Friday, November 26, 2010

Many, Many Thanks!

As you all celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, Desiree and I were poolside. Taking a break from the office workload and feeling the gratitude to be here, in Cajamarca, doing what we are doing. Our work is so fufilling and, although it has it's challenges, it has endless rewards. Although yesterday we took a little break, there hasn't been many other breaks to speak of. Last Saturday our First Aid students finished their health session with the topic of Diarrhea. Again, another health session filled with questions and addressed doubts. Then, as the week got underway we had a Christmas cake class and Christmas crochet class. Finally, our computer class finished their 3 month Word 2007 Documents course with flying colors. Our students made incredible strides to greatly improve not only their typing speed, but their level of comfort with creating formal documents. According to Damaris, one of our top computer students, "This course has helped me a lot. I can make all kinds of documents and I am not scared to do them on my own. Because I learned so many new things with Word I can also help my younger family members at home with their homework."

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, November 19, 2010

'Tis the Season

Yep. That's right. It's not even Thanksgiving and here we are talking about Christmas. For the end of this month we have planned some special classes at the Hope House, preparing the women for next month. Our true entrepreneurs will take advantage of the Christmas season and boost up their businesses. Come December the streets of Cajamarca burst with activity and sales. This week we held a Christmas chocolate class and a snowman class (even though Cajamarcans don't know what snow is, some symbols for the Christmas season are universal). Peru is a very Catholic country and Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays. With our classes we hope to not only help our entrepreneurs get ahead of their competition, but also enjoy the season with special homemade treats that they themselves make here at classes.

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DiscoverHope welcomes new Peru-based Program Manager, Desireé Ledet

Dear DiscoverHope Family,

Being part of the unfolding of DiscoverHope is a magical journey. From the beginning, this organization was born from the fabric of a spiritual process and following the still small voice that ushered my journey to Peru in 2004 and eventually led to the formation of DiscoverHope as a nonprofit in 2007. In the summer of 2007, I conducted a search for our first Program Manager who would live full-time in Peru. I got 150+ resumes, and Nora Bedard’s was the very first. There was something so alive in her cover letter and after meeting her in Chicago in the fall of 2007, she and I embarked on the journey to Peru together in winter 2007 to bring Nora to her new “home”. It was an exciting time and I hoped with all my heart that this dream would unfold.

And unfold it has…a simple paragraph could not explain who Nora is both to me and to DiscoverHope. I knew in winter 2007 when I watched her with the women in Cajamarca, sitting on the ground listening so attentively, that she was PERFECT for the job. Nora has been a partner to me in the creation of DiscoverHope. We’ve been through twists and turns and valleys and mountaintops figuring out how to best serve women through microcredit + training. Very few can really understand the daily challenges of her job and the infinite patience it takes to work at the crossroads of culture. Everyday is an adventure. The fact is— the program manager’s tireless work is the lifeblood of our organization and what we do. Nora has brought to life every one of your contributions to help our women.

You can imagine how happy I was to be part of Nora’s life unfolding path also…when she met Native Cajamarquino Hugo in Peru, fell in love, and got married! It is natural that after 3 years in the field, Nora is ready to explore her life back in the U.S. with her new husband and family. Of course, the layers of love she has built in Cajamarca will be ever-present, as she will be in my life and the growth of DiscoverHope for years to come.

With big shoes to fill, once again the spiritual path unfolded and brought us the powerhouse of compassion and knowledge that is Desiree Ledet, our new Program Manager who will begin officially in this role in Jan 2011. “Desy” hails from The University of TX at Austin and in spring 2010 completed her Master of Public Affairs at the LBJ School. We know Desy’s work ethic well as she served as a summer fellow in 2009 for DiscoverHope and spent the summer working alongside Nora engaging in the everyday practice of our microcredit + training programs. In spring 2010, Desy spearheaded our site vetting committee to determine next potential sites for our work. Fluent in Spanish, Desy is no stranger to Peru as she served for 3 years in the Peace Corps a mere 6 hours from Cajamarca Peru as a Community Health Volunteer.

We know the transfer of knowledge is essential! Desy has been training alongside Nora since September and will return briefly in December for our strategic planning before she deploys to officially begin her role. Nora and Desy have forged amazing bonds and I know that having them work together has been an undeniable gift. I will let them tell you more about themselves and their impending journeys.

As we go through this critical transition, I could not be more pleased about the foundation that Nora has created and the spirit and enthusiasm that Desy now brings to Peru. I am humbled to know that, thanks to what Nora and Desy are doing in their daily lives, what started with a "small still voice" has grown to 300+ loans and 675+ classes so that women can now support themselves and their families. Please continue to support us through this time of change and opportunity. You can contribute, learn more, or tell a friend about DiscoverHope. We look forward to growing in 2011. Visit us at

Message from Nora:

After 3 years being, living and working with the women of DiscoverHope in Cajamarca, Peru, the time has come for me to return to the U.S. DiscoverHope Fund has been my lifeblood, passion and dedication during my time in Peru. I came to Cajamarca, Peru in 2007, leaving behind the comfortable life I had constructed to follow a calling to serve and empower women in Peru. It is a bitter sweet goodbye, as I have grown roots here and feel intimately connected to my work and the vision of DHF. Although I am excited to return to Minnesota with my Peruvian husband Hugo and see and live near my family and friends again, I leave Cajamarca with a small sadness, as I will dearly miss all of the incredibly courageous and talented women and our wonderful partners and friends.

It also gives me great comfort to know that Desiree "Desy" Ledet will be taking over as DiscoverHope's in-field Program Manager. Desy and I have been working together through the transition since September and I am fully confident in her dedication and drive to continue to create new opportunities for our women. She is filled with positive energy and incredible heart that will only help her do great things with DiscoverHope.

I am so proud of what we have built here, in big part thanks to you, our dedicated supporters. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this journey, as it not only has changed the lives of many humble women, but also changed my own life. It may be hard to see from thousands of miles away, but we have made an amazing difference here in Cajamarca, Peru, in the lives of many women. A difference that will last for generations.

Paz - Nora

Message from Desy:

I am so excited to be here in Peru working with the women of DiscoverHope and continuing the legacy of the past 3 years. Nora has left an incredible platform from which to build and I feel blessed to have spent the past two months working alongside her and witnessing our women grow in so many ways. The decision to return to Peru was not taken lightly. As Nora made that big decision three years ago to leave her family and life as she knew it in the States, I too had to contemplate a life away from the comforts of home. I know in my heart that I am making the right decision and I am 100% committed to helping DHF fulfill their mission of creating abundance in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Cajamarca.

I would like to thank Maggie, Nora, and the DHF Board for entrusting their confidence in me and allowing me to embark on such an exciting new chapter in my life. The entire DHF Family continues to inspire me on a daily basis with their love, dedication, and belief in our work. I promise to make all of you proud of your decision to be a part of this important labor of love.

I look forward to sending you updates as we grow the program to form new village banks and increase the number of entrepreneurial training so that more women can make the journey from poverty to prosperity. Thank you and more to come!


Rain or Shine

It is rainy season. That means, a lot of rain. Everyday. All day. And, sometimes that also means that it is hard for women to come to classes because kids are sick, the rain swells the rivers, and makes it hard to cross, etc... But, this week when Des and I visited our crochet group out in the countryside the rain meant that they bundled up a little bit more and still went to class. Talk about dedication. All the crocheters were under an awning , staying dry, but nonetheless, crocheting in the rain. Rain or shine. We continue to teach, inspire, and work hard. That is what our women reminded us this week.

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taking the Next Step

Last Thursday was a great day for me here at the Hope House. A few weeks back I wrote a blog entry about a loan recipient named Marina from Village Bank Lucecitas (Little Lights). Marina, after sharing a laundry list of excuses explaining her lack of participation in Hope House activities, mustered up the courage to sign up for our final jewelry class of the year. At 3:30 P.M. I anxiously watched the clock wondering if she would show up as promised. Ten minutes passed. Thirty minutes. Forty minutes. Finally, with child in arms, she appeared. Late… yes, but she was here, ready to learn and return home with a pair of earrings and necklace in hand. Since it was her first class, our instructor made a special effort to show Marina how to use the wire cutters and pincers and carefully position the beads. When I asked her how she felt making her first jewelry set, she simply replied: “I feel really good.” I left the office that day with a smile on my face and with a renewed sense of hope that sometimes all it takes are a few words of encouragement to make a difference in a person’s life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Photovoice Voices

Juana was the president of her village bank in the first loan cycle. She was desperate to learn First Aid techniques. She attended all of our First Aid class and claims, "now I save money because instead of going for a medical appointment, I take my children's temperature at home. I know when to medicate and when not to self-medicate."

Ester is one of our younger loan recipients, but also very active. She has two little children, both under the age of 5, and is expecting another little one any day now. Even with her little one on the way now, she comes religiously to computer class because,¨I want to teach my children how to use a computer. I want them to be proud of their mother."

Tania is another young loan recipient that is testimony to the success of a micro loan. ¨Before I use to help my dad sell animals and he would give me a small tip ($2), but now I buy and sell my own animals with the capital I receive and I can make more money ($20) on an animal."

Paz ~ Nora

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Village Banks Marching On!

Aurelia preparing her empanadas

Hello DHF Family! This past week and a half has been extremely hectic so apologies for not writing sooner. I’ve been dividing my time between village bank meetings, Hope House activities, and helping Nora collect data for DHF’s annual program evaluation. So there is so much to tell! These past two weeks, two village banks completed their first loan cycle. At the end of a loan cycle, each bank elects a new directive committee (president, secretary, and treasurer) and receives a new loan. Village Bank Mujeres Luchadoras (Fighting Women) were first up and extremely excited about transitioning. Their new president, Ingrid, is extremely active and is in the process of programming a fundraiser with her socias on November 15th. The goal is to split the profits and put them toward their savings so at the end of the year they can purchase Christmas gifts for their kids. Our second bank Estrellitas de Belen (Stars of Bethlehem) voted a new loan recipient in and elected her president. Aurelia is definitely a mover and a shaker. She is the eldest of the group and has dreams of opening up a food stand where she can sell fried chicken, stuffed potatoes, and other finger foods. Before entering the bank she sold school supplies and candy to neighborhood kids. As a result she saved about $150, just half way short of her goal. Now with a DHF sponsored loan, she’ll be able to go ahead and purchase her cart and start selling food this month. She too is also organizing a fundraiser with her group not only to motivate them, but to unify them and develop trust in one another.  It’s refreshing to see new leadership in our village banks and witness our women progressing. So yesterday, while Ingrid was in computer class, Aurelia came to cooking class and learned how to make empanadas (stuffed, baked treats). Both left with a smile on their face.  I left with a sense of pride and reassurance that the hard work and late nights are paying off and making a difference in our women’s lives.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Photovoice Evaluation

Being that there is only two months left this year, I decided to start our Photo voice project early. What is our Photo voice project? Two of our most active village banks were chosen to answer general evaluation questions with a disposable camera. Desiree and I went out to the village bank Fuerza y Bendicion yesterday morning to show the women the photos that they had taken. Their was giggling, laughing and some red faces. They weren't especially excited to share their photos with the rest of the group, but when you take photos for the first time in your life, that is what happens. The women explained their photos and shared their positive experiences with us. It was reassuring and provided a dose of hope, our work and efforts have deep and powerful impacts. You will be sure to hear more about Photovoice at the end of the year.

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pay Day

So we have 12 active village banks at the moment. 12 groups of women that have collectively taken out a loan to invest in their small businesses and made the decision to improve their lives, in one way, shape or form. I went to a repayment meeting a couple of days ago and was just shocked. Our women are running the show. They are collecting loan repayments, giving change and double checking their 'bank' accounts. Senor de los Milagros village bank, who is now in their 2nd loan cycle, was beginning to follow our promotoras' footsteps the last time I visited them. They know what they are doing now. When Pay Day comes it means business. Our women are doing business.

Paz ~ Nora