Friday, October 12, 2012
Hello DHF Family,
It’s been almost a week since Maggie, John, and Hector left Cajamarca and not a minute passes when one of our loan recipients taps me on the shoulder and asks, “When is the team coming back?” Here in the HopeHouse our entire staff feels re-energized and ready to bring on the New Year.
I’m so grateful to the “CREW” (as I call them) for taking the time out of their busy schedules and traveling over 4,000 miles to visit the village banking project. My personal philosophy has always been that there are no coincidences in life but rather a Divine Order to our lives and the choices we make. After working here for more than two years, I truly believe that the fabric that ties all of us together-our local staff, the Board, DHF donors, volunteers, and blog readers- is this project and the countless people we serve.
I also believe we all understand the importance of providing impoverished women with microloans, education, and access to opportunities that enable these same women to become self-reliant and abundant; but when you see it firsthand, something magical happens. Little girls sitting side-by-side with their mothers witnessing a repayment meeting. A village bank member holding her new loan money in hand contemplating her next purchase for her business. A student proudly displaying a new sweater she crocheted in community classes for her daughter when five months ago she didn’t even know how to use a crochet needle. A woman with her children crying tears of joy and appreciation for being given the opportunity to dream and create a vision for herself and her family.
It was truly a pleasure and an honor to bear witness to the hundreds of “light bulb” moments John, Maggie, and Hector experienced while in Cajamarca. Seeing their special moments gave way to my own and provided me with a sense of validation that yes, indeed all the hard work, the countless office hours, the dozens of guinea pigs and potatoes eaten, the hundreds of miles walked, and the thousands of personal conversations has been worth it.
I’m looking forward to meeting firsthand the countless DHF donors and supporters on October 25th that make this project a reality.
I hope you all enjoy your weekend and know how truly grateful we all are to have you in our lives. You are truly appreciated!
Friday, October 5, 2012
These are the reminders and gifts given to me on this journey. This is a pocket of time in my Heart I will never forget.
I am deeply energized about our work and the power of local women leading their charge. Watching village banks function with joy and integrity, it is obvious to me this notion of “DiscoverHope” has a life of its own. I guess it’s as close as I know to watching my child grow. Seeing the women in their groups with their wings of strength…well this makes every second of every year worth it.
I hope you all get to join us on Oct 25 at our gala for several reasons. Desiree, our Country Director here in Peru, will be with us. She is a living, breathing example of courage and positive power. Her everyday is spent giving women opportunity. To be with her alone and hear her is a gift.
Bringing John and Hector to this special place has been the best possible thing for me personally and the movement of our project. They are both incredible thinkers and empathetic Hearts. Knowing that they are part of the fabric of moving our work to a level where it can sustain itself here in this community…well this is a contribution to the lives of families that will never be the same.
This journey I’ve gotten to see them witnessing the valor of women. To watch them watching and participating in this work and to see us all changing before our very eyes is just something I can never ever forget.
My commitment to giving women doors of opportunity through microcredit and education is as formidable as ever.
And the greatest teachers of everyday have been the community of love and Presence the women give to one another and us. This is a level of loving I hope to achieve in my lifetime.
Blessings from the Heart,
I have left Cajamarca for my return trip to Austin. Maggie and Hector are staying a couple of days more for a few more bank visits. As I sit here in the Lima airport, reflecting on my trip, I struggle for words.
It’s impossible for me to describe my experience here. Just as anyone tries to describe a watershed moment in life, words are inadequate. So I thought I’d share a few photos and an observation that Hector made our first day in Cajamarca.
We were greeted on our first night at the Hope House by a group of women from different village banks. They stayed late after a sewing class to share some of their creations with us. Each in turn told a bit of their personal story and their experience of the DiscoverHope program.
Hector observed later that the women who had been part of our program for several loan cycles were more confident and looked us in the eyes as they were talking. Many of the women in earlier loan cycles were more uncertain and looked at the floor while they spoke.
I became much more aware as the week went on, who would look me in the eyes when we met or spoke.
One of our bank officers, Carina, repeated the familiar phrase several times this week,
“Los ojos son la ventana del alma.” or
“The eyes are the window to the soul.”
I will try again in the coming days to describe my experience here, but right now, I am at a loss.
Instead, I’d like to share a few photos from the week.
I hope their eyes convey some of what we experienced this week.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Today we had the opportunity to visit with the incredible women of the village bank Bendicion de Dios (God’s Blessings). This bank is sponsored by Hart InterCivic through our Legacy Program, which provides funds for loans and trainings to our village banks.
What an incredible impact these training programs and loans have had on this group of women and their families. Only in their fourth loan cycle, the bank is successful and thriving. Many of the women in the bank did not know how to crochet before joining this village bank. After training programs provided by DiscoverHope, the women are very accomplished with their crochet. They were very proud to show us the blankets, sweaters, and shawls that they’ve created with their new-found skills. This provides them another source of funds if they sell their creations in the market; however, many of the women now make these clothes for their children. It is truly a special gift to give someone a new skill that provides them with a creative outlet as well as a source of income.
Today we watched a loan repayment meeting, where the women members come together to make payments against their outstanding loan balance. This is how banking happens with the poor. They gather in homes to meet, share food, crochet, and perform the business of banking. It’s a joyous celebration as the women approach the table to make the payment, they dance or strut to the table to break the ice and get them out of their comfort zone. So much of this process is about increasing their confidence and self-esteem and helping them realize that they are powerful and capable business-women. One of the most inspirational images of today was a little girl sitting at the bank table next to her mother who is one of the bank officers. She held one of the bank cards in which the women record their payments and keep their bank balance. This is an extremely important document and a great source or pride for these women. The booklet documents their path from the roles of the unbanked poor to micro-entrepreneur with a credit history and a track record of successful borrowing and repayment.
What incredible role model that this young mother was for her daughter, providing an example of responsibility, initiative, and hard work. I am incredibly humbled to witness the impact on future generations of women in this community.
These women were so genuinely grateful for the loans and trainings provided by DiscoverHope through the Hart Legacy sponsorship of Bendicion de Dios.
Many thanks to Hart InterCivic for its generous support in sponsoring this village bank and transforming the lives of not only these bank members but also future generations of aspiring women entrepreneurs. This sponsorship has touched the lives of these women in a profoundly powerful way.
Monday, October 1, 2012
This is the first time I blog for DiscoverHope. It is very fitting that this writing is happening exactly on the anniversary of the very first event I attended for this wonderful organization: Band Together For Hope. A year later, I am typing away from the courtyard of a hotel in Cajamarca, Peru, DiscoverHope’s birth place.
Why am I involved with this organization? As a Latino, I was very moved by the fact that the founder and all its “Boardies” were not. How could a woman that had no connection to the Latino culture be so dedicated to empowering women living in poverty in Latin America? I had to learn more about it and I had to get involved. I thank Maggie for inviting me to witness the progress of the program and to meet the women we are empowering.
The first item on the schedule was a visit to the Hope House. This is the development center where all the education and support happens for our women. There are many Microcredit organizations around the world, but DiscoverHope goes a step further and provides education that teaches women real world skills that they can apply to starting their own businesses. This is our Microcredit Plus model, pioneered by Maggie Miller.
We walked in to a sewing class where women were learning the necessary skills to start their own businesses. I must say that nothing could have prepared me to deal with the emotions that flowed within me. All of the sudden, I knew exactly why I needed to make this trip.
The class was waiting for us with their new sewing machines that they had purchased by fundraising on their own. The machines will allow them to create clothing they will sell in their businesses. The pride that the women showed in their faces was very moving. A lot of these women deal with domestic issues and discrimination on a daily basis. Machismo in this country, as in many others around the world, is very much alive and a harsh reality for women. On paper, it is easy to understand why these women benefit from a program such as DiscoverHope. The reality, and real value in my opinion, is what a chart or report can’t show you. These women are full of pride, perseverance, strength, and hope. One by one, they introduced themselves to us they told us about how DiscoverHope gave them the tools to learn skills that sparked their own businesses. What I saw is their confidence to look at our eyes and speak with pride about their accomplishments: This is priceless. Their kids, and especially their daughters, can grow up knowing that they can have their own power.
Everybody that knows Maggie knows that she is an amazing human being. Spending time in Cajamarca, witnessing the impact that she has had in this community is a truly humbling experience. Those of us lucky enough to be close to her know that she challenges us to grow every day. You can count on having a “Daily Question” from Maggie right before the end of any day. While at dinner, John and I got our “Question” for the day. Her question was, “After your first day in Cajamarca, what is one thought you would like to share?”
After a day full of mixed emotions, I actually had been thinking about my answer to her question right after we visited The HopeHouse. My answer was: After talking to the women we help, after listening to their stories, after witnessing the impact that we are having in their lives, … how could life, for me, could ever be the same? We all have problems in our own lives. It all seems so insignificant compared to the challenges that these women live with every day.
I definitely know why I am part of this organization. I know why I had to make this trip. But, most importantly, I know why I was afraid to come here. I have been “asleep” for so long, worried only about myself. This trip, already on the first day, awakened me into reality and purpose. I welcome you to dig deep and realize that, if you are even reading this note, you are a very fortunate person.
I look forward to sharing more from my experience in Cajamarca through this blog and in person at the Gala on October 25th.
Con mucho amor,