¡Hola! I'm Dillon, a sophomore at the University of Michigan and one of four UMF interns living in La Unión this summer. Getting to know the other interns and the UMF employees has been very interesting, and I already feel a part of the UMF family. Whether it's jabs at my Notre Dame-attending roommate, Ben, for his school's inferior football and basketball teams (in the humble opinion of a Michigan Wolverine), in-depth philosophical discussions with anyone around on whatever topic of the day, or losing the dictionary game to Jeremy at the Comedor during lunch, the sense of fellowship here is extremely high.
And although this intra-organizational camaraderie is important, much more importantly, and impressively, is the togetherness between all of the UMF workers and the community of La Unión. I've volunteered with UMF for about the past year, so I've known for a long time that one of UMF's core values is to be a part of the communities that they partner with. However, it is one thing to know this value and another to see it lived out and be a part of it each and every day. I see this in practice in countless ways. When I walk down the street with Charlie it seems like every La Unión child below the age of 13 comes outside to yell "Carlitos!" Each time I've been over to the UMF house/office for dinner we've been joined by one or two of the kids from the local bilingual school, who are always encouraged to stop in. I've played volleyball with Hondurans, eaten dinner at their homes, gone to their church, and even have plans to make a cake later this week with a class of 3rd graders.
I am a firm believer that poverty is not strictly a monetary issue and am so proud that the organization I am interning with is not just a money-in, money-out microfinance institution for this reason. Poverty alleviation does not come about from simply increasing access to financial services, it comes from an all-encompassing approach which UMF offers. It's facilitating Community Partnership Programs from the United States–of which we are hosting multiple this summer. It's partnering with the local bilingual school–the interns are going this week to speak with the 10th graders about university in the U.S. It’s living within the population and conducting development in a way that is community-driven. I’m excited to continue to be a part of this philosophy, and more excited to live it out each day.