DBU Students Teach Principles for Life in Sierra Leone

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Freetown, Sierra Leone - When Dr. Ross O'Brien traveled to Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, in March of this year, he could not foresee that just seven months later he would be returning with five students from Dallas Baptist University as a part of his International Travel and Management class.

Dr. O'Brien started working with Global Connection Partnership Network last Spring to see how DBU might be able to support the organization's ministry in Freetown and impact the local Sierra Leoneans. The greatest need that Dr. O'Brien saw was for business training. Soon, he began developing a course at DBU for students to put their education into practice.

The course took form this fall with five students: Cami Duke, Becca Thompkins, Carrie Kennedy, Fred Ndavi, and Peter Roehnig. Dr. O'Brien wanted students to have the opportunity to gain insight into how business is conducted in another part of the world. He could have chosen a very rich and prosperous nation with affluent people, but instead, he chose one of the poorest nations in the world to provide his students with an opportunity to make a personal impact on the lives of those they would encounter.

Located on the West African coast, Sierra Leone has a very high rate of unemployment, and the people of this impoverished nation are daily fighting for a way to survive. Abundant with natural resources, the government lacks a strong infrastructure and economy to support the citizens since the Civil War that ravaged the country nearly 10 years ago.

While in Freetown, the DBU team worked with 11 local women who needed training in successful business practices. They had received six months of cosmetology training from GCPN and wanted to start their own salons; however, they did not have the business background and knowledge necessary to start such an endeavor.

Each day of the trip, the DBU team shared with the women how to develop marketing, operations and financial plans for their future businesses. Providing them with practical skills gave these women hope for the future. But they learned even more than that during the week; they also learned about the love of a Savior, Jesus Christ.

"We did not just teach them a business plan," said Dr. O'Brien. "We laid a biblical basis for work and for business. We talked about factors of success and causes of failure in business, among other things. "

One day, the group traveled into the heart of the capital to interact with local businesses and observe their system of commerce. Breaking into the groups, the students interacted with business owners and asked questions about where they received their supplies from and how they conducted general operations.

Aided by translators from The Evangelical College of Theology, the DBU students enjoyed getting to know the local Sierra Leoneans on a personal basis and observing their daily activities.

They also traveled to the city of Bo where they saw two ministries caring for orphans. This was a particularly moving experience for the students as they interacted with children at a local school.

"We were talking with the older kids and getting ready to take a picture with them, when the younger students (ages 4-10) were released from their classes," recalled Cami Duke, a business management major. "The team heard shouts of excitement and looked up to see a charge of little ones running after us. We all braced ourselves and were overrun by the many smiling excited faces. They were grabbing our hands and wanting to take pictures with us. I will never forget their smiling faces and especially the two little boys who held my hands all the way back down the hill."

The class trip proved to be life-changing for the DBU students who traveled out of their comfort zone to learn about new people and cultures.

"Everyone had their different desires for deciding to take part in the trip but the Lord really unified us and centralized our focus on completing the Kingdom work that was set before us," said Duke. "When the days were long and extremely hot, we accepted it and encouraged each other to make it through. All of our accomplishments throughout the week were a team effort and for God's glory."
Written by Kalie Lowrie

Kalie Lowrie was the former Director of News and Information at Dallas Baptist University.