About Us

La Ceiba MFI is a collegiate microfinance institution in partnership with Students Helping Honduras (SHH) and the University of Mary Washington.  SHH is a 501c3 non-profit organization building a movement of young people to empower orphaned and vulnerable children in Honduras.  UMW is a public liberal arts university in Fredericksburg, VA.


We envision a world in which every mother, father, son, and daughter have the opportunity to lead a fulfilling life together and realize their potential through hard work.


Sustainable solutions to poverty require the endogenous emergence of effective, legitimate, and resilient community-wide institutions that foster productive cooperation among its members.


Empower our clients with the assets and capabilities to participate in, influence and hold accountable the institutions and organizations that structure their lives, their family’s lives, and their communities.


Expand economic opportunities for and improve the everyday living conditions of our clients through the provision of desired financial, social, and educational support.  To do this, we develop long-lasting relationships founded upon mutual respect and open communication with our clients.  We always encourage our clientele to question our methods, constantly striving for more appropriate and effective programs.


Hope for a better tomorrow, dreams of your children’s future, and optimism that continued hard work will lead to success, are things that poverty can steal from those in its grasp.  When it does, we want to steal it back.


  • Transparency – We keep all our documents, decisions, and records open in our efforts to build honest relationships and allow others to follow our thinking and actions.
  • Respect - We acknowledge that we are foreigners in an unfamiliar culture and must always be cautious and aware of our ignorance as we try to foster relationships.  To that end, we look to our clients for knowledge and direction in our attempts to provide support.
  • Self-Awareness - We recognize our inexperience and naivete as students, not to diminish the magnitude of our potential, but instead to work without pre-conceived notions.  In doing so, we strive to explore and learn with our clients to reach optimal outcomes together, while always remaining aware of our limitations and reflecting critically on ourselves.
  • Education – We understand that through our efforts to teach and provide support we also gain knowledge and experience. In this way, our organization serves both to educate our clients and ourselves, as we collaborate to learn from each other.
  • Flexibility – We know that we, and especially our clients, live in a world of uncertainty and our organization must be able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. We are conscious of the inherent instability in our client’s lives and always strive to create programs which can still be effective in such an environment.  La Ceiba is aware of the fact that mistakes occur and we always attempt to reconcile these in the fairest way possible, giving the benefit of the doubt to our clients if there is any.




Fall 2010 Fall 2008
Fall 2009 Fall 2007


In January of 2008, Dr. Shawn Humphrey and his students were completing the first phase of their improved cook-stove (ICS) project in Siete de Abril – a squatter community on the outskirts of El Progreso, Honduras.  It was during phase one that they had the opportunity to interview a household with a motorcycle – the only household in Siete de Abril with such an asset.  They struck up a conversation with the owner about how he was able to finance its purchase.  He proceeded to tell them how a local money lender visited his home, surveyed his wealth, and extended him a loan.  This extension of credit was itself unusual because the land titles of every household in Siete de Abril were currently being contested.   The local money-lender it turned out extended his credit based upon the provision that if he were to default that he would return and take all of their wealth, which included a car battery that powered a dilapidated television and radio and some broken down mattresses.  While the motorcycle owner was telling his story, his wife started to tear up.  This was a significant risk that he and his family were taking.  His job, however, was running medical supplies in and out of downtown El Progreso.  A form of transportation is vital to this task.  It was a risk he and his family felt they had to take.

At dinner that night, the ICS team decided that upon their return to UMW that they would begin building a micro-financial institution to assist others who had entrepreneurial ambitions.  Before leaving Honduras they had settled on a name: La Ceiba – after the Ceiba tree that anchored the back corner of the hotel where they were staying.

Once at UMW, Dr. Humphrey recruited his Economic Development class to assist in building La Ceiba.  That spring, his class utilized the Two Dollar Challenge to raise awareness and funds for La Ceiba.  What started as a project for one class was transformed into a university-wide event. Participants from other courses and multiple disciplines signed up to participate in Challenge Week. Together they raised $6,750!  With the seed capital raised Team La Ceiba began to organize and structure its group loan program and go on to extend its first set of loans in January of 2009.