Making Change

Professor takes on-the-ground approach to economic development

Honduran Reina Reyes (left) sells clutches she made from discarded chip bags and soda labels. La Ceiba purchases the items and resells them in the UMW Bookstore. Photo provided by La Ceiba.

The students take that responsibility seriously because the experience presses so hard on them. Greenwell said students are forewarned about the culture shock of going to Honduras. “But I think if you speak to anybody with La Ceiba, there’s a culture shock of coming home that is equal if not greater,” she said. “I’m a firm believer in academia, but at the same time it’s very hard to sit and muse about hypotheticals in a classroom when you’ve spent the past 12 days of your life trying to help [someone] actually build a business.”

In May, Alvarez, Faramarzi, and Greenwell all graduated, along with other La Ceiba members. So now, despite their attachment to one another and to their clients, it’s time for them to get out of the way.

Humphrey is already recruiting new students to the microfinance organization, and the departing members will move on to jobs and other studies. That’s better for the new students, Faramarzi said. “It’s important that they feel like they’re authors in all this.”

Humphrey asked all the graduating La Ceiba students to gather on Campus Walk at the James Farmer statue after the commencement ceremony. He wanted to meet the graduates’ families.

“When we see each other, we all come together,” Humphrey said. “I do not take any credit for the successes they have realized. I don’t know where I begin and they end. They’re simply incredible people.”

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