SIFE team shares expertise on Kenya trip 

February 3, 2011

KENYA – A year ago, sophomore Leigh Castillo didn’t know much about business, and certainly not about starting up a new business from scratch.

Today, she’s president of Wayland Baptist University’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team and has just returned from helping the team educate small business owners in the African nation of Kenya.

All this is pretty overwhelming for Castillo, a single mom who has aspirations of teaching English in the secondary schools. But with the experiences she has received at Wayland – including the opportunity to be on three continents over the course of a year – she is convinced that God is blessing her plans to pursue her educational goals.

With that in mind, Castillo feels the three-week trip to Kenya was a chance to pass on those blessings and share important information with nationals who are seeking to sustain their families through small business ventures. It’s an on-the-ground effort to live out the maxim, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

Five of the six SIFE team members traveled to Kenya on Jan. 9, spending three weeks in the African nation in three specific cities. Through ties made in a summer trip to Kenya by Dr. Kelly Warren, associate professor of management at Wayland, local residents who run small businesses were recruited to attend the seminar presentations. Castillo said on Warren’s summer trip, he met a Kenya man who was interested in helping the smaller communities learn about business practices and sustainability. Warren had an idea that the smaller SIFE group could fill that need easily, and since WBU had already planned a January trip to Kenya through the Wayland Mission Center, it seemed an easy fit.

“We had to work quickly to get our fundraising together for the trip,” noted Castillo, who said Warren first approached the group at the start of the fall term. “Since we already knew each other, it didn’t take us long to work out how we’d work together, so that helped.”

The group first spent a few days at Wayland’s Kenya campus at Brackenhurst near Limuru, brushing up on their presentation outline with help from Dr. Gilbert Werema, associate professor of marketing and a native of Kenya, who knew what would most benefit the businesspeople there and what they would need. He also provided important cultural background information on the attendees.

“We worked with church and community leaders there and taught basic business principles such as communication, choosing a microenterprise, planning and finances, marketing, and recordkeeping,” said Castillo, noting that each SIFE member handled a different aspect of the presentation based on their expertise.

“The people there don’t have any formal business training. They just decide to grow something or create something. But they don’t know anything about recordkeeping or talking to suppliers or other considerations that would help them sustain themselves. Marketing was a big thing for them,” she added

The team then spent three days each in Nyeri and Eldoret before traveling to the larger city of Mumbasa for two days. The Nyeri seminars drew the largest crowd, with about 100 attending. Castillo said that area had a lot of agricultural businesses represented, as did Eldoret, and Mumbasa featured more retail businesses and landlords. About 50 people attended the seminar in Eldoret and another 25 in Mumbasa.

Castillo said aside from the business seminars, some pastors from Texas and Dr. Warren did some leadership training with area churches and held some pastors’ meetings, then led a crusade in the cities in the evenings. On the third day, the business owners had a chance to question the SIFE group and help with business plans. The seminar groups were divided by trade for the business plan segment since they shared many aspects.

The American students found the Kenyans quite receptive to the information shared, though Castillo admitted they were apprehensive about how helpful they would be and how the Kenyans would regard young students with business information.

“They really grasped a lot of the concepts we shared and understood what they needed to do to be sustainable,” she said. “On our last week as we were leaving, one of the tour guides shared that the people in Nyeri had had another meeting to talk more about the information we left with them.”

Castillo noted that the needs of business owners in each Kenyan city varied but they were able to address those needs in the short time they had there. In Nyeri, they needed unique marketable ideas so they didn’t have too much competition. In Eldoret, the need was more for preventing overproduction that led to a lack of supply and demand. And in Mumbasa, owners were troubled by credit issues with fellow businesses.

Though the SIFE group was not there on a traditional mission trip in many senses of the word, Castillo said she still feels the team was able to minister through practical advice that will ultimately build the economy in the African nation.

“My pastor talks about how the Lord wants to empower you to prosper and if we were able to sow that seed into their lives and help empower them, that was good,” she said. “The Lord has given us all an idea and something to manage, and He wants us to manage it correctly so He can increase us more, whether with health, with more business or more friends. A lot of times we tied in the Bible with the concepts we were presenting as well.”

Another aspect to the Kenya trip was the SIFE team’s recruiting of additional Wayland students for a chapter there at Brackenhurst. The Americans had a chance to share about what SIFE does and their efforts to help the community. In the end, they recruited about 20 to SIFE there, and those Wayland students already began brainstorming ideas for projects they can do to better their own communities. One idea was a clean-up day to combat the trend of trash around the city; another involved literacy training to combat the high illiteracy rate in Kenya.

Castillo is encouraged by the efforts on all ends, especially as a big proponent of education. She joined the SIFE team last spring after being encouraged to bring her communications and presentation skills from her role on the Wayland Ethics Match team. She enjoyed the SIFE involvement and the wide range of projects, and was encouraged that she didn’t have to be a business major to join the group. In actuality, advisors said the team likes to open itself to majors from other disciplines because they all bring unique talents and experiences to the group.

The English education major was grateful for the chance to visit Kenya, especially after being able to attend a mission trip and study trip to Ecuador last summer with the School of Education. She believes these overseas experiences will benefit her greatly as a future educator. Eventually she would like to pursue the master’s degree and a doctorate in English and wants to teach at the college level.

Seeing the determination, hard work and perseverance of the Kenyan business owners was encouraging to Castillo, who is a full-time student, part-time worker in the WBU business office and mother to Bella Jace Moreno, 9. She was encouraged to pursue her college degrees as an adult student in January 2009 after reading newspaper announcements mentioning college degrees and wanting more for her life’s listing than simply being a high school graduate.

Castillo noted that a Kenyan woman named Sarai, who was self-taught and quite the entrepreneur, provided much encouragement and a good example for the students while hosting them in her home near Eldoret.

Besides the SIFE team’s presence in Kenya, Dr. Rick Shaw, assistant professor of missions and director of the Wayland Mission Center and Kenya program, took a group of six to Kenya to work in two main areas. That group spent half the trip in Kakamega, a city in far western Kenya, where they constructed a facility for an office, library and training center for Christ the King Baptist Church, which was planted by WBU Kenya graduate Obadiah Alubisia who serves as pastor to the congregation. Missy McClure of First Baptist Church in Canyon led a women’s conference for 13 churches in the area, and Shaw led a pastor’s conference for the same 13 churches. The group facilitated an interfaith dialogue with Muslims and worked with women and orphanages in the area as well.

The group also spent time in Karanjee and the Misiri slum, primarily working with orphans through the Living Proof Baptist Church. Graduate student Ashley Beggs and adjunct history instructor Nick Pruitt, both WBU Plainview graduates, worked heavily with HIV/AIDS clients, one of whom died during the trip. Shaw and Pruitt conducted the woman’s funeral, and the pair also preached and baptized nearly two dozen new believers at the request of local pastor Linus Kirimi.