Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Signing Off

I can´t believe it.
December 27, 2010.
More than 3 years ago I landed in Cajamarca, Peru full of ideas, hopes and dreams to do great things for women in poverty.
3 years later I leave Cajamarca with a full heart and still more ideas, hopes and dreams for the women I have come to know and cherish.

My work here was my life and passion. I think forward to the life I will return to in Minnesota, full of comforts (despite the winter snow) and so much access to things, places and dreams right at my fingertips. I am longing to spend time with my dear friends and family. I look forward to hot showers and my own car. But, there is a part of me that is very sad to leave the simple life, this corner of the world that has allowed me to live my dream job. Yes, I am leaving the life where things don't always work, the streets aren't always clean, and the "hora Peruana" ( 1-2 hours later than planned) is the norm. The life where people say thank you and mean it with their whole body, where noboby knows the word materialism, and where the simple smiles of determined, humble women give me energy for the week.

I will miss the chats on wooden benches in the countryside, witnessing our women learn the alphabet, visiting women's businesses on dirt streets, walking into a classroom of students at the Hope House, and the genuine feeling of doing good in the world in a place where there is a lot of good to be done.

I came here with the idea to help women lift themselves up, and I can say with full certainity, I have never done exactly that in any other job more than I have here in Cajamarca. I am so proud to have helped DiscoverHope Fund grow into the organization it is today. I know DHF will continue to grow and do good work, as DHF was born out of the beautiful spirit that Maggie created and instills in the organization still today. I am so excited to continue to witness the growth and energy that DHF spreads into the new year and beyond. My footsteps today go in a different direction, but part of my heart and soul will always be with DiscoverHope.

Thank you DiscoverHope Fund for this wonderful oppportunity and journey. Keep up the good work!

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mayor of Austin proclaims Dec 8 "DiscoverHope Day" honoring our work

Dear DiscoverHope Family,
This note is drenched with Gratitude! Last week at our Holiday of Hope event, we had an absolutely magical evening and we are glowing into the Holiday season from the beautiful people who support our work near and far. We raised $25,000 that evening!

At the event, I mused with the 250+ people there that “miracles occur naturally as expressions of love.” (Course in Miracles). That means when we are expressing love, we are actively creating miracles. That is REALLY good news for all of us.

Being the Director of DiscoverHope has put me on course to receive so many miracles. The women and their courage. Nora and Des and the entire Peru based team who ignites the program to life. The Board of Directors who passionately give their talent and love for me and this organization everyday. The incredible volunteers who are the expression of the organization in community. The donor family who provide the living breathing life force for all that we get to do. Talk about miracles!

At the event, John Thornborrow our President of the Board surprised the crowd by reading a Proclamation by the Mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, honoring DiscoverHope’s work and proclaiming Dec 8, 2010 “DiscoverHope Day. The proclamation reads that “DiscoverHope is among one of Austin’s leading, inspirational organizations that stands for a world without poverty. DiscoverHope ignites personal power with the belief that everyone has a fundamental desire to share their greatest strengths with the

This was a total surprise and all I can say is that I felt the deep and lasting love and pride that comes with everyone’s belief in creating a good and kind world. I thought of sitting in my tiny apartment back in 2006 and just trusting this was something that my heart felt was important to do. Not listening to the inner critic (or not enough), thankfully…to help build a base that is now carried by people who are miracles expressed in this world.

You are one of those people. This is your honor. Thank you for building this.

This season, we hope you’ll consider giving the GLOBAL GIFT of a future to someone you love for a meaningful Holiday gift that will build lives for years to come. The GLOBAL GIFT funds a microloan for a woman to start a business, answering how she will feed her children. This gift funds training to grow her business, answering how she will send her children to school. Your support funds a way for her to use her ideas, energy, and power to provide for her family, answering how she will get out of the devastation of poverty. With a GLOBAL GIFT, this woman, mother, and entrepreneur has the POWER to change life for herself and her family thanks to your help.

You can give GLOBAL GIFTS on our Donate link at I will personally write them a love letter honoring your gift for them if you provide their address/email in the “in honor of” field of the form.

More than I can express, as I said before, I am drenched with Gratitude.
Love for you all,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Red Jackets

Today was the last coffee and cake evaluation time with the final class this year. For other courses that have already finished, literacy and computer classes, I held a 'coffee talk' where each student reflected about their experiences in the class and talked about - What was new for them? How are they going to use their new knowledge? while we enjoyed some yummy sweet treats. I did the same thing for our sewing class this afternoon. Our sewing class has been meeting twice a week since April. These dedicated students boast making great strides in learning many new styles and models of clothing. In our coffee talk, the women repeated that before sewing classes they were scared to use the electric sewing machine (many have foot pedal machines in their homes), but now they feel confident that they can use those machines. Also, many women expressed that they had a base of sewing knowledge, but mainly creating one style of skirts. Now they know more than 10 styles of skirts, pants, vests, and jackets. Their sewing repertoire has more than doubled.

The women repeated over and over again that they didn't want sewing class to end. If it was up to them they wouldn't take a break and they would keep going strong through the holidays. I encouraged the women to keep practicing at home, not to lose their new knowledge and to come back next year for classes. The last project this year was a red polo jacket, as you can see pictured above. Projects for next year: new styles, models and projects not yet seen!

Paz ~ Nora

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Year End Evaluation in progress...

This week is purely dedicated to compiling the year end report and reviewing the successes and examining challenges in the Social Program piece of our village banking project. It is a lot of work, but so rewarding to review numbers and stories that tell OUR STORY of changing lives in our loan recipients. Above you can see the Math test results of our basic literacy students. They moved mountains and, in some cases, double their percentage test score. The same is true for their reading skills. I am so, so very proud of this group of determined and dedicate women. Congrats to all!

Paz ~ Nora

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Celebrating a year of Success!

Yesterday we celebrated the completion of our successful year working with village banks together with our local partner Multicredit. It was a lot of prep and hard work up until our start time, which of course was 40 minutes later then planned, but worth all the effort. To give you a small re-cap, I will highlight some of my favorite moments, and let the pictures tell the rest.

The idea of our gathering was to invite all the loan recipients from all 12 village banks in the same room, so we could share their successes with everyone and at the same time motivate the women to continue working hard in the coming year. We had outstanding attendance, out of 100 active loan recipients I would estimate that more than 80 women were present. Each village bank was invited to participate in the "Best Table" Competition where the women put on display their works and were then judged by 4 criteria: presentation, creativity, unity, and quality of works. In the morning when the women came to set up their tables I was in complete awe. They were taking the competition very seriously. 3 of our village banks went above and beyond. "United Women" all came in red shirts that had their village bank name on the front and then their individual names on the back of their shirts. That says TEAM to me. "Strength and Blessings" had each crochet purple vests (and also made my purple crochet cape for the occasion) and arrived in complete unison. Finally, the winner, "Start of Belen" put up a starry night backdrop for their table and every loan recipient had a star filled t-shirt. The competition brought out the best out in some of our banks, and was such a joy to see the unity that our banks have come to grow into.

Certificates were given all afternoon. I was especially filled with pride as our literacy students stood in front of the crowd and received recognition for not only for their hard work and dedication, but their personal decision to invest in themselves with a tool as basic (for many of us) as literacy. Near the end of the event I introduced the crowd to our 2011 village banking team: Desiree, Ahidee, Jheny and Oswaldo. It was an emotional moment, symbolically 'passing on the torch' and giving my blessing to our incredible team to continue the good work into next year.

We finished the event with a raffle and prizes; our friends and collaborators at GyC, as well at the head nun Sor Reyna, helped us throw numbers in the air to select our winners. Then the room turned into chaos as the drinking hot chocolate and eating fruit cake time began. All in all, Success. As I compile information for our Year End report next week I will make sure to share it here on the blog, so you all can get a better idea of specific successes, as there are many. But, now it is time for me to relax and regain strength for the coming week. Enjoy the photos!

Paz ~ Nora

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Big Event...Is Here!!!

So today is the big day! After two months of planning, DHF and Multicredit will be hosting the first Annual Village Bank Gathering at 3:00 PM where loan recipients from all twelve village banks will unite to celebrate their accomplishments for the year. We will be recognizing women who have participated in our long-term classes: Literacy, Computer, and First Aid as well as the Best Saver and Most Active Village Bank. The village banks have also selected the most Outstanding Village Banker who has demonstrated the qualities of leadership, unity, and dedication; the recipient will receive a certificate and be recognized in front of the entire crowd.  There is still much to do like setting up tables, printing certificates, preparing hot chocolate, and cutting huge slices of "paneton" (peruvian fruit cake). I'm positive the hard work and meticulous organizing will pay off. After a huge goodbye party last week, this a piece of cake. To be continued....   


Friday, December 3, 2010

All In A Day's Work!

Hello DHF Family! So I feel the need to share with you how Nora's despedida (goodbye party) REALLy went down. Over a month ago, more than a dozen loan recipients approached me with the idea of staging a goodbye party. I truly felt it was my obligation to take on the challenge full force. After all Nora has done so much for our women and has made the Hope House what it is today. My first question was:  "How do you organize a party with over 100 women from different village banks who don't know each other that well?" Then it came to me...POTLUCK. Nora loves potlucks. During my three months here she's invited me to over six. With the help of our village bank promoter, we went travelling all over the city of Cajamarca knocking on doors and delivering invitations. Each of the 12 village banks was in charge of bringing a traditional peruvian dish for 20 people and a small gift for Nora to take back to Minnesota. In the beginning, the task seemed daunting but somehow, someway (don't ask me how), it just came together. The nuns graciously let me borrow their auditorium and sound equipment; our cooking teacher Celi agreed to make a gigantic cake to fed an army of 150; and in true peruvian style, each bank brought dishes that could serve up to forty people instead of a meager twenty. In the end there was plenty of food, cake, refreshments, singing, and laughter. The best part of it all was that each village bank along with our Hope House instructors had the opportunity to share their thoughts on how much Nora means to them. You could feel the love in the room. I was truly humbled. In the end, although I had food in my hair, icing on my shirt, and didn't touch a crumb of anything, I felt more alive than ever. I still don't know how I pulled this off. Nora you deserved this and much more. Your love and dedication continues to inspire me and I only hope that I can accomplish at least a fraction of what you've started here. Love you much!


The Despedida to Top all Despedidas!

I was speechless, still am.

Desi gave me the greatest gift ever yesterday. She brought all our 12 village banks together for a surprise Goodbye (Despidida) party. I knew something was up her sleeve, but I never would have guessed a room filled with so much love and appreciation. She lead me, eye closed, into the auditorium filled with close to 100 women. I opened my eyes and was surrounded by the faces that inspire and motivate me. On top of that, there was the most beautiful buffet table of peruvian delicasses laid out across the table. POTLUCK, every village bank had brought a dish to share!

But, first was the speeches and songs and poems. Desi made me sit in front of everyone, all I was missing was a queens crown. Different women and teachers and coworkers came up to give their heart-felt gratitude words of goodbye. It was incredibly touching. I felt a wave of love and gratitude so big I could have exploded right then and there. Then, the food. Nourish the body and soul.

Although it was my GoodBye party, I was infused with all the energy and power that our women hold. I know Desi will do amazing things with DHF in the coming year, I mean, She brought 100 women together in the same room and organized the most beautiful Peruvian buffet, anything in Peru is a piece of cake after that. Our women are thristy for more knowledge and learning opportunities. Only great things will be created from all this goodness.

Paz ~ Nora

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Last leadership workshop this week. It was bittersweet. I have really enjoyed putting together these workshops as it is the confidence building and real work that opens doors for self-esteem for many women. Yea, I get them playing, laughing, listening to stories...but with the goal of new ideas and thought processing springing up within.

We talked about Vision, both personal and group, for this last session. How do you plan for the future?, a topic that is not a common topic among Peruvians. I had the women evaluate their personal motivations for being in their village banks and then we did TV interviews. What is your life going to be like in 10 years? Think about your life, job, your surroundings. What is different and (hopefully) better? How did you get there? What decisions and steps did you have to make? From these experiences the women had to write down their personal vision on a small sheet of paper. Above you can see that Olga wrote "I want to have all the basic services (electricity and water) in my house so that I can put my small business in my house." Below you can see Laura had written, "I want to be a professional and sell real estate."

Paz ~ Nora