Lately, things have been quiet here at the Gringo house (Mike, Dan and Pat’s house/ UMF HQ). Yet, although we don’t have piles of loan applications and lists of fertilizer distributions piling up everywhere, lots of exciting stuff is going on around here.
This week is our third round of loan collection meetings and so far it seems our selection process has paid off. One of my daily jobs is to enter in all the loan repayments. Entering numbers into an excel sheet may sound like a boring task, and it usually can be rather tedious. However, it’s turned out to be kind of fun to follow the results of the daily village meetings. We selected farmers based on their need for a loan and their level of responsibility. So far, the farmers have come through and proven that they do take these loans seriously and are very responsible. Of the 118 farmers, we’ve had less than $3 in late interest- and all late interest has been paid in full by the next meeting. What’s even more encouraging than the on-time payments is that farmers have been paying early! Right now is a time when these impoverished farmers have the least money. For this reason, they are only expected to pay interest now and later. During the harvest when they have more money, they will pay the capital. Instead of waiting until harvesting season though, many farmers have started to pay off their capital early. One farmer paid six times as much was due.
We’re excited. It seems the farmers are excited and I hope you are all excited too about how successful the loan repayments have been. Let’s hope this is just the beginning of many successful loan cycles!
I hope you will consider traveling to Honduras with Union MicroFinanza in October 2010! The exact dates for the trip have not been set, but we are planning on taking a group to Honduras for 5-7 days the first part of October.
The trip will be a leadership based trip open for anyone who would like consider attending. The trip will be a great and adventurous introduction to the work of Union MicroFinanza. We will visit many of the small mountainside villages that UMF works in, see the loan distribution process, learn how coffee is grown and harvested, and meet individual farmers.
I hope you will consider traveling with us. For more information on what we do, please visit unionmicrofinanza.org or microloancoffee.org. Although exact numbers are not set yet, the trip should be in the neighborhood of $850 for ticket and all other expenses. If you are interested, please contact Andrew Boyd at 231.288.8355 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our goal is to book tickets by August 25th, so please contact us quickly if you are interested.
From May 23 to the 30, the owner and staff members of eve the restaurant-Ann Arbor, Michigan's finest dinning location-journeyed to Honduras for a seven day service trip. This is a partnership that without a doubt has proved to be fun, unique and life changing for UMF, the restaurant and all those involved. I will leave the description of the trip up to those who went on the trip. The following insert can be found on the tables in the restaurant. If you live in Ann Arbor or are just passing through, stop by, read it for yourself and enjoy some great food!
"We are so excited to announce the eve / Frita Batidos joint adventure/volunteer work/educational staff field trip to Honduras was an inspirational success!!! Thank you to all who helped make this trip possible – from purchasing bags of microloan coffee to making donations, to extending your interest and support in so many ways - We look forward to sharing our stories with you all now that we are back home!
From torrential down pours and swollen rivers, to beautiful mountain passes, mud brick homes and the hard working people of the La Union Municipality, the trip was an inspiration for us all. Never have we felt so far from a paved road, but never have we felt so close to a sense of family, community and survival that is rarely found in our daily lives.
As a staff we spent a week building 12 stoves in homes in the small village of San Augustin, one of the most impoverished areas of Honduras. We also got to know and work with the coffee farmers of La Union and learned about the microfinance model of UNION MICROFINANZA and their dedication to improving the the conditions in this area of the world. We learned about the coffee cultivation process first hand from the planting of the seeds, to the harvesting , depulping , drying and roasting of the beans - from seed to cup! We are now working with these beans at Frita Batidos and drinking this very coffee at home - it is an amazing feeling personally knowing where the coffee comes from, the farmers who put their labor into the cultivation and doing something we care about and believe in.
We are very proud and excited to use these beans in developing our own signature blend for Frita Batidos, where intense, complex, Cuban style coffee is going to be central!!!! (along with Fritas, Batidos and great bread!)
Frita Batidos, our new creative venture, will be a very casual restaurant/sandwich shop inspired by the spirit of Cuban culture – revolving around a fantasy inspired by two traditional Cuban culinary elements – The FRITA – a Cuban burger made from spicy chorizo served with shoestring fries on top in a soft egg bun and BATIDOS – Tropical milkshakes made with fresh fruit, crushed ice and a drop of sweetened milk – with or without rum. Like burgers and shakes, Fritas and Batidos are a natural pairing and the menu is the result of dreaming about these two dishes for years!
The people we met may have been poor, but never have we heard children laugh so much, people be so welcoming and life be so much about the essentials. I am sure we as a staff will all take something from this trip that is uniquely our own.
However, it is not our intent to leave our thoughts and experiences in Honduras. We hope to take our experiences and memories and apply them as an inspiration to what we do here – to our work ethic, the way we treat and care for people, the way we cook and the perspective we have on our own lives and culture . Not only will the knowledge from our trip be a part of the food, but we plan to establish a lasting partnership with this area of Honduras. WE PLAN TO GO BACK! IF YOU WISH TO JOIN US, PLEASE LET US KNOW!
My name is Malia and I’m another UMF intern. My first visit to La Unión was in March and after getting to know a little about UMF, I decided the mountains of Honduras might be a good place to spend my summer. After completing two of my three months here, I am happy to say that I made the right choice.
UMF isn’t just recruiting college kids this summer though. Last week Trisha and I met with two students, Gloria and Darwin, from the bilingual school. They have volunteered to work with UMF several mornings a week for the rest of the summer. After a little bit of brainstorming and a lot of time playing on iTunes and eating peanut butter, we decided that it would be fun for them to create a power point introduction to La Unión. Few people in the States know anything about Honduras and even fewer know that La Unión even exists. We thought that people coming down to visit, buying our coffee or just interested in UMF’s work might like to learn about daily life in La Unión from people that know La Unión the best. In addition to their Introduction to La Unión project, we hope that they will participate in other UMF events, such as the agricultural training session coming up next week and maybe the blog. Make sure to keep following the blog and check out the website to hear more about what us interns and the bilingual students are up to this summer.
Thanks for reading,
Malia is an intern for UMF. She will be returning to the University of Michigan this fall. After a trip to Honduras with UMF in March 2010, she asked the organization if she could return for the summer. She paid her entire way. Thank you Malia.