Aldea Development was officially established in November 2009 (as Unión MicroFinanza) and started providing La Unión community with microfinance in June 2010.

But our involvement in the La Unión community has roots that took hold as early as 2005.

It all started when Andrew Boyd, along with members of Lakeshore Lutheran, his church from Muskegon, Michigan, took a short-term mission trip to Honduras. They concentrated their efforts in the La Unión aldea of Quiscamote to help install water filters, stoves, and latrines.

The roots take hold

Coming back year after year, Andrew's relationship with Quiscamote inspired the desire to maintain a long-term presence in La Unión.

As a student at the University of Michigan, Andrew learned about the power of microfinance to help people rise out of poverty. He knew this could be a great and meaningful way to help La Unión, but at the time, he wasn't quite sure how to actually do it. Fortuitously, his dream came closer to being reality when he was presented with an opportunity through working as a research assistant for then Ph.D Candidate, Derek Stafford.

The idea sprouts

They realized that with Derek's expertise in research and Andrew's dream to provide microfinance, they could collaborate on an unprecedented project in La Unión.

It was at this point that Andrew's friend, Patrick Hughes, was inspired by Andrew's passion for the idea and came to share his dream. In 2008, Derek, Andrew, Patrick, and Patrick's brother, [Alex Hughes,] started designing a research project to investigate the social networks of the aldeas in La Unión. Not only would this research further the fields of political science and network analysis, but it would also develop the fundamental structure of a microfinance organization. To learn more about why this is, read the Research Application section!

The team then recruited 21 other students, including team members Daniel Schwartz and Michael De Wit, to join the effort. Now with a team 25 members strong and more than a years worth of planning, the project was finally ready to materialize. In the summer of 2009, the team got on a plane and flew down to Honduras. With Derek and Alex in charge of the research, Andrew, Patrick, Daniel, and Michael served as team leaders in the field. To learn more about what they did, read the Research to Date section!

Hard work bears fruit

Having successfully realized the first stage of the project, Andrew, Patrick, Daniel, and Michael looked ahead to fulfill the promise they made to the people of La Unión: that they would come back as a microfinance organization.

Back in the United States, they worked hard to learn and prepare themselves for running an organization. They reached their first milestone with the incorporation of Unión MicroFinanza in November 2009. They continued their stateside preparations insuring that they would have a well-functioning microfinance organization upon their return to Honduras.

One thing they came to understand about La Unión was the importance of coffee production. So they saw that their microfinance efforts would primarily focus on coffee producers (as well as corn and bean producers.) With this came an investigation into coffee markets; from which they realized that for microfinance to really have the desired effect, the coffee supply chain would have to improve. As such, we started Microloan Coffee and brought the first shipment of La Unión coffee to the United States in December 2009. For more about La Unión coffee, visit the Aldea Coffee website!

From December 2009 to February 2010, the team started transitioning to Honduras; except Andrew, who stayed in the U.S. to manage donations and the sale of Microloan Coffee (now Aldea Coffee). Once Patrick, Daniel, and Michael started living and working in Honduras, they were joined by La Unión locals, Gilberto and Martir. (Learn more about Our Team!) With their help, they hosted meetings, organized aldea groups, handed out applications for microloans, and many other necessary preparations. Finally, the first microloan was given to a producer in June 2010. For more about our microfinance program, read the Our Approach to Microfinance section!

Growth into the future

In the first year of the microfinance program, the team provided 125 people with over $10,000 worth of microloans, primarily in the form of quality-boosting fertilizers.

The first year also brought new members to the team: Manager of Technology, Bret Abel (the guy who programmed Netriks for the 2009 study) and Manager of Finance, Charlie Heins. In addition to these permanent members, the organization has received invaluable assistance from University of Michigan interns, students from the La Unión high school, and various partner organizations.

With the passion of an ever-growing team, they look forward to the new loan cycle of 2011. They plan to double the number of producers in the microfinance program, give more training sessions (like on organic fertilizers,) offer more types of microloans, ship more Aldea Coffee, and hopefully one day see the growth of La Unión into a wonderful, poverty-free community!