Thursday, September 30, 2010

Change in the Air

Let me fill you all in about Peru news. It is Election Day this Sunday. What does that mean? Parades, candidate songs and free balloons. I have never been in Peru for an election day, but the weeks leading up to it have been action packed song and dance routines in the street. It is almost like a Carnival celebration, in September. This also means that change is in the air, although from my conversation with Peruvians, most people do not have a lot of faith in any of the candidates.

In the little microcosm of our village banks there is also change in the air, as women are electing their new Directives. This week two village banks, Senor de los Milagros and Mujeres Unidas (United Women), are entering into their 2nd loan cycle. In-between Loan cycle 1 & 2 the village bank meets to adjust their group agreements and elect a new president, secretary and treasurer. This a good group process test to see how the women have come together in their 1st loan cycle. Yesterday during the group meeting of the village bank Senor de los Milagros, the group decided to vote out a village bank member because she wasn't able to continue with the bank agreements and furthermore because of her constant travel was holding the group back from holding regular meetings. It was a tough democratic process to come to consensus. But, they did it.

Let's hope the elections on Sunday can follow in this village bank's footsteps.

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Future Loan Recipient

Yesterday evening I went with Nora and our Multicredit staff to a village bank named Amigas Por Siempre (Friends Forever).  The bank is comprised of six socias who live in the outer limits of the city in the neighborhood of Santa Apolonia. It’s near the top of a hill which makes for a beautiful view but with a very high wind chill factor.  I couldn’t resist taking a photo of little Cristan, who was intrigued by his mother’s village banking booklet. He kept flipping through the pages, looking at the numbers, and the picture on the front. It made me think for a second about the possibilities and opportunities he may have now that his mother, Doraliza, has access to a loan and business assistance classes to help grow her guinea pig breeding business. As a single mother with two little boys working two jobs, it’s an opportunity for Dora to improve her current life situation. Overall, I was extremely impressed by the village bank. The socias had a great sense of humor, participated openly in the biz class discussion, and were very vocal about adhering to their village bank rules. Punctuality and personal responsibility were HIGHLY emphasized--values I think we can all identify with on some level.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The little pig visit

The surprises of working here in and outside of Cajamarca is that sometimes when I go to visit a loan recipient I get to witness her recently, less than a day, old piglets. Desy and I had to visit a crochet class yesterday outside of Los Banos. Before visiting the crochet students we made a visit to another loan recipient's house closeby. Juana and Silvia are in the village bank Azucecans that formed only 2 months ago. Since I haven't seen them since they formed their village bank I wanted to see what they were up to and why they haven't come to classes at the Hope House.

Well, my answer was clear.
1. Their pig was giving birth that very afternoon and (pictured above) you can see the new piglets. They were attentive to the pigs needs, as they didn't want Mama pig to squish little piggies, which have a market value of about $50 each.
2. They have to take care of their pigs and give them a good amount of food every afternoon. The pig feeding and cleaning starts at 4 and goes until 6pm. That is when most of our Hope House activities are planned.
3. Their houses are not next to the Hope House. They have to walk 10 minutes to the street where buses pass, get on a Cajamarca bus for about 1/2 hour before they are within close walking distance to the Hope House. When classes end around 5:30-6pm, they have to do the same thing in reverse. So, it is not that easy to just sign up for a class.

Desy and I were getting a taste of the campo reality that doesn't allow all our loan recipients to easily sign up and participate in the learning opportunities that Hope House offers. Solution: Let's do a class here in your house. We are in the midst of looking for another sewing machine so we can hold a sewing course in Silvia's house. Then, the only people that need to travel are Desy, myself and the teacher!

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back In Action!

Hello DHF Family! I realize this is my first blog entry after spending just over a week in Cajamarca. Nora and I have been busy at work between site visits, sewing classes, and meetings. So by the time I looked at the calendar and realized I hadn’t posted an entry, I decided to glue myself to a chair and write down some thoughts. So where do I begin? Peru feels like my second home after living here for almost three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. In 2005 I served as a Community Health Volunteer in the small coastal town of Salas, located in northern Lambayeque. It’s about a six hour drive from Cajamarca. In 2008, I returned to Texas to start graduate school at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. In August of 2009, I had the good fortune to participate in the Curtis W. Meadows Fellows Program, where I met Maggie and travelled to Cajamarca to complete an internal audit of DHF’s village banking program. The experience was life changing and as a result, I became an active DHF volunteer back in Austin. After completing my Masters in May of this year, I decided to take a leap of faith and spend three months shadowing Nora and exploring the adventures of international nonprofit management. So here I am… certain that this experience is the beginning of a new and very exciting chapter in this journey we call life. I must say that life in a Peruvian city feels quite different but surprisingly, the food still tastes great, the people are just as friendly as can be, and the Hope House women continue to be just as dedicated than ever before. These next three months I hope to share my insights into life in the Hope House and the stories behind the faces that make DiscoverHope what it is today. Gotta run so I can watch the women in our crochet class finish their ponchos and scarves! Stay tuned!

~ Desy

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Congrats to Literacy & Welcome Desy!

This Monday was a special day for a lot of us in Cajamarca
1. We celebrated Literacy Day out in the campo with one of our literacy groups. Literacy Day in Peru is actually September 8, but it is never too late for brownies and coffee!
2. To help us celebrate, Desiree - our new addition to the village bank project, arrived just in time for the festivities. Desiree volunteered with us last year and is back for 3 months to help DHF on the ground and do and learn program coordination in the Hope House.

Cheers to all the literacy learners and all the good work that we still have yet to do! And, Welcome back to Cajamarca Desiree!

Paz ~ Nora

Monday, September 13, 2010

First Aid Check

On Saturday we finished the 2nd part of our First Aid series. Last month Elizabeth talked about preventing infections and healing wounds. This month she talked about burns and what to do/what not to do. The group had me laughing along with them, as we talked about commonly used household goods that are often thought to cure and help burns, like tomato, hot pepper (!) or potato. We not only talked about burns and treatment of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns, but actually practiced our new found skills using different scenarios. This got the group laughing even more, when one of the patients pretended to scream during her wound drama and when water was poured on one of our other patients in the 2nd drama. They all said they wanted to come back next month for First Aid classes, but I think on top of all the new information they received, it is also because they had such a good time with Elizabeth.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, September 10, 2010

Photo of the Week

I take a zillion photos every week, month, year. Many get deleted, thanks to digital technology. Some get shared with you all right here on this blog. Others get stored in various places for future use. When I took this very picture this week, I thought this moment, this frame, this idea is what I want to share with DHF supporters. Marta, the women pictured here with her granddaughter, is attending a crochet class funded by DHF. She is a avid crocheter and missed our poncho class a couple of months ago. Since then, every time she sees me, Marta has begged me "when is the next poncho class? I want to learn how to make ponchos" She isn't making a poncho in this picture, she is making a baby dress, but I know I can count on her presence when we offer a poncho class. Since our loan recipients were able to increase their earnings with knit products last month, I want to encourage the trend. This month our crochet/knit classes have doubled from last month.
Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Full House at Hope House

Yesterday we had a Full House here at the Hope House. Days like this feel good and crazy and satisfying. In our computer room we had 6 students take their pre-test to measure their initial computer skills. Our computer course that began yesterday is focusing on creating documents in Word and a brief introduction of Excel. The course that began yesterday will end in November; thus completing 12 sessions in total. The students that finish the full course will receive a course certificate that may help them find a job and definitly beef up their computer credentials. The idea is to prepare them for a job with computers, for example as a secretary or computer lab "typer," which is a popular job here in town.

In the other room we had 14 knitters creating a new poncho stitch. Last month our loan recipients reported a total of 408 soles of additional income due to new techniques that they learned at the Hope House and then used in their knitting businesses. 408 soles = about $150 of new income! Every month I encourage women to fill out their earning/savings sheet that indicate to DHF how much our classes are helping our women economically with their businesses. In August our knitters had good business sales, compared to other months where the women collectively reported less than 300 soles ($100) in knitting additional income.

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We're done already?

That was the response I got yesterday as we finished the 3rd leadership workshop with our village banks here in Cajamarca. One of the participants, Carmela, said "This is the last one? We're done already? But these workshops were so helpful and it feels like we just got started." It touched me to hear that my passion and energy in forming these workshop touched someone deeply. I mentioned to Carmela I would consider holding more leadership workshops for those loan recipients that are thirsty for more knowledge.In the 3 workshops that were organized for our Cajamarcan loan recipients we worked on a couple main themes: identifying good leadership qualities and defining what leadership is, identifying leadership qualities within each of us, and talking about the importance of communication and working in groups (as leaders). I think the 3rd workshop is the best of them all. Why? Because we get to play communication games like; How do you feel today? (making gestures and have the audience guess our emotion) and Car and Driver (in pairs the "Driver" gives instructions to her blind "Car" about where to go), thus using fun activities to talk about the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication. Then we end the workshop by building sweet marmellow towers and test our group communication skills. We reflect about the process of building towers in a group and what worked well, what didn't. It is a great way to bring the women together and talk about leadership in a non-threatening way.

Stay tuned for more leadership opportunities!

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Literacy Check

On Monday, when everyone else was celebrating the Saint of Santa Rosa, I was checking in on our literacy group. (Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining!) I went out to Tartar Chico, outside of Banos de Inca, to visit our women in the village bank Strength and Blessings and see how the 2nd cycle of literacy classes was progressing. They were working on numbers and greater than, less than, equal to signs...which will eventually lead them into the topic of money and making change. Our women always complain about not getting the right change in the market, or sometime for their very own business transactions. We want to prevent that and give women the math skills to manage their money in a honest and correct way. And, on Monday that starts with bottle caps. Women were learning the greater than, less than sign through a bottle cap activity. Lily, our literacy teacher, never fails to amazes me with her creativity and fun and practical activities that she brings to every literacy class.

Paz ~ Nora