I’m Haley Bash, a sophomore studying business at the University of Michigan. When I began my search for summer internships, I hoped to find an organization that focused on giving people empowerment rather than handouts. I discovered Unión Microfinanza and immediately knew I’d found the right place to spend my summer: La Unión, Honduras.
Microfinance has a steep learning curve. Each day I’m challenged to expand and balance both my formal business knowledge and cultural understanding of La Unión.
An essential part of this learning process is to visit producers. We ask questions about their lives and how UMF can help to improve them. On one occasion I went to the aldea, village, of Las Peñas. The trip was an uphill battle in the most literal sense– gradation here can reach nearly ninety degrees.
I made the journey with Daniel Schwartz and Suijth Yankanaik. When we arrived at the home of one the producers we were to interview I discovered a gaggle of adorable kids. Throughout the interview, they popped in and out of the room, curious as to why three furiously scribbling gringos were in their house.
Once two other Las Peñas producers arrived—one of which was the town pastor—they began to open up to us about their struggles and how UMF has helped them overcome them. They told us how they’d like to see UMF expand in the future, from opening savings accounts to providing coffee de-pulpers.
It was wonderful to hear that UMF has already made such an impact on their lives and even better to hear that they have confidence in the organization to transform their lives even further.
We eventually moved on to a more personal question: what dreams do you have for your family? The pastor looked each of us directly in the eye and said, “Every father’s dream is for his child to succeed professionally, but without the economic resources, this dream becomes a struggle.”
We asked what the hopes for their community were too. Answers varied, but popular suggestions were latrines and water filters. Daniel told the men, “We will help you guys get these latrines, these water filters. Maybe not tomorrow, or next week, but we will help you.”
After that moving conversation, the pastor showed us his finca (coffee field). He was one of the producers who had a coffee crop of a high enough quality to sell to specialty buyers in the United States.
Being able to meet the community that the organization is serving and see the products that they are creating has inspired me to my core. I hope to contribute to Unión Microfinanza as much as I can while in La Unión for the rest of the summer and beyond at the University of Michigan.
By Haley Bash