitoring tools for literacy, monthly reporting and and big picture programming.

They will be missed....but continued to be appreciated. You have left a little footprint here and are now part of the DHF family. Thanks again!

Pictured above, eatin' ice cream in the mountain top outside of Cajabamba. Nothing says the Andes like a guy in a bike selling ice cream. Blake tried it, Amy and I stayed away.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thanks Nora!

To thank Nora for all she has done for us this summer, Blake and I decided our final blog entry should be about her.


We feel very fortunate to have gotten to spend the summer with Nora. She is a great supervisor and a great friend. We thought we'd share with you a few examples of why working with her was so special:

(1) She is thoughtful. When we came to intern with DHF in Peru, Nora made sure to ask us what we wanted to get out of the internship so it would be a valuable experience for us.

Nora helps our knitting teacher Nelly separate yarn.

(2) She is funny. She can walk into any classroom and make the whole class laugh, which reflects not only her mastery of Spanish but also her admirable ease of communication with the women.

Nora hams it up at a BBQ.

(3) She is a great listener. Whenever women come into the office, she listens attentively to their entire story no matter how much other work she has to do at the time.

Nora listens to Palmira share some neighborhood gossip.

(4) She is compassionate toward the women, yet also has a sense of discipline. She explains to women why it is important to come to class on time and asks them to pay small fine if they come over half an hour late. She enforces her policies consistently but kindly. Women have learned to take her at her word.

Nora explains to the women why it is important to come to class on time.

(5) She is patient. Whether repeating herself to a woman who just doesn't get it, or agreeing to have a lengthy two hour meeting with a teacher to help her prepare for class, she always maintains her calm composure.

Our knitting teacher Nelly shows Nora a model for a little girl's dress she would like to teach the women next month.

(6) Although there are many things that are difficult about managing a small NGO in Peru (some of which I listed in my previous blog entry), Nora never lets it get her down. Whether she is sick or without electricity in her home, she comes to work with a smile and always appreciates the positive aspects of her job.

It has been a pleasure to work with Nora this summer, and we hope everyone in the U.S. recognizes what a talented and inspiring program manager they have representing DHF in Cajamarca!

Blake, Nora and Amy on our last day.

We'll miss you Nora! Thanks for everything!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Internship reflections

This is the final week of my internship with DHF. Time passes so quickly! I thought I would leave you with a few reflections about my summer in Cajamarca.

First, here are some of the highlights of my two-and-a-half months with DHF:

Getting to sample delicious treats from cooking class, like mil hojas pastries and colado de frijol pudding. Here are some of our women from the bank Fuerza y Bendicion sampling their chicken fried rice.

Building marshmellow and gumdrop towers at our final leadership workshop in Baños del Inca. It was very gratifying to take charge of an activity, and find that the women really enjoyed it.

Jewelry Buy Day: While it was exhausting to spend all day sorting through women's jewelry submissions, it was great to see that all their hard work would pay off for them, literally.

Literacy testing: Last week we tested our literacy students on their progress. I was happy to see that the literacy exams I had been designing all summer actually worked.

Interviewing motivated and inspiring women, like Juana (above) and Nancy (below center).

Getting to see the microcredit process work in person. Above, Oswaldo gives our newest village bank Las Azucenas their microloan. Below, the whole group with Elizabeth our village bank promoter.

And finally, my coworkers! Top, Oswaldo from Multicredit speaks to a village bank. Middle, me, Eli, Bertha and Blake celebrate my birthday. Bottom, Nora and Eli.

What was it like to intern for DHF?

I definitely gained a better sense of what it's like to work in international development. I learned that working for a small NGO can have both its upsides and its downsides. A downside is that with so few employees, you basically have to do everything yourself: unglamorous tasks like mopping up the bathroom your office shares with the neighboring psychiatric and childcare centers (messy); trying to figure out how to refill the printer cartridge by yourself to save money (ending up with ink all over the floor and a still empty cartridge); working every day even if you are sick because there is no one to replace you (and getting used to being sick due to the omnipresence of foreign germs); and going home hoping to relax, only to find that your electricity is out or the water has stopped running.

But it also means you get to experience the side of international development that you cannot get working in an office in Washington DC. Lack of creature comforts aside, what is the value of getting to see the faces of the people you are serving every day? What is the value of learning that, thanks to the last jewelry export day you organized, an elderly woman can now afford her medicine? Or a young woman telling you that she used to be afraid to speak in public, but now that she is president of her village bank she is no longer afraid to make mistakes publicly? Or a woman who used to think that only men could be leaders, but now knows that she, a motivated businesswoman, mother, student, and friend is also a leader? These are anecdotes that we can read about on the U.S. side, reports that we can request from our workers on the ground, but it is never quite the same as getting to help someone personally.

I also learned more about realities of the poor in developing countries. Take, for example, one afternoon when I was scheduled to go interview a woman about her successful jewelry-making business. I arrived at her house around 4pm only to find everyone running around hysterically. It turns out that they received a phone call from scam artists in Lima claiming that they were policeman who had found their son, a university student, carrying drugs. They said they would turn him in to the regional headquarters unless the family sent them $200 as a bribe. The mother was hysterically crying, a sister ran off to the university to see if she could find her brother, and the father went to borrow money from friends so he could pay the bribe. They were too afraid to call the police because if the story was true, then corrupt policemen were already involved. Fortunately the sister found her brother before they paid the bribe.

Or the village bank members who live in an isolated neighborhood in the countryside that can no longer be reached by bus because the municipality decided to do construction on all the main roads at once.

Or the woman who has never touched a computer in her life, because they simply don’t exist in her neighborhood, but has dreams of being able to work as a secretary.

The reality of the lives of the poor is that they are unstable. Uncomfortable. Full of stress, and sometimes, tragedy. But also full of a hope to be able to “salir adelante,” an appreciation of the importance of friends and family, and a sense of being blessed for having the little you do have.

Business Presentations!

The Intermediate level computation class ended really well. Most of the women showed marked improvement in their typing speed, with some more than doubling their Words per Minute from the beginning of the course:

In our last class, the students put together Powerpoint slides and gave presentations about their businesses in front of the class with a projector that the nuns were nice enough to lend us. I'll let Ingrid tell you about it:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Multicredit Website Up and Running

Today I handed over Multicredit's new website to its owner, Oswaldo with pictures and graphics and all. I'm happy to say that their office is now fully trained on using Wordpress, and will now be driving updates on the site.