Thursday, October 28, 2010

Taking the First Step

Village Bank President, Luz, overseeing the group's payment (gray sweater)

Since September I’ve been visiting each of our twelve village banks, introducing myself and getting to know the women one by one. On Tuesday, I visited village bank Lucecitas (little lights) to witness the second payment of their first loan cycle. Their president, Luz Perez, (bless her heart!) made a huge blunder and turned away her village bank socias thinking that their meeting was scheduled for Thursday. By the time we arrived, only four women remained. So after leaving their payments with the treasurer and agreeing to hold the president responsible for collecting the remainder, we decided to have a quick chat. Three of the eight women are extremely active, attending Hope House activities on an almost weekly basis. Out of curiosity I decided to ask the non-active women their reasons for such poor attendance. During the conversation we heard a laundry list of excuses from one particular woman, Marina. She mentioned that she didn’t have time in the afternoons; that the jewelry classes were not meant for women her age; and on and on. After some words of encouragement by our village bank promoter, Elizabeth, and a quick review of our activities for the month of November, Marina and two other women signed up for one of our jewelry classes. Afterwards, Marina confided in me that from the very beginning, she’s wanted to participate in Hope House activities but due to her husband’s jealousy, she’s been prohibited. However, that day, she decided to take a first step and enroll herself regardless of his opinion. I’m keeping my fingers cross that she shows up as planned. Unfortunately, for many of our women, male head of households can be a major road block to their own advancement. It’s extremely difficult to find a solution or even mitigate the effects of machismo here in Peru. Sometimes the first step is having the woman make a personal decision to do things differently. I’ll keep you posted on Marina’s case.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Computer Experts

We are entering into our last month of computer classes this coming month, November. During class today I walked around and watched our loan recipients complete their 2nd exam, the 1st was completed after the 1st month of computer classes. I was amazed. Stuff I don't even know how to do. Maybe I need to attend some of the computer classes?

Berta, our amazing teacher, knows exactly what to do with the class, with each student, to encourage them to learn and grow. She has gone above and beyond to make sure students make up classes on her own time on the weekends and stays late, comes early when needed. She introduced into the curriculum the theme of "personal maps" (as you can see pictured above). In Cajamarca, if you know how to design a personal map, you can get paid s/5, or close to $2, for each map you produce. It is a small business venture if you know what you are doing. And, from what I saw today, our women know what they are doing.

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cooking Class Galore!

As we wrap up the month of October, I’d like to introduce you to one of our new additions to the Hope House Family. Celi Berdales is one of our new cooking instructors that came onboard last month after several requests by our women to learn recipes that could produce big profits with minimal investment. Celi volunteers at the Sisters’ of St. Vincent De Paul complex on Thursdays selling picarones (fried doughnuts) outside the main entrance. The proceeds from her sales go towards paying for many of the patients’ medications and treatments.   Last month Celi taught her first class on how to make two delicious appetizers, stuffed potatoes and tequeños. The class was a hit and we all went home with our bellies full. In October, the women learned how to make Celi’s specialty, picarones, as well as coconut candy and banana muffins. What inspires me most about Celi is her patience, gentle demeanor, and love for sharing her best kept secrets. She’s a self-taught cook who had to learn the hard way. Growing up she never laid a hand in the kitchen and didn’t know what to do with herself. Her love of teaching developed as she began to learn how to make pastries, appetizers, and traditional Peruvian cuisine. Now our women are benefiting from her passion. If we could all follow Celi’s example, imagine what the world would be like! You may be wondering what the women will be learning next month. We have a list on Christmas inspired recipes—empanadas and a Christmas bread known as Pan de Yema.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Full Crochet

Today was another full crochet class, women starting and women finishing their handmade yarn products. As I mentioned in a previous post, we are filling up our crochet classes and women are selling their ponchos, shawls, baby dresses and sweaters. Our full classes = more income!

I want to share with you a little story about one of our new crochet participants, Maria, who comes from the village bank Fighting Women. I went to Maria's house a couple of weeks ago with Elizabeth, because she had come to one crochet class and then never returned. I wondered if she had such an awful experience that she didn't want to come back. But, I got a different story at her house. It turns out that she is a slower crocheter compared to her other classmates. She came to a poncho class awhile back, but couldn't finish it. So she was invited by the teacher, that also teaches knitting and crochet with the nuns, on the other side of the Hope House complex, to finish her poncho with her. But, since I never saw her again I thought, we lost her! The problem is the crochet teacher that works in collaboration with the nuns charges a monthly fee, whereas in the Hope House we only charge for half of the material costs (and no class fees!) Well, Maria liked the sound of that and now has decided to return to classes with DiscoverHope Fund. Maria lives in a very humble house made out of wood and plastic pieces. She has a small businesses with her husband where she sells an apple quinoa warm breakfast drink from a little cart. She wants to learn more crochet items so that she can have additional income. This month she has learned how to make a shawl and a baby sweater. Her hands are moving faster!

Our little shawl model! Look at that model look!
Paz ~ Nora

Friday, October 15, 2010

Buy Day Success!

Hello DHf Family!
Yesterday was DHF's final Buy Day of the year. Nora and I arrived early at the Hope House and went straight to work setting up tables, printing out sign-up sheets, and preparing all the necessary materials that make Buy Day such a special time. All eleven participants anxiously waited as Nora and I carefully selected the necklaces, bracelets, and earrings to be shipped to the States. I could feel all 11 sets of eyes burning holes into the back of my head wondering whether or not I would give a thumbs up on their handmade products. Talk about nerve-wracking! But after two hours of careful evaluation, we had our final selection and all eleven participants went home a winner. After wrapping up the day, Nora and I were exhausted. So in true Peruvian fashion, we treated ourselves to a side of delicious doughnuts drizzled in honey called picarones. Fried dough never tasted so good!

Also, Ester (the socia captured below in Nora's blog entry) created some beautiful pieces. Her earrings were a hit and we ended up purchasing seven pairs. With Buy Day finished we are that much closer to wrapping up the year here in the Hope House. Time is flying way faster than expected!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Subtracting with pencils

Yesterday a visit was in order to our literacy circle, out in the countryside. The women were learning how to subtract and they were using colored pencils as their counting tools. 10-3 = ....Esperanza counted 10 pencils, took away 3, then had her answer = 7! She did that over and over, not letting go of her precious pencils. Lily increased the difficulty with flashcards, but Esperanza just kept counting away with her pencils. It was so rewarding to watch. Esperanza has a little store and usually her son helps her make change when she sells a soda or crackers and the customer doesn't have change. But with a little more practice, I think Esperanza will be able to add and subtract her own change for her customers. While Esperanza and her fellow students were practicing subtracting, Ester, a fellow loan recipient, was in the back of the house prepping her jewelry for Buy Day this Thursday. DHF will hold the last jewelry Buy Day of the year - one more chance for our women to show off and sell their creations to DHF.

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Busy October Start

Hello out there! Hello?

It has been a busy start to the month, so I apologize for keep you all out of the loop here. Let's catch up.

On Tuesday we had our first Animal Husbandry class in the Hope House. We have held similar activities this year with a Veterinarian in the countryside, but never in the Hope House. The turnout was fantastic. While witnessing
the session develop, my favorite parts were watching the women beam with questions throughout the power point presentation and their innocent and pure joyous reaction of watching different pictures of guinea pigs change on the wall through out "movie" presentation with the projector. There was the "ooohhh" and "awh's" throughout the afternoon. Some of the women that came on Tuesday raise cuyes (guinea pigs) for their own family consumption while others breed cuyes for their small businesses. Regardless of their reasons for breeding cuyes, I think everyone got a new tip or two out of the power point "movie" that our Vet presented. Some of the walk-away tips that our women got were; Give cuyes water (it is common practice to not give water to cuyes here), low-cost sanitation ideas, preferred breeding practices and disease treatment.

In addition to our guinea pig activity, we are continuing with our computer series on Tuesday. Berta, our amazing and motivational computer teacher, has designed a computer curriculum that allows our 7 students to practice and perfect their Word skills while creating various formal documents commonly used by Secretaries and Computer Labs here in Cajamarca. Her success can be noted in our near perfect attendance in the month of September. Our computer students come to class on time (often early!), with completed homework, and ready to engage. Amazing, really. This series will end in November when our students will receive an official certificate for their time and acquired new Word skills.

Then, yesterday one of our countryside village banks started a new knitting class. The village bank Margaritas crocheted baby dresses last month and will continue crocheting a new dress model with their teacher Nelly this month. They want to expand their stitches for future dress orders. We like that!

Finally (although there are still more activities this week), after visiting our dress makers, I got in the fastest combi I could find to rush over to the village bank Mujeres Unidas (United Women) on the other side of the city. This bank started their 2nd loan cycle yesterday. I arrived just in time to witness Desy in action, starting their meeting with a funny icebreaker to get them relaxed and laughing. The Directive was sworn in. Then, the Directive received 5,000 soles, which they then distributed to each loan recipient, and we had a little toast to the new loan cycle, with the words of the new president Socorro, "let's be united this cycle, like our name says!"

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, October 1, 2010

Let Them Eat Pie!

To finish out the month of September, 13 of our loan recipients attended a baking class where they learned to make Lemon Pie. And boy were they in for a treat! The classed commenced by sampling a slice of instructor Meche Paredes' best selling recipe. Everyone's eyes, including mine, were glazed over as we sunk our teeth into a really delicious pie. The women learned from start to finsh how to make homeade dough, a delicious lemon filling, and fluffy merengue topping. But most importantly, they left inspired by Meche's story. Meche owns a really small bakery across the street from the Hope House. She's always had an entrepreneurial spirit and her biggest obstacle in the beginning was her husband. When she finally decided to start her business, she started out small, selling to friends and family until her clientel begin to expand. Meche now makes S/.300 daily and is most proud that her two sons are able to attend a prestigious high school on her tab. The irony of Meche's story is that her husband is now her right-hand man and dough boy. Yes, dough boy. She depends on him to prepare all her dough and wait on her beck in call regarding the bakery's daily operations (since its her business that sustains the family). What most inspired me was her willingness to teach our women her best kept secrets in the hope that they too would pay it forward. So you may be wondering...if the women ate a pie and made a second, what happend to the second one? Half went to the nuns that run the facility we are housed at and the second half went into Nora, Hugo, and Berta's (our computer teacher) belly. Ohhh....and mine too.