Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lessons from La Unión

The following post was written by intern Natalie Clark:

It was an amazing and thought-provoking ten weeks for me interning with Unión MicroFinanza in La Unión, Honduras. As I was preparing to head back to the States, I considered the many things I learned during my time in La Unión.

  1. Aid is a complex and delicate process. Dumping aid upon a community can be worse than providing no aid at all.
  2. Innovation, imagination, and entrepreneurial skill are everywhere. A college education is certainly not required.
  3. I live an incredibly fortunate life and have many reasons to be thankful.
  4. I can’t always have Jif peanut butter. Sometimes the off-brand will have to suffice, and sometimes there’s no peanut butter at all.
  5. One can get by, though certainly not eloquently, with a Spanish repertoire of present tense verbs, some nouns, and a lot of smiles.
  6. Running water and electricity are luxuries, not basics, for much of the world.
  7. Fair trade is not always fair. There is nothing like meeting a farmer and going to the source of a product to really know what you are buying.
  8. Microfinance, like any development tool, has its challenges, but it is an exciting strategy that provides clients with the means to help themselves.
  9. There are some serious coffee geeks out there. Coffee flavors can be described with words such as “roasted marshmallow,” “honey/citrus,” and “pumpkin pie.”
  10. Climate change is a very serious threat to the farming community of La Unión, and globally. When one’s personal harvest accounts for both food for the family and yearly income, a consistent climate is critical.
  11. Riding in the back of a pickup truck is great fun.
  12. The word “gringa” refers both to a white woman, and to an incredibly tasty meal of a flour tortilla filled with chicken, a creamy white sauce with jalapeños, and chimol (a salsa).
  13. Coffee processing is energy-intensive, but, with creative thinking and new techniques, can be sustainable and environmentally-sound.
  14. The drive to learn is precious, and education is an incredibly powerful means to open doors for a child who otherwise would not have had options.
  15. I can now drink coffee black, no sugar, no cream. Coffee from La Unión, that is.


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