Since mid June, CEF has been brightened by the eager spirits and tireless efforts of Doug Chan and Katelyn McCarthy, our Lend for America (LFA) Fellows. Both jumped right into CEF. If this were the Summer Olympics, they would have received top scores for their seamless dives into the program. Summer intern Lucy Manning sat down with Doug and Katelyn over a meal of Cosmic Cantina to talk about first impressions, memorable experiences, why they are here, and what they have learned in their time as Lend for America Fellows.
To start, Doug and Katelyn are here through an organization called Lend for America, a group that supports students who are starting their own campus microfinance institutions (Campus MFIs). [Quick term breakdown: An MFI is any group that provides financial services on a small scale. A campus MFI is an MFI run and/or started by students]. The fellowship gives them a stipend to participate in the operations of one of three MFIs (CEF being one), and to absorb and learn what it takes to be successful in this sector. As Doug said, “Part of the LFA Fellowship is learning from the very best, which is CEF.” So for those of you who didn’t know, CEF is a pretty big deal: one of the best and most successful organizations of its kind. People from outside of Chapel Hill and Durham have heard about us. Doug knew about us his senior year of high school! In fact, he almost went to UNC for the opportunity to work with CEF.
Both were shocked by the emotional strength required for work at CEF. They had very wise insights on the balance between emotional attachment and productivity.
Katelyn McCarthy will be a sophomore at Indiana University, majoring in Economic Consulting and Sustainable Practice, and is part of a budding MFI called Hoosier Social Impact Fund. She chose CEF to go out on a limb, travel to the distant land of North Carolina, and experience a culture different than the one in which she was raised. Despite any differences between the Midwest and the South, Katelyn sees universal truths she has learned here that can be applied back home. She was most struck by the strong bonds between Members and Advocates, and how quickly these bonds can be formed. Katelyn recognized early on that the relationships formed were more than client relationships. When asked what elements of CEF she will take home to HSIF, Katelyn mentioned the organizational culture, and the particular terminology (member, advocate, team leader, etc.) that creates an inclusive environment, fuels volunteers’ passion, and motivates them to keep coming back.
Doug Chan will be a third-year (junior) at the University of Virginia, and is studying Finance and Economics. Through a social entrepreneurship class, Doug and two others created Community Honor Fund, which is focused on providing financial services to UVA employees. Doug is particularly passionate about solving the problem of predatory payday loans, and hopes to offer a better alternative. Doug pointed out a great aspect of CEF in our conversation about what he will take back to UVA and Community Honor Fund: he heralded the focus on the client, and has learned that the outcomes that are most important to the client should also be the most important and central to the organization. In addition, he noted the relevance of an organization being the best at what it does. As he said, if someone else does what we want to do better than we do, then we ought to be giving our money to support them.
Thank you Doug and Katelyn for everything you have done and will continue to do with the rest of your time at CEF! We wish you all the best in your endeavors!