Monday, January 31, 2011

Computer Madness!

As we speak I am sighing with relief. Today we began our first computer module of the year with our top notch teacher, Berta Quispe. We’ve decided to begin with two different classes. A Beginner’s Course for women who have never touched a computer in their life and an Excel class for our more advanced students. The Beginner’s class meets twice a week, Monday and Friday, and the other meets Tuesdays and Thursdays. So in preparation for our first class of the year, I showed up early this morning, anxious to make sure the classroom was nice and tidy and ready for the women this afternoon.  When I opened the door I found the maintenance man disassembling the computer stations. I just about had a heart attack when I said to myself, “Des, this is Peru! Of course something like this would happen on the day I schedule a computer class.” After a quick chat with the maintenance man, he promised he could rewire the computer cables and make the necessary adjustments by 3:00 PM, just in time for class. Well it was 3:30PM when he finished but at least the show could still go on. Five women arrived ready to work. Today they learned how to turn the computer on and off and played a game that taught them how to manipulate the mouse. It was a really good day for them. They left inspired and anxious to come back on Wednesday for more computer fun. What a day! I’m looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Meet Charro!

As I begin programming Hope House activities for the end of January and the month of February, it's very apparent that I am going to have to find new teachers to cover new topics that our women have requested. I have to admit that the thought stresses me out, but I know that after three years of spreading DHF love, we have plenty of references to lead us in the right direction.
Last Friday Ahidee, our project coordinator, insisted that I meet this incredible women living just a mere three blocks from the office that would be a great potential teacher, loan recipient, motivational speaker, etc. So after all this talk I had to meet her. On Monday afternoon, I made the five minute walk to her house and I came into the presence of greatness. Rosario (or Charro) is a 43 year old mother of four who has been President of her Vaso de Leche for over 16 years. A  Vaso de Leche  is a women’s organization consisting of economically disadvantaged mother’s that receive milk and other nutritional supplements for their children. Charro has this wonderful energy about her and loves organizing and empowering women to strive do better. Despite her countless hours of organizing activities in her neighborhood, she has ever received any financial compensation. So when I spoke with her about the project and the classes we offer at the Hope House, her face lit up and she immediately started listing names of women who would love to join our family. This Thursday, Ahidee, Jheny and I are going to hold an informational session with more than 2o women and potentially form two new village banks in the coming weeks. I am excited to meet these women and see how we as an institution  we can potentially serve them.
Did I also mention that Charro is also an awesome knitter and can crochet like no one I’ve ever seen before? She was so excited to have visitors that she decided to whip out all of her products she’s been creating for the past few months. Take a look at the picture and enjoy the view.
I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Off To A REALLY Great Start!

Rosa with her pigs

I have to admit Monday was a pretty daunting day. I arrived at the Hope House around 9:00 AM and as I entered the computer room and saw Nora's empty blue desk chair, a wave of emotions hit me. I'd become so accustomed to hearing her laugh, planning the week's activitites together, grabbing lunch, and now... it's just me kid. So first things first, I took a big, deep breath and decided in that moment to begin with the basics. I made a list of my monthly and weekly goals as well as my activities for the day. I started by heading over to the Multicredit Office to meet with our Village Bank Promoter Jheny and our Project Coordinator, Ahidee to program the week's activities. It was refreshing to hear about their work with the village banks during the month of December and the first part of January.

Ahidee is developing a monitoring and evaluation program where she visits loan recipients individually at their place of business to ensure that their loans are being invested wisely. She also provides our women with practical advice during that time to help their businesses flourish and requires everyone to develop a list of action items to be completed in time for a follow-up visit. After all this talk, I wanted to see the program in action and went with our team on Tuesday to Village Bank "Azucenas." This particular bank is located in a rural area where most of our women raise small animals for a living. We met with Rosa Huaman who was extremely eager to show us her pigs that she purchased with her loan. The offspring will be sold for a profit and the income will be used to purchase food and cover veternarian costs for her animals. Ahidee encouraged her to maintain the cleanliness of her pig corrrals and gave her some sound advice as to the timing of when to sell and purchase her pigs.

During the visit I had a moment of insight. Our village banking project consists of women who live in urban, peri-urban, and rural communitites. For our women living in the countyside, attending classes at the Hope House is often a challenge due to transportation. And the kinds of classes we offer are not practical for their environment. I am proposing to offer classes related to knitting, crocheting, animal husbandry, etc. in which we send an instructor to the campo and conduct classes in-site. In the Hope House, I can continue with a regular themes and topics, which are most useful for our women living in the city and in the outer limits.

For the remainder of the week I'll be visiting village banks, programming our activities for the month of February, and planning the year with our Multicredit staff. As you can see, alot is happening in such little time.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Signing In!

Hello from the lovely Jorge Chavez Airport in Lima, Peru! It’s 3:00 AM and after about 20 strolls around the airport, I finally found an unoccupied electrical outlet that I can plug my laptop into. You may be wondering what I’m doing in the airport this time of night (or should I say day?). I’m waiting to catch my flight in route to Cajamarca at 5:30 PM. Normally, a typical bus ride from Lima to Cajamarca would take about 16 hours. But why endure the pain if you can catch a one hour flight on one of the most comfortable airlines in South America--LAN Peru. Did I mention they have great snacks!?!
You may have also been wondering what happened to me for the past month. After our end of the year gathering with all twelve village banks, I returned to Texas to spend the holidays with my family based in Houston and Austin. During my stay I also met with Maggie for two days straight preparing my work goals for the year and drafting a strategic plan for Hope House activities during my first three months in sight. Needless to say, I am definitely ready for action! The theme for this year is all about growth and innovation—taking what we have and thinking outside the box as to how we can continue to provide our women with classes that are meaningful and useful as they embark on a journey of building a business and a credit history. Beyond our goal of forming 10 new villagebanks, one of my first tasks will be to develop a holistic model that conceptualizes how our development classes impact our women on three distinct levels—as a woman, mother, and entrepreneur.  That way we can ensure that we are catering to our women’s needs and wants in an integral fashion. The reasoning behind this is that we need to start at the core, first with a woman’s self-esteem as well as her purpose and motivations and desires. This in turn affects her ability to interact with the world around her, most notably, her family. It then trickles into her business and what she can offer to the world. All components go hand-in-hand and affect one another. As you can see I’ve been brainstorming. I’ll also be busy locating instructors and organizing classes for the year. Our women are asking for some awesome classes: nutrition and fitness, English, parenting classes, relaxation classes, self-defense, among others.
When I think about the task at hand it’s pretty daunting but I’m up for the challenge. What an amazing opportunity I’ve been given. I look forward to keeping you posted on the journey ahead with all its unexpected twists and turns. Happy New Year to all!