By Jackie Kim
Coupling my global cultural background and my passion in finance, I got the opportunity to travel to Honduras this past spring break with an international group called Global Brigades. My fellow brigadiers and I were paired up with a rural community in Honduras to rebuild a community bank. Because it was a seven-day brigade, we had to work under a strict time limit to deliver a high impact solution. Ultimately, we opted for innovative solutions that taught basic concepts such as saving and borrowing and even introduced advanced topics such as keeping track of interest rates and accumulated dividends through general ledger accounting. We accomplished this by adapting a segmented approach, where we targeted both children and adults in the community so that there would be awareness among different age groups. We used interactive models and colorful graphics as our communication strategy, and established a community bank with a clear set of regulations.
However, the most memorable part of the trip was not the planning process nor the actual implementation of our solution. Instead, I was most affected by the values that the community bank stood for and how the community members reflected them in their daily actions. Unlike a commercial bank, a community bank is not for profit, and exists to better the community. The community bank can only run with the volunteerism of dedicated community members who are not afraid to trust the community and the bank as an institution, and consequently, are willing to ask for the same trust from other community members. In a rural village, it proved to be difficult to convince many community members to save their money, especially because they were living on a day-to-day basis to sustain their families.
Even with the difficulty of communication to the rest of the community, the faith that the community bank members showed in the system inspired me. As a foreigner, I had felt rude when introducing and implementing a strange system of banking into such a tight-knit community, but the fact that various members opened their homes and minds up for us helped me understand the human trust and connection in its raw form. It was eye opening to not only build up a bank in a rural village with no prior knowledge of basic finance, but also to experience feelings and interactions that are so uniquely human.
Ultimately, this experience strengthened my desire to serve the global community. The beauty of the intercultural exchange that I observed was so positively overwhelming that I was determined to still be involved with Global Brigades even after the trip. I’m so honored to be leading Global Brigades at Marshall (the USC Chapter of Global Brigades—you don’t need to be in Marshall to be a part of it!) this upcoming school year! I found a way to leave my global footprint while also getting inspired to seek more personal interactions in an intercultural context, and I invite all of you to do the same!
Featured image by Stuart Herbert on Flickr
Jackie is a Junior majoring in Business Administration, with potential minors in Computer Science or East Asian Studies. She has lived all over the world, from Korea to Singapore, to various parts of America. She is fascinated by cultural diversity, and her goal in life is to become a diplomat for the United Nations. She is a big fan of learning languages, and she is hoping to learn her sixth one soon. Jackie is involved in various international campus organizations such Model United Nations, as well as community service groups, and the residential government, and would love to introduce you to cool leaders on campus if you want to get more involved! She loves playing ice hockey, playing traditional Korean music and, and socializing with people in her free time! She can’t wait you meet you and get to know you! She also has a lot of school spirit because she absolutely LOVES USC