Friday, February 18, 2011

Literacy Circle "Tartar Chico" Up and Running

Literacy is a top priority for us at the Hope House. When I first arrived in January, I made a special visit to our Literacy Circle in the rural community of Tartar Chico. Carmen, Maria, and Esperanza were adamant about continuing with their weekly classes. With such drive and persistence, one of my first orders of business was to contract a literacy teacher and schedule classes for the month of February. For the past three weeks, our women have met at Carmen’s house every Wednesday from 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM. They are beginning the year with a review of vowels, common syllables, and numbers.

Due to donor contributions, we were able to purchase each student a notebook, a folder, and basic teaching supplies for our instructor, Lily Perez. This week I paid the women a special visit. They were hard at work, taking complete advantage of their time and extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue learning. Beginning in March, our literacy classes in the Hope House will commence. Our participants from last year have already committed to coming and we have three new loan recipients that will joining the group.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On the Topic of Cheese

You may not be aware that in Peru, the 2011 Presidential Campaign is in full swing. So in true Peruvian style, during my lunch break I decided to buy some cheese for my late day snack. While in the store deciding between Mozzarella and Swiss, I heard this loud rumbling noise in the street. Sure enough there was a mob of people running behind a pick-up truck. I said to myself, “What's going on here? This is odd.” Before I could finish my thought, the pick-up truck rushed right past me carrying no other than former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo. I was star struck and found myself running with the crowd. I managed to take this picture with all the noise and mad chaos around me. Mr. Toledo is currently running for his second presidential term and is one of the front runners. This is the closest I’ve ever been to a famous Peruvian and I have to admit, now I understand why people get so excited and a tad bit belligerent.

On the topic of cheese, we finished yesterday with a beautiful culinary class…Pizza. Need I say more? Our women learned how to prepare a basic pizza from start to finish. They prepared the dough, cooked a homemade tomato sauce, and selected the toppings of their choice. For most of our women, it was the first time that they ever tasted such a dish. The light bulb moment came when their kids sampled the pizza. They ate every piece…veggies included. The women commented that pizza would be an economical and convenient option to prepare at home for their little ones. Thanks to the amazing support for our educational classes we have been able to provide such great opportunities for our women. Next month we’re programming even more excited culinary classes: cakes, tamales, fruit juices, and more.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On a Roll With Jewelry Class!

I wanted to share with you a picture from our first jewelry class of the year. We had a great turnout—16 loan recipients eager to learn a new necklace and earring set in preparation for our first Buy Day on February 23rd. Our long-time jewelry instructor, Carmen Pajares, was extremely hands-on with our eight newcomers who had never touched a bead in their life. Although it took almost four hours to complete, everyone went home with a beautiful model and with a great sense of accomplishment.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Today's Lineup: Butter Cake and Chicken Sandwiches!

Today we started off the week with our first cooking class of the year.  Due to high demand, our cooking instructor Celi Bardales repeated her basic butter cake recipe. And to top it off, she prepared a delicious chocolate icing with coconut sprinkles. While the cake was baking in the oven, she taught our seven enthusiastic women an easy chicken salad sandwich recipe that can be sold at fundraisers and school functions or at weddings and birthday parties. The women had such a great time talking food and provided me with a laundry list of appetizers and desserts they would like to prepare this year.  The line-up includes arroz con leche (rice pudding), an infamous icecream cake, tamales, chocolates, fruit juices, fried rice, and the list goes on and on. Jackeline Mestanza from village bank, Mujeres Emprendedoras, encouraged the group to make a pact. If I agreed to organize four cooking classes a month, not only would they agree to participate, but they would bring a fellow bank member to double attendance. Next Monday for Valentine’s Day, the women will be learning how to make a Hawaiian Pizza and a second variation of a chicken salad sandwich. All this talk of food is making me hungry. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Friday, February 4, 2011

For the Love of Crocheting!

As you may know by now, crocheting is our most popular and most requested class here in Cajamarca. But for many of our women, taking the 45 minute bus ride into the city can be time consuming and a penny pincher. A strategy that I am implementing this year to deal with these issues and to also promote solidarity in our village banks, is to offer those banks located the farthest with an opportunity to form a crochet group. The idea of a crochet group is to contract a teacher to travel to where our banks are located and help our women create products of their choosing. During the past two weeks, I've created five groups based on personal requests from bank members. The women are ecstatic and look forward to their weekly sessions. It's also a good excuse to break the monotony of daily chores and to spend some time with friends. Yesterday, I went with one of our new crochet teachers, Charro, to visit village bank Senor de los Milagros. The women had a hard time chosing which item they wanted to learn how to make first. It was a tie between a beautiful sweater and a fashion-forward bolero. So Charro decided to divide the groups into two and teach both lessons. The group will meet Thursdays at 3:00 PM. Did I mention Charro is also a beautician and will be offering free hair cuts and coloring to her group to keep them motivated, pretty, and confident? Can't wait to send the pictures from next week.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

DiscoverHope honored as Austin Under 40 nonprofit nominee finalist

Dear DiscoverHope Family,

I hope you know that you are all the ROCK of this organization! Today DiscoverHope was honored to be named one of the top 5 finalists for the nonprofit category for the Austin Under 40 awards. As Executive Director for this amazing organization, I am constantly reminded of how we can create anything working together in unified thought. DiscoverHope has literally materialized out of the love, support, and work of all of you…I’m serious about that!

My “life’s work” as the Executive Director of DiscoverHope has given me the gift of accessing the inspiration of great and unique people all over this world. Our Board has been asked in interviews about how you “build a nonprofit in a recession.” The answer for us is that we don’t see anything with limitation, but possibility.

I think back to 2004 and sitting on an old Peruvian plane (with smoking ashtrays) flying high above the Andes Mountains to begin this journey in Peru. Fear was wrenching at my gut. Like then, I still go back to my belief in the power of love over fear probably a thousand times a day. Gently (and sometimes not so gently) forgiving myself with kindness. Always returning to the two choices I have: love or fear—I choose to find the possibility and lessons in all of this Work.

I heard this quote by Howard Thurman in a gathering the other day and wanted to share it with you all as creators of your own life landscapes: “Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

2011 is ushering an opportunity for us to create a new covenant in our lives. Here’s what I wrote for my year:

Practice radical Love that inspires, lifts, heals, and transforms people.
Let Love radiate.
Let Compassion be a Gift.
Let Laughter cleanse.
Open to the Divine Dialogue.

Thank you for being in my Life and lifting DiscoverHope with all that you ARE.
Maggie Miller, Founder/Executive Director