This post is a continuation of an interview with Josh Chamalé, UNUM’s founder. Check out Part One of this interview!
What would you say makes up the DNA of UNUM?
So I think we can talk about the DNA of UNUM in two different aspects- one would be the organizational side of things, like the structure and how we do what we do. And the other is what we do. The DNA of our programs revolves around three different aspects of our life – mind, body, and spirit. When you really dive into each one of them, the options of how to serve are endless.
Something we pride ourselves on is that we don’t come with a project, get to the community, and say, “Hey! This is what we’re doing”. Instead, we get to know them. We sit with the school principals and community leaders and leaders of the church, and we try to get to know them, learn where they’re at, listen to their needs, and then we adjust to them. I think that’s a huge piece- really listening to them and getting to know the value of their lives to the program, to put a face, to put a relationship to what we do, I think that’s key to every single one of the programs. That’s also why if you go to any of the four communities, all of them are different. There’s definitely some similarities because Guatemala has similar needs across it’s villages and towns, but when you really pay attention you see the differences and being able to adjust (to those differences) is really important.
But then, as an organization, I think our DNA has become our standards as well. When you get to know me, you’ll see that they’re applied to my personal life as well. Prayer, excellence, unity, transparency, and accountability, and I always joke about doubling down on those (transparency and accountability) because it’s about being real. I think if I could’ve used more “regular” words I would just say “be real.”
Another big one is cultural relevance. That’s huge for me. I’m thirty-four now, so I’m not that young, but I really believe that to continue doing what we’re doing we need to be culturally relevant. We need to be culturally relevant in what we do but also in how we approach others. So for me, it means that people feel welcome to come and volunteer and do something together; that people in the past who maybe wouldn’t have gotten involved in the organization are now involved because they see who we are and how we operate. I think that’s huge for me, and it’s huge for UNUM. We want to be an organization that you can approach and when you see everything that we’re doing, you’re excited and proud to be part of it; that if you donated, you know where every single penny is going, and the results of not only how those funds were used, but the effect that the donation had. I think our core values really affect the DNA of UNUM, and how we look does as well. It’s not that organizations are boring, but that traditional organizational look really creates a wall between people and the work that is going on. So I think staying true to our youthfulness and keeping things real and accessible to everybody really calls young and not – so – young people to come together and join this amazing cause of seeing Guatemala transformed not just physically but spiritually as well. Those core values, and especially the one of accountability, make UNUM stand out.
What would you say to Josh in December 2018, sitting in the living room, sending emails (to officially start the NGO)… if you could tell that Josh anything what would you say?
I think after pressing that send button, I would be like, “You’re not going to believe what happens.” But yeah, after that joke, being a little more real, I would be like, “you’re not going to believe what happens, so chill.” Because starting something is not easy, and it can be stressful, and like I said, 2020 was wrecking to the vision I saw then (when I began), so I think I would just be like, “It’s going to be fine. You didn’t make a mistake. It’s all part of the process. Continue to trust.”
I think one of my favorite verses – paraphrased by me – that has stuck with me the past couple of years is “what He starts He will sustain”. I think if I was able to tell myself something back in December 2018, that would be it.
If you only had thirty seconds to tell someone about UNUM, what would you want them to know, what would you say to them?
I would tell them, “Join us!”; I’d say that if you join UNUM, you’re not only going to be part of the transformation of Guatemala, but your life is going to be changed as well. I love that about us. Our ministry is a two way street; it’s not just pouring out to the children, but pouring into the team that is involved in making this happen. Whether you’re a volunteer on a mission trip, you’re a donor, or you want to volunteer your skills for a project, I assure you that by seeing in testimony the “being one” and being part of the body of Christ, that’s going to change your life. And you’re also going to be a witness to seeing the transformation in Guatemala.