The UMF Team: How Well Do You Know Us?
Unión MicroFinanza (UMF) has been an official organization for over a year and has achieved tremendous success. But how well do you really know the UMF team and how we're different? Through this newsletter and our blog, we'd like to give you a chance to know us better and see what makes us stand out.
A new year is well underway! UMF has been in operation for over a year, and we've seen some amazing successes along the way. However, before we expand on that success and contemplate the future vision for La Unión and our place in it, we'd like to pause to give you a better picture of our team. Who is this unique team of Hondurans and gringos ("Americans," in Spanish) that have dedicated their lives to the growth and prosperity of the La Unión region of Lempira, Honduras? What motivates us? Who are we individually? How do we work together to reach the farmers, families and communities of La Unión? And what makes us stand out from your typical nonprofit organization?
Through individual stories, introductions, and pictures, we will spend the rest of February answering these questions and many more. We hope you'll get to know us better, and by doing so, that you'll feel as if you're part of our team.
We will begin by say this—living out our dream is one of the hardest things any one of us on the UMF team has ever done. At times, living out our dream means long days, low wages and seeing our families and friends only a handful of times a year.
In our first year of operation, we as a team took a vow of poverty—meaning that our entire staff would work for close to minimum wage. We as a team did this so that, in our first year, we could get as many loans to the farmers of La Unión as possible and buy as much coffee as we could for shipment to the US. Besides this, we have experienced all the hardships and growing pains of starting a new business, especially one in a down economy. You may be asking yourself at this point, why go through all the trouble?
The truth is, not a single one of us would give it up. Living out our dream is truly astounding and it is just that: our dream. We cannot imagine wanting to do anything other than what we're doing now. We are excited and proud of what we’ve accomplished in a year. We've been blessed with the resources that we have received, and most of all, feel inspired to work with and serve the people of La Unión.
For us, no two days are ever the same. Monday may require filling coffee sales orders, Tuesday may start with a discussion about how to best incentivize early repayment on microloans, followed by a Wednesday filled with both national and international shipping logistics for small microlots of coffee. The pace never slows down. From this work, everything accomplished is our own creation, formed through close and personal relationships with the farmers, families, and communities we work with.
More importantly, this community has become our home. Cultural differences have become habits. We laugh together, eat together and live our lives together. We share in the hardships of agricultural production with our farmers, and we rejoice with them in the accomplishments, innovations and growing prosperity.
For our team, while living a dream may have its hardships, the rewards are far greater. We are ready to take our mission to the next step. In the meanwhile, check out a video of UMF members introduce ourselves and explain how we make Unión MicroFinanza the organization it is!
Gilberto Hernandez Barrientos: Huracán
Huracán (Hurricane), as he is at times called by his fellow staff members, has a tremendous amount of energy! It's easy to see it in the enthusiasm that he has for his family, community and work for Unión MicroFinanza.
Now 37 years old, Gilberto was born and raised in La Unión. He attended the local colegio (high school), where he received a degree as a social promoter. For Gilberto, this has led to a life of serving his community. He worked on numerous development projects, along with other nonprofit organizations, before his time with UMF.
Gilberto stands out from his peers. He exudes a certain warmth and unique ability to connect with others. In the culture of La Unión that is often dominated by machismo, or excessive masculinity, Gilberto shows a certain sense of grace towards his wife, family and everyone he meets. He has three beautiful children—Alan, Cristian and Sophia—who are endowed with the courteousness and intelligence of their father.
We first met Gilberto when we gave him and one of his sons a ride. They were hiking the many strenuous miles between villages to conduct a health initiative for an organization. Gilberto had his son with him, because he wanted him to learn the importance of serving the community.
Gilberto’s home exhibits both the grace of Gilberto and the energy of the "Huracán" side of his personality. It is a place that is set up comfortably to provide for his family. However, many parts of his home exhibit traits of a makeshift agricultural laboratory. All ashes from the fire are put in barrels to mix with other substances for experimental fertilizers. Evidence of carpentry projects lean against walls and are seen in a beautifully finished reclining chair. His backyard is a botanist’s dream—the Garden of Eden seems to be finding new roots there!
Much of this is due to Gilberto’s inquisitive nature, which in addition to everything else he exhibits, is one of the tremendous strengths he brings to UMF. Whether you are hiking with him on the agricultural test grounds of IHCafe or conducting a training session with him, he is always touching, smelling, tasting, and taking samples. He is fascinated by innovative farming techniques. He always takes new knowledge and replicates it in an experimental fashion in his backyard.
Gliberto does not just learn and replicate; he teaches. Whether it is a group from the United States learning about coffee production or a group of farmers working with UMF, his passion translates into how he relates to people. Mix in a little Huracán humor, a deep appreciation for the earth, a warm smile and the ability to explain things in a simple fashion, and you have Gilberto.
It's great to have him as a guiding figure and staff member of UMF. And that is Gilberto: the Huracán, the family man, the learner, and the teacher.