Written by: Margaret Free, Thunderbird Alumna and DreamBuilder Fellow
Upon arriving in Arequipa, the main goal for DreamBuilder was to get the program tested and launched. Due to many unforeseen circumstances, that testing phase or Beta Test was pushed back further than expected and set to launch in September. Preparation for the Beta Test in Arequipa began in April of 2012, this included lots of research of the programs that Cerro Verde currently offered as well as relationship building with Cerro Verde’s partner Colectivo Integral de Desarollo or CID. This relationship building involved keeping CID abreast of where Thunderbird was with the development of the program, keeping them updated with possible beta testing launch dates as well as making sure this organization completely understood DreamBuilder, its purpose and the ideal participant. Realizing that we would need support from partners other than CID, I also took an active role in walking around Arequipa and interviewing women to understand the preferences of possible participants. Questions such as, What times of day would you participate? Could you commit to a three-month testing phase? What is your motivation to begin or improve your business?, allowed me to begin to understand the market in which I operated and based on that, pattern the Beta Test Process in a way that would ensure success for Arequipa.
As mentioned above, Cerro Verde relied heavily on the help of CID to interview and select 25-30 women for the Beta Testing and I was lucky enough to select 5 women through the networks of other programs that Thunderbird has in Arequipa. Based on this collaboration, Arequipa began the Beta Test with 33 women at four computer labs spread throughout the city. The first computer lab, PromPeru, was found and contracted by myself and Cerro Verde contracted the remaining three, Instituto del Sur, Insitucion Educativa ‘Francisco Mostajo’ en Tiabaya, and Instituto Educativo CDU en Uchumayo.
On September 3, 2012, Cerro Verde held a Kick-Off Lunch at a restaurant in Arequipa called El Restaurante Tipika. This lunch was a chance for all of the participants to begin to build bonds with one another as well as a chance for them to get to know the Cerro Verde Community Relations Team and Thunderbird.
The lunch began with a message from Pablo Alcazar, General Manager of Communications, Public Relations & Community Relations, welcoming all of the women to the program and thanking them for their dedication. He explained to them that they were the best of the best in Arequipa and that they would have the tough job of helping us improve DreamBuilder for the larger population of the city. This speech really set the mood of the dinner and the excitement towards the program. Nathan Ulberg, DreamBuilder Program Manager, flew down from Arizona to attend the lunch and was able to express to the participants how thankful and excited Freeport-McMoRan & Thunderbird were to be launching this pilot in Arequipa. He expressed that after all of the hard work we’ve put into this program over the past 6 months, it was great to finally see the program come alive. Next, the Cerro Verde Community Relations team introduced themselves and we also had an encouraging word from our partner Alvaro Ojeda Sotomayor. Last but not least, I wrapped up the comments by thanking the women for their participation and dedication and asked each of the participants to introduce themselves and their dream. This was the most touching moment of the lunch, as for all of the Cerro Verde Team Members and Thunderbird Staff this was the first time they were able to put a face and a story to the names of those individuals that this program is aimed at helping. The Kick-Off lunch was a great way to begin the Beta Test and really set the mood for the coming weeks.
We are not about a month and a half into the testing phase and getting great feedback from the women in Arequipa. Our group of 33 has fallen to about 26, but this is still a solid number and each of these 26 women is excited to take part in this phase of the project. We have made some changes to our computer lab locations and tweaked our testing schedule a bit, but overall the sessions run smoothly and we are all enjoying the process. I am thankful to be apart of this project and for the relationships that I am subsequently building with the women of Arequipa.