Category Archives: Announcements

“Assembly of the Arrival” (Fall ’13 Newsletter)

Merry Christmas family and friends, I hope you all are enjoying the Christmas season back in the States. I’ll be making a brief visit into Virginia, before our annual Edify meeting and then heading back down to Lima, Peru in early January. I decided to assemble all the events of this past fall into one newsletter instead of sending out monthly updates because it was easier to communicate a summary of the information that was pretty much related over the past few months. It’s now summer here in Peru and schools and university are on their summer break. How strange! Blessings, -Aaron

I moved to Lima, Peru in mid-august to start the Edify program. As you know, over this past year, I had done a feasibility study for Edify in four different Latin-American countries, meeting with 10 different microfinance organizations, visiting almost 70 private schools, and conversing with hundreds of school leaders. Currently Edify works in six countries making small loans to low-cost Christian schools to help them with their construction projects like classrooms and computer labs and provide them business training to improve the school and the quality of education.

Aug-12-News-06As an organization, we decided to enter Peru based on the like-minded nature of potential Christian microfinance organizations, and the ability to have significant impact with education in an empowering country environment. We wanted to find a country that was safe to do business in, one that was open to the kind of Christian missional work we do in other countries, and one where the economic need was evident. After spending almost two months in Peru in late spring, we felt we had enough information to make the decision on the four countries in the study, and in July, we decided to set up shop in Peru.

After spending two years in the Dominican Republic, I felt like I had a good idea of how the Edify program works, and was very excited to open a new country for Edify. Sometimes it feels easy to start something for which you already have a template, and then you realize that bringing this to a new country and a new context requires a lot of patience and a tremendous amount of teamwork to make it happen. It’s interesting to me now to see how missions organizations and non-profits reach Sept-13-News-01the scale that they do. For example, the largest non-profit in the world, World Vision has 44,500 employees and works in 97 countries. I compare that with setting up this one partnership in Lima, Peru and I think of the monumental work World Vision undertook to reach their current level. I know now first-hand that it takes a lot of introductions, a lot of meetings, phone calls, visits, emails, travel, discussions, contracts, new connections; a whole lot of manual assembly to put the pieces together. That’s been the theme of this past fall: trying to tie it all together.

It’s been amazing to see how the Lord has been working here Lima, Peru. Early on, I connected with a local Christian organization called “Christian Development of Peru” that offers training and educational resources for Christian schools and pastors throughout Peru. They helped connect me to two different Christian school organizations that in total have 34 schools, and invited us to Sept-13-News-06participate in their fourth annual teachers conference entitled, “Evaluation and Sustainability for Educational Projects.” On October 29th,¬† we as Edify presented almost three hours of training to leaders from 20 different schools on how to be sustainable as a low-cost Christian school and how to improve local community impact. While we were hoping for closer to 50 schools, it was still a great success to be able to plant our feet here in the community.

We met our facilitator to do our business training through the church I’ve been attending, Camino de Vida, ( I had connected with the pastoral staff and introduced myself and our mission for Peru back in April. As the months progressed, they became instrumental in helping us launch our program here, introducing us to individuals who work in Christian schools, broadcasting, government, and those in the private sector. There is really no other way I would have been able to meet such quality people, without the kindness and hospitality that the Peruvian leaders have shown us over the past few months. As we move closer to doing our first loan here with the Sept-13-News-04local Microfinance organization, Camino de Vida is waiting to introduce us to even more schools that could benefit from the work of Edify. What a great model for building a new program!

But I’ve been very careful about making personal visits to schools that have invited me to see their school. As you can imagine, it’s incredibly important for the long-term sustainability of our program that we work with local leaders to develop relationships with schools, and second, I don’t want to give off the impression that I’ve come to their school to prepare a huge check for a donation, or am trying to work out the logistics for a big shipment in a few months. That’s not what we do, and indeed, it wouldn’t be good for their overall success. It’s the basic principle of a hand-out or a hand-up. I know they could use any donation, be it monetary or equipment based, but if they keep relying on donations for their operation, they are going to be stuck in that cycle of waiting for the next individual Sept-13-News-08to walk through the door, and we will soon run out of resources to donate to all the schools we want to work with. It’s important to maintain a consistent message of partnership and sustainability.

Certainly, one of the worst things I could do is promise something I cannot deliver on. I’ve heard too many stories from school proprietors that told me about Americans who had come to visit two or three years ago, even five or ten years ago, and the people never delivered what they said they were going to do. I remember talking with a friend who spent a few months in Burkina Faso (An economically poor country in West Africa, and a new country for Edify this past year) and he said that “While we all have good intentions to help others, while we may have pure hearts, you have to think about it from their perspective. If you’re the only foreigner they’ve seen and you even hint at Sept-13-News-07something amazing that they would never in their life be able to afford, they are going to start hoping you’ll deliver, and treating your suggestion as a promise. Don’t break a promise to them.”

So as far as our progress is concerned, we’ve been proceeding slowly, patiently, making the right introductions, presentations and building up relationships in the first few months. We want to make sure we do this right. And when we are ready, and when the local organization is ready we’ll be excited to follow-through on what we promised to deliver on. It has been a period of expectation and waiting and a lot of assembly. That’s kind of what this season is about right? Awaiting the promise of something to come. That’s what they were waiting for before Jesus was born 2,000 years ago, and then he arrived in the season prepared for his arrival.

I pray that your Christmas season would be filled with the good and healthy promises, and that you would appreciate family and friends and the arrival of Christ to the world.


The Joy of Dancing in Public

I was wandering around Lima this past Saturday and passed through Parque Kennedy where there is usually some public event going on and loads of tourists passing through. I saw up ahead a crowd of people gathered around a small amphitheater so I made my way on over to Parque kennedy dance foto 1check it out. What I saw first were scores of Peruvians sat closely together with eyes fixed on the center area. Upon closer inspection, I saw several couples dancing, but the unusual thing was they weren’t exactly the young couples I would have expected to see. No, they were older men and women dancing in step with the Latin music.

A song finished, the partners exchanged pleasantries and returned to their seats. A new song began, and the men got up and sought out new partners. Often, they came from the other side of the amphitheater to find their desired partner. It all seemed very well orchestrated, but I knew that this was simply a public event where everyone came to listen to music and watch the dancers, that by the looks of it, came here quite frequently. In sum, it was quite a show for a Saturday afternoon without having to pay anything to enter.

I thought to myself that dancing in public isn’t really something that we do in North America for reasons I don’t think we all really know too well. Usually, people reserve their dance moves for special occasions or for a few drinks into the evening, and if we see someone dancing in public they are usually too little to fall prey to social norms, or they’ve had too much to drink, or maybe luckily they’re a little more well-hidden in the throngs of concert goers out to enjoy a concert in the open air. Rarely, do we such frank displays of affinity for music and dance.

Parque kennedy dance foto 2An older woman, much shorter, and certainly more joyful that the rest, arrived to the dance floor barely able to contain her exuberance as a favorite song played. She danced as though she had a partner, and her smile ignited the audience who sat close by. A younger man stepped out from the crowd that sat on the concrete bleachers and grabbed her by the hand. They spun, they danced, they strolled, and tried out the turns and steps that people in the crowd yelled to them. It was like they were the instructors for those who came to dance.

For a brief moment I noticed that they didn’t really dance in time to the music being played, but quickly that feeling disappeared when I did what everyone else was doing: I just went with it and enjoyed the scene. I then looked around and it seemed this odd couple, both dressed in red, had garnered the attention of nearly everyone in the stands. Now, surely, there were better, more fluid dancers, but none were as animated as this couple.

They came to dance in public. No shame in that.

Microfinance Presentations in Richmond, VA

Hi friends, I wanted to invite you to one of three HOPE events in Richmond, VA coming up in two weeks. Katie Nienow who spent 3 years working for HOPE in Africa will be the lead speaker and will be sharing how the work of HOPE’s microfinance programs has helped thousands of families out of poverty in the 14 countries that we serve.

We’re planning on doing two businesses lunches for working professionals on April 19th and 20th. These are from 12:00 – 1:00pm and allow someone who has family or personal commitments in the evening to attend an information session from HOPE during the lunch hour. Lunch is complimentary, but you’ll need to sign up using the links listed below. Please attend one of these events during the day, if you know you will not be able to make it on Tuesday night.

Register for a Spot Using the Links Provided:

Sam Millers – Shockhoe Bottom (Business Lunch)
April 19th – 12:00 – 1:00pm

Capital Ale House – Innsbrook (Business Lunch)
April 20th – 12:00 – 1:00pm

Tuesday Evening Presentation:

A group of friends has set up an event on Tuesday evening from 6:00 – 7:30pm at the Current Restaurant (@ the Hat Factory) and has invited a few representatives from HOPE to speak. So if you can make it to the event after work, please plan to come! And come early because we’re expecting a lot of people. You can hang out by the patio next to the canal. It’s a happy hour format with a short presentation and a time for questions.

Hat Factory – Downtown (Happy Hour)

April 19th – 6:00 – 7:30

About the Presentation:
Before she lived in Africa, Katie Nienow grew up in Richmond, VA and since I’ve been living in Richmond for the past five years, HOPE wanted to do a series of HOPE events with both of us. So I’ll be flying in from the Dominican Republic to give you all an update on the work I’ve been involved in here in the ghettos of Santo Domingo, the city schools of La Romana, and in the sugar cane batey communities in rural Domincan Republic.

I promise that these events will be highly entertaining (in the seven months I’ve lived abroad, I’ve accumulated quite a few stories). But primarily, you’ll get to learn about how investing in microfinance is helping thousands and thousands of families out of poverty. Money invested in Microfinance goes toward making small business loans to people, providing training and building financial skills in the process. The businesses that they create, help provide enough food for the family and help send their kids to school.

Bring yourself and bring a friend!

Contact me with any questions, hope you’re doing well,

-Aaron Roth

San Pedro Spanish School is Awesome!

Today was my first day of Spanish class at San Pedro Spanish School in San Pedro La Lagunas near Lake Atitlan. My teacher is David and he is really smart and very patient. For four hours he spoke nothing but Spanish to me, and surprisingly I could understand most things. It’s incredibly intense to be speaking only Spanish here and having to think about everything, but I really want to learn Spanish and I’m committed to doing as much as I can in six weeks.

Here are a few pictures from the school:

A common area for students with a small restaurant.

Free Guatemalan coffee.

Plenty of tables and chairs.

A field for croquet or polo. Just kidding.

That little hut is where David is teaching me on a whiteboard (pizarron blanco).

Goodbye To CB&H

So after almost 5 years, I’m saying goodbye to a great group of people at Cherry, Bekaert & Holland. My first real gig out of college, CB&H has been an excellent place for me to learn about marketing and business, and I was fortunate to share it with a great group of guys who make up the marketing department. I will definitely miss the folks of firm administration, the Richmond office, and my friends from around the firm. There are many memories from my time there and I consider it a great first start to my career.

As I’m moving on, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ll take away from CB&H.

What I’ll Miss:

  • Coffee in the morning
  • Ron’s award-winning carrot cake
  • Databases & Dynamics CRM (I can’t hide my true colors)
  • Madeline’s friendly smile
  • High Octane Marketing
  • I.T. guys that I can talk tech with
  • The firm managing partner knowing who I am
  • Plenty of parking
  • CBHU (I think we all miss that)
  • “Synergies,” “Leveraging” and “Thinking Outside of the Box”

What I Won’t Miss:

  • Vendors calling and obliterating any resemblance of the correct¬† pronunciation of the firm’s name.
  • Having to explain to people where I work: “I work for an accounting firm, but no I’m not an accountant. ‘Why does an accounting firm need a marketing department?’ We’re a huge firm, and I work in the headquarters. ‘So you don’t know anything about taxes?’ Nope.”
  • VA Blood services calling to ask me if I can donate
  • Excel documents that aren’t structured properly
  • The smell of toner in the production room
  • “Synergies,” “Leveraging” and “Thinking Outside of the Box”
  • Discerning if it’s really “final” when the file is called the “Final, Final, Final – THIS IS THE REAL ONE – Version 2”
  • Posting time (oh wait, mine was wayyy easy!)

To all my friends at CB&H, I hope you stay in touch!