After six weeks in La Unión it is almost time for me to leave, and the feeling is bittersweet. It will be wonderful to go home to Michigan to see friends and family, but now I will be leaving behind my new friends in La Unión. The feeling I had upon arrival could not have been more different. Overwhelmed with anxiety, I didn’t know how I would survive six weeks in a rural mountain town surrounded by people with whom I couldn’t communicate. I like routines and familiarity, so I was quite distressed for the first week in my new environment. However, that feeling soon faded as I assimilated and quickly made new friends.
A telling anecdote of my changing views occurred a few weekends back on a trip to visit the Copan Ruins. It was especially notable since I would be visiting the ruins with my sister, the first real contact with home since arriving in Honduras. By the end of the weekend I was weary from travel and ready to return home…to La Unión. It occurred to me that all of the strange faces had become familiar, whether it is the pastor of the Evangelical church, the owners of the corner store, and especially those of our clients. I am accustomed to life in Honduras, and having managed to navigate the language barrier I can now more fully enjoy the company of locals.
As an intern in Honduras I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet the people UMF serves and see the impact UMF is having on their lives. Prior to arriving in Honduras I sought information about UMF on their website, but failed to realize the full extent of their operations. Through firsthand experiences I have grown to appreciate the difference they are making on a grand scale, which came clear during my efforts to update the Microloan Coffee website. This project forced me to ask detailed questions about the coffee UMF buys and the farmers they serve. After interviewing several coffee farmers in the village of El Sitio, they told me that UMF only buys high quality coffee for which they pay high prices, and therefore they are motivated to improve their techniques in order to reap these monetary benefits.
My experiences, coupled with the stories of the farmers, will help me when return to the U.S. to begin selling Microloan Coffee for UMF. I have seen where the producers live, spent time on their farms, saw the corn and bean fields in the village of San Agustin, and shared food prepared on the stoves UMF helped install in their homes. Rather than selling coffee where one doesn’t know who produced it, UMF is putting the farmers’ faces on their coffee by providing a direct link between these farmers and coffee buyers. I look forward to helping connect my Honduran home with my one in Michigan.
By Kyle Barkett