September 27, 2023

Alumnus Shelters in Honduras to Save UMW-Born Nonprofit

2007 alumnus Shin Fujiyama inaugurates a school built by his nonprofit, Students Helping Honduras, which he started at UMW. SHH has built 55 schools in the impoverished country, which is currently on lockdown. While much of his staff have been evacuated, Fujiyama stayed behind in Honduras to care for 24 orphaned children. Photo courtesy of SHH.

2007 alumnus Shin Fujiyama inaugurates a school built by his nonprofit, Students Helping Honduras, which he started at UMW. SHH has built 55 schools in the impoverished country, which is currently on lockdown. While much of his staff have been evacuated, Fujiyama stayed behind in Honduras to care for 24 orphaned children. Photo courtesy of SHH.

Phoning it in isn’t an option for Shin Fujiyama ’07. At UMW, he threw himself into every assignment, task and responsibility – from serving hungry students in Seacobeck to organizing a thousand-person walkathon.

Now, living in Honduras in the midst of a global pandemic, Fujiyama is focused on rescuing the nonprofit he started at Mary Washington, Students Helping Honduras (SHH). While his American and European staff were evacuated due to the coronavirus threat, Fujiyama stayed behind to care for 24 orphaned kids at a children’s home he founded. To keep his dream alive of building schools across the impoverished country, he is relying on support from former professors and fellow alumni.

“My conviction to see this through has always been strong,” said Fujiyama, who started SHH 14 years ago with sister Cosmo, then a student at William & Mary. Since graduation from UMW, he’s lived in Honduras and oversees the nonprofit, which has over 50 chapters nationwide and has seen thousands of volunteers over the years.

Then came COVID-19.

“There’s a chance Honduras will face food shortages, civil unrest and massive outbreaks of the virus,” he said. “We need to confront those challenges together.” Read more.

La Ceiba, UMW student-run micro-finance organization, to shut down after nearly ten years (The Free Lance-Star)

A Palate for Poverty

Senior Jeffrey Paddock is no stranger to living on $2 a day.

UMW’s Month of Microfinance a Platform for Global Discussion

The University of Mary Washington will host the fourth annual Month of Microfinance this April, leveraging the month as a platform for a global discussion surrounding the results of a new study questioning microfinance’s impact on poverty.   #MicrofinanceCanBe Campaign Submission The Month of Microfinance is a global grassroots movement that aims to solve poverty through client-centered microfinance programs, including microcredit loans. Yet recent studies show that this movement might not be making a difference. The academic research, presented at the World Bank in February, included six randomized control trials of microcredit programs. The results showed that while microcredits are a viable method of developing business pursuits, the loans lack a significant and sustainable impact on moving people out of poverty. According to UMW Professor of Economic Shawn Humphrey, founder of the Month of Microfinance, the research is a challenge to the traditional microfinance narrative, where clients access credit to become entrepreneurs and pull themselves and their families out of poverty. “It’s a big moment for the movement,” said Humphrey. “Microfinance is more than just microcredit though. The conversations throughout April will highlight the need for microcredit to be complemented by additional services like financial literary training.” With the Month of Microfinance taking place in April, just two months after the results were published, the month becomes an opportunity for the microfinance community to respond to the research. “We’re the stage for the conversation about how to respond to this research,” said Humphrey. “We’re publishing responses to the research from key players in the space to start the discussion.” The Month of Microfinance blog includes two key responses to the research from Larry Reed, Director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and Sam Daley-Harris, author of Reclaiming our Democracy. The blog also shares an article by James Militzer, editor of NextBillion Financial Innovation, who notes that “for a researcher working on microcredit, this is kind of a defining moment.” UMW will also host a screening of the documentary “Living on One Dollar” and a panel discussion about the work of La Ceiba, a student-run microfinance organization in Honduras, on Friday, April 24. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Whole Foods in Richmond, Virginia. The Month of Microfinance was established in 2008 by Humphrey and is run by five UMW students. The month brings students, instructors, microfinance professionals and researchers together with more than 100 global partners to facilitate conversations and connections among those involved in poverty. For more information about the Month of Microfinance, visit or join the conversation on Twitter with #MicrofinanceCanBe.

UMW Leads National Two Dollar Challenge

Nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. And this April, students at colleges and universities across the nation will too. For the ninth consecutive year, the University of Mary Washington will lead the national Two Dollar Challengeto raise awareness of global poverty April 6-10. The 5-day awareness program challenges college and high school students across the United States to live on just two dollars a day. Participants buy food, hygiene products and other necessities out of two dollars a day while following other rules designed to simulate obstacles faced by people living in poverty. Click to view slideshow. Founded at UMW in 2006, the Two Dollar Challenge is now a national educational movement in partnership with Oxfam America and Results. The challenge is run by eight UMW students and Professor of Economics Shawn Humphrey – all on $50 and volunteer support. At UMW, students will spend the week living and sleeping in make-shift shelters built from cardboard boxes and tarps as part of an experiential learning experience. “I do the challenge to pull myself out of my comfort zone,” said senior James Hutcheson, who will be participating this year for the fourth time. “It challenges the way I view the world and it’s given me an incredible amount of empathy and tolerance for humankind.” This year, even UMW President Richard Hurley is getting involved. “It’s an opportunity to get a glimpse of how many people throughout the world live from day to day,” said Hurley. “I’m not the least bit surprised that UMW is leading this campaign. We attract students and faculty who are socially conscious and act on their beliefs.” During the week, students also raise funds for La Ceiba, a microfinance institution founded by UMW students to provide economic, social and educational support to the El Progreso community in Honduras. Through its partnership with Oxfam America and Results, the challenge also will raise awareness and support for lifesaving, effective foreign aid. For the first time this year, students across the nation will be able to participate in the Two Dollar Challenge with the use of two apps: Two Dollar Challenge and Reacht. Developed by UMW students, the Two Dollar Challenge app will allow participants to track expenses and income, experience environmental and economic ‘shocks’ that impact their daily earnings, and record daily reflections. “The app will unify and streamline the two dollar challenge experience,” said junior Sepher Sobhani, lead developer for the app. “A single shock can affect participants from all parts of the country, creating a greater sense of community.” The organization also has created a “Two Dollar Challenge” group in Reacht, an app created by a Fredericksburg-based technology startup that engages users by pushing out questions. To sign up for the National Two Dollar Challenge, visit For more information, contact Director of Media and Public Relations Marty Morrison at Click here to view the embedded video.

Humphrey and Alum Present at Feast on Good Conference


Shawn Humphrey (left) and Jon Pack ’95 presented at the Feast on Good Conference, Oct. 11.

Shawn Humphrey, associate professor of economics, presented at the Feast on Good Conference in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday, Oct. 11. His seminar, entitled Tribal Teaching: Rewild Your Students, was one of several presented throughout the weekend that focused on discussions about global issues. In addition, UMW Alum Jon Pack ’95 gave a talk during the conference. He co-presented with Gary Hustwit about Helvetica, The Olympic City.

Students Live on $2 a Day to Raise Money and Awareness for Poverty Issues

For a week at the beginning of April, senior Andrew Walz and more than 35 fellow students moved out of their residence halls at the University of Mary Washington and tried to ignore the smell of food from campus dining halls. Andrew Walz (right) talks with other students about the Two Dollar Challenge. Photo by Leigh Williams '14 The students, along with Associate Professor of Economics Shawn Humphrey were participants in the annual Two Dollar Challenge, an experiential learning exercise aimed at raising awareness and funds for poverty-related causes. We followed Walz, who plans to join the Peace Corps after graduation, throughout the week:
“It’s always interesting to see the campus community’s reaction to our camp when it goes up on the first day.  I remember walking by the camp my freshman year with my head   down, hoping to avoid being dragged into conversation with people outside of the tent. While there are certainly some people who treat us the same way I did, there does seem to be genuine interest among some students.”
“It is always nice when people come by, look at the tent wide eyed, and ask why we would ever want to do something like sleep outside or live meagerly when we could so easily do so otherwise.  Their questions are often genuine and the start of a good conversation where we can talk about poverty.  These interactions always confirm my belief in TDC as a change making activity at UMW.”
The students spent the week in a homemade shelter on Ball Circle. Photo by Leigh Williams '14 The students lived in a self-made structure on Ball Circle and spent only $2 each day on food and other expenses. In the process, they hoped to raise more than $5,000 for La Ceiba, a microfinance institution, while shedding light on poverty issues.
“For me, the mental fatigue that comes with living on such a small level of nourishment is much worse than the physical issues. Even trying to go to class and focus or doing homework outside is 10 times more difficult this week than it is on any other week. The lack of food makes focusing that much harder, and that combined with being outside as much as possible makes getting things done nearly impossible but I have to keep trying.  It just puts the situation of the poor into perspective because my troubles with class cannot even compare to trying to hold down a job, search for a job, or taking care of a family.”
The Two Dollar Challenge, founded by Humphrey, is in its eighth year at UMW. The challenge has spread across the country, and this year has taken up roots internationally. Junior Jeff Paddock is participating in the challenge for one month while studying abroad in Peru. He is sharing his experience in a blog. Students placed signs on Campus Walk during the Two Dollar Challenge to encourage people to think about poverty issues. Photo by Leigh Williams '14 The challenge is part of the larger TDC organization, which also includes the Month of Microfinance movement and the Poverty Action Conference.
“I would like to think that even the memory of our tent camp will be enough to spark conversation for a few days after we have packed up and moved back into the normal college life.  That’s the objective of TDC, to provoke conversation and to give all members of the UMW community a chance to open up and think about their relationship with their fellow community members, whether they be rich or poor.  And who knows, maybe we inspired someone to participate next year who had been on the fence this year!”
For more information about the Two Dollar Challenge or to participate in next year’s challenge, contact Humphrey at

Shawn Humphrey Joins IMAGINE Social Good as First Social Good Fellow (New.PitchEngine.Com)

Economics Class Learning the Ropes

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Shawn Humphrey and 10 economics students roped in teamwork and built camaraderie Oct. 19 after attending a daylong retreat to Challenge Discovery at University of Richmond.

“We run a microfinance organization in Honduras and an important part, very important part, of being effective and delivering on our services to over 55 clients is to work with creativity and collaboratively as a team,” said Humphrey, associate professor of economics.

The microfinance organization, La Ceiba, is a student-run program that operates in El Progreso, Honduras working to help the people of El Progreso beat poverty.

Students Meet with Nobel Peace Prize Winner

UMW students and graduates met with Muhammad Yunus (fifth from left) during a trip to D.C.

UMW students and graduates met with Muhammad Yunus (fifth from left) during a trip to D.C.

Associate Professor of Economics Shawn Humphrey  and more than a dozen current UMW students and graduates met with Bangladeshi banker, economist and Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus during a trip to Washington, D.C. on Monday, July 22. The meeting was a reward for the students’ work with the Month of Microfinance and La Ceiba.

Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, is the seventh person to have received the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize. He is credited with establishing the concept of microfinance and was recently named one of the most influential business thinkers by the Wall Street Journal.