Category Archives: Natalie Sherman

Prepare zee tool!

Current status: Fully in the mix.

Danielle and I have been workin’ the brain muscles lots and lots these past weeks.  Our vague-ish idea of designing a Community Savings program for some of the local women’s textile associations is really starting to take shape.

For a bit of background: Traditional textiles play a very important role in Peruvian culture and history, and they contribute significantly to the country’s economy.  Such textile making, done almost exclusively by women, brings in household income to many of the indigenous communities of Peru, providing a source of both money and stability.

We’ve been very lucky to partner with Rufada Peru, a local NGO that hosts monthly workshops with three different women’s textile associations.  In these workshops, women learn how to improve their dyeing, threading, weaving, and other skills while strengthening the group’s “ayni“, or spirit of cooperation and solidarity.  Participating in the workshops allows the women to create products that are of the highest quality (aka will bring in a greater return) and preserve a tradition that is being threatened by machine-made, synthetic substitutes.  Rufada has been hoping to make these workshops even better by incorporating basic business training for the ladies… and that’s where we come in.

Our plan: to host several facilitations with the textile association ladies, then conduct a readiness assessment gauging their interest and capacity to begin a group savings program.  The readiness assessment will be part of a tool suite that we’re developing based on coursework, interviews with key stakeholders, and models from other successful community savings programs around the globe (check out Pact’s WORTH program, for example).

So, what’s the point of starting a savings program in the first place?  Well, we decided to pursue this project based on our belief that saving and financial literacy are effective, sustainable means to self-sufficiency and economic empowerment- no dependency on aid from NGO’s or paying back loan interest to microfinance institutions.  It has been demonstrated that even in the most impoverished communities, women who trust each other and establish (as a group) ways of saving money can create long-term economic security. Savings programs can also lead to lending opportunities, providing women the chance to begin or strengthen a business venture.  The best part is, the programs are designed entirely by the members themselves, each program unique to a group’s culture, economic status, and short and long-term goals.

Coupled with other services like literacy and business training, community savings programs can really kick start economic vitality for impoverished women and families … and we wanna make this happen for the ladies of these three rural, Andean communities who are (quite literally) off the map… BUT only if they want it too!

Oh- and back to the readiness assessment tool; Our ultimate goal is to create something that can be used in any community or situation, most especially for Tina and Team Peru’s Health & Wellness group who have been working with three additional groups of women in the Pampacoral and Chocakoncha communities in the Sacred Valley.

Fingers crossed (and lots of practice runs) for our three facilitations next week!

Whoa, Peru. Whoa.

The Scoop

So it’s officially been almost two weeks that I’ve been here in the Sacred Valley of Peru… and I can’t begin to describe how much this experience has already blown my mind.  Rolling hills and snow-capped mountains, the warm welcome of local villagers, a newfound friendship with my fellow MIIS students; I could have never predicted the full glory of all of these things.

While I could probably already write an entire manuscript detailing all of the trials and tribulations of our journey thus far, I’ll just stick with a few highlights to share what a whirlwind it’s been:

  • The Bubble Lady– Danielle busts out some bubble time for the kids of Ccachin.  Awe and wonder ensue.
  • A “thank you” ceremony for Team Peru– The Major of Ccachin (the tiny town where Team Peru will build two new greenhouses this summer), along with the faculty and students of the local primary and secondary schools present traditional dances, music, and a delicious bonfire in our honor.
  • Carmel Highschool win– The ladies from Carmel High gather ’round a bonfire to celebrate their experience in Peru.  We were so lucky to have them!
  • Kung Fu Brian–  Brian teaches martial art moves to the kids of Ccachin.
  • Apples to Apples: Battle to the Death– The whole fam gathered ’round the dinner table for an epic game, complete with lots of Gato Negro drinking (boxed red wine.  From Chile.  Don’t hate.)
  • A hike around the block– No big deal, our neighborhood backdrop scenery is the Andes.
  • Workin’ the greenhouse– The primary school kids of Pampacoral show us how it’s done.
  • Snickers break– Not sure why, but since we’ve been here everybody’s craving sugar…. all the time.

The Projects

As a newly-initiated member of Team Peru (more formally and legit-ly monikered The Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development), I came down to South America in hopes of developing (along with my colleague and fellow MPA student Danielle Johnson) a Community Savings program for each of three local women’s textile associations.  But there’s so much going on in addition to our wee little project:  The Greenhouse Team, The NGO Network Team, The Women’s Empowerment team… not to mention the internal Organizational Development team for The Andean Alliance itself.

Each of us is a part-time member of at least one or two teams aside from our primary, and this definitely gives me flashbacks (good ones, I swear) to the Advanced Nonprofit seminar all over again.  Team meetings transform into mega mind melds.  You’re into teaching kids’ how to harvest veggies from the greenhouse for a well-balanced lunch AND want to help local organizations build a collaboration platform?  No worries!  Just hang with Team Peru and you can make it happen.  And then some.

I can’t wait to find out what the rest of the summer has in store… this is going to be the adventure of a lifetime.

Keep up with us on Facebook and on the blog!