By: Hoang Thi Thu Van, from Vietnam, 2016 YSEALI Professional Fellow

I can not wait more to show my feeling, I have heard from other YSEALI fellows a lot of words like: "unforgetable", "inspiration", "excitement", "connecting", "leading", “cultural discovery” or " amazing ", these are also exactly my emotions. Although it’s near a half of the fellowship time in the U.S, I am convinced that it will be one of the best memories in my life.

Unlike others, I didn’t count how many days from we arrived Montana, I just counted my remaining days here. Only 18 days left in Montana and 6 other ones in the Washington D.C. And I wonder, what great things await us forward, are these great like what I’ve been through?- I hope!

From 9th, May, Away from interesting lessons in the Mansfiled Center which has provided us with the background of knowledge about American society, the American cultural values, the U.S NGOs sector, on fundraising, marketing, action plan … I entered the homestay experience with all eagerness to learn about the daily life of an American family. My host, the four-people-family with a nice couple Julie & Ben and so cute twin-boys, is so kind to welcome me to stay in their home. We’ve been shared simple moments together: cooking, having dinner, playing with the kids, talking about our family and our work. I realized that, from the sharing people will become more closer despite of the distance on language, culture, context or qualifications.

An amazing thing that I have to mention, is my 2 first days at Montana Community Development Corporation, where I was greeted in a warm way to the extent that make me completely remove the initial apprehension to a strange place. I quickly learned what the MontanaCDC are doing. MontanaCDC provides financing and consulting to entrepreneurs and small business owners across Montana and Idaho, as well as affordable housing solutions in both states. MCDC continue to expand their services where needed while staying true to their mission of transforming lives of individuals and strengthening community prosperity. MontanaCDC is one of the first Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) in the country to be certified by the US Treasury.

In the morning, I learnt about the CDFIs system – the clients data management system of MCDC where they record, save, track and update all information on their clients, learn about how they vadidate information news, data and control information from external systems. The huge data system will give you a full view of the clients in the individual information, economic status, their business and so much more. This data also be used to determine what is the clients need on the financing and MCDC will give them coulsulting that could help them better.

For the next activity, I was be accompanied with Ms. Keegan Flaherty ( Manager of strategy) to visit the Poverello Center – a MCDC client – to better understand the efforts and contributions of MCDC to the community through their business. In 2014, the Poverello Center, Missoula’s only emergency homeless shelter, faced a looming crisis with its existing 100-year-old building. They couldn’t fully meet the changing needs of the homeless population, including an increasing number of homeless veterans. Montana CDC was able to help make a new, efficient facility happen by providing New Markets Tax Credits financing. I was really impressed with what I saw in there. The Poverello Center is providing a necessary safety net for community members living in hunger and homelessness. They feed the hungry, cloth the naked, and shelter the homeless in the spirit of peace and care for others. As an award winning non-profit organization, the Poverello Center provides education, advocacy, and a multitude of services to improve the health, well-being, and stability of people struggling with poverty in Missoula.

The next thing is the attend the Lending team weekly meeting that I learnt many things about the loan approval process of MCDC. Lending team meeting is a step in the entire process to approve a loan, at this meeting, the lending specialist will give an opinion to say yes or no to offer a loan to client. The decision was to express from the discussion based on the information included: personal characters, prestige, financial situation, credit history, sustainability, purpose, risk level..etc. Meeting is not funny activity, but it really makes sense to me. Since I have found some ideas to solve challenges that my organization is facing. I am thinking about setting a lending team in my organization, where lending decisions will be made by a team of experts to ensure that the loan will be address clients needs and become an important resource to improve their incomes and living conditions. It’s a very different way with what we were doing in my contry.

To conclude my writing, there is exciting slogan that I saw in MCDC office that I would like to say with 2016 YSEALI professional fellowship organizers that: “ Communities need dreamers and dreamers need you”. Thank all of you to make us become the dreamers of our communities – YSEALI fellows.


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