TWU students learn and work within one of Africa’s busiest economic hubs, Kenya

For three weeks in May, a group of TWU students travelled to experience firsthand one of Africa’s busiest economic hubs—Kenya.


Through hands-on service to the local community, meeting business owners and leaders, and joining Kenyan university students on a four-day work placement with local businesses, TWU students gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for different cultures, the various challenges that countries around the world face, and what these perspectives mean for business.

“We wanted students to gain a deeper understanding of the full spectrum of business, from one person selling things on the side of the road, to a massive multi-national,” said Dr. Brian t’ Hart, who led this year’s Kenya travel study alongside Dr. Brian Albright, both of whom teach in TWU’s School of Business.


“A travel study to Kenya allowed students the opportunity to not only see a wide spectrum of different types of businesses, but also better understand what it means to do global business, understand challenges faced by other countries and explore how we might have a positive influence in the communities we operate in, particularly from a Christian perspective.” 


‘A perfect learning location for the world of business in a global context’

A bustling business economy thrives within Kenya, comprised of small street vendors, local retailers and manufacturers, an explosive start-up community, and large international corporations. Dr. Brian t’ Hart describes how this environment makes Kenya “a perfect learning location for students to explore the world of business in a global context.”

“A travel study to Kenya allowed students the opportunity to not only see a wide spectrum of different types of businesses, but also better understand what it means to do global business, understand challenges faced by other countries and explore how we might have a positive influence in the communities we operate in, particularly from a Christian perspective,” Dr. t’ Hart said. 



Around half of the businesses the students visited during the trip were led by Christian owners and driven by Christian values. Students had the opportunity to grapple with questions, for example, relating to business ethics and employee treatment and salaries, and how to approach these issues in international contexts and from a faith-based perspective.

“Walking in the footsteps of Jesus, we are called to have a deep sacrificial love for those around us. However, it’s not always clear what this looks like within a business context, particularly when we can’t see the impact of our decisions on communities abroad,” Dr. t’ Hart commented. “This travel study gave students the opportunity to see some of the challenges faced abroad, and then explore from a Christian perspective how businesses should operate within this global context.”

These aims were achieved by showing students a range of businesses, both small and big, and also having students spend time in the village community so they could appreciate the backdrop against which these businesses operate. After observing and learning, students spent four days working with local businesses, to build relationships and gain an even deeper understanding of doing business within Kenya.


As a core part of the trip, students also spent four days in the village, where they interacted with locals, visited with people in their homes, helped with some chores, and hosted a small business class for local village school children.


Serving alongside the Kenyan community

Before launching into visits with local businesses, students spent four days living and serving with villagers in Eldoret, a rural area in Kenya.

“We wanted our students to see the full picture of Kenya, so as to better understand where business fits in, and how it impacts people’s lives.”



Part of that meant spending four days in the village, where students interacted with locals, visited with people in their homes, helped with some chores, hosted a small business class for local village school children, and attended church.

“This was a core part of the trip, since it provided the backdrop for further business visits,” Dr. t’ Hart explained. “It also helped us to better understand how what we do in Canada can impact families and communities abroad.” 

In particular, students spent time at Living Room Ministries International, with the organization’s hospital and hospice in Eldoret.


Beyond a variety of local organizations, students also had the opportunity to speak to staff from multinational firms such as Coca-Cola and Colgate. Through meeting with multinationals, students learned how international corporations operate in Kenya, how they are structured, and how people in Kenya feel about these companies.



Selection of businesses visited

Dr. t’ Hart introduces some of the businesses that students visited.

Kitu Kali is a Kenyan shoe manufacturer that is supporting local slum workers. The company has begun exporting products to the U.K. “We visited this company to understand the challenges of expanding globally, and the setbacks they have experienced,” said Dr. t’ Hart.

Decoline is a cabinet manufacturer, whose owner is originally from South Korea but has lived in Kenya for many years. Visiting this company, which employs up to 200 people, helped students to better understand the challenges of starting a firm within a different culture and managing people in a different context. 


“I was inspired to see so many businesses effectively meeting the economic, physical, relational, emotional and spiritual needs of their community, sustaining themselves and those around them.”


Run by Christian expats from the U.S., First Power Fitness offers CrossFit training. At this company, students learned what it means to conduct business within a Kenyan context and some of the challenges business owners face, particularly as Christians operating in a society rated highly in corruption rankings.

A trip to Buffalo Mill, a corn flour mill in Eldoret, introduced students to manufacturing in Kenya and helped students to see the central role that agriculture plays in generating wealth in local communities. A visit to Deruiter, a rose flower farm with strong ties to Holland, provided students with a perspective on how Kenya is emerging as a strong location for flower growing due to its favourable climate and other factors. 



Learning about social entrepreneurship 

Sinapis is a Christian startup incubator, one of three different incubator groups that students visited. Sinapis trains and supports local entrepreneurs, helping them to scale their businesses. With more than 1,000 alumni firms and growing, Sinapis is serving to drive social entrepreneurship.

“Social entrepreneurship is an explosive industry in Kenya, and we wanted to better understand this industry,” Dr. t’ Hart commented. 

Beyond a variety of local organizations, students also had the opportunity to speak to staff from multinational firms such as Coca-Cola and Colgate. Through meeting with multinationals, students learned how international corporations operate in Kenya, how they are structured, and how people in Kenya feel about these companies.

Going to work with local businesses for four days

In partnership with African Nazarene University (ANU) in Kenya, and Heavenly Treasures, a group that buys from local businesses and sells overseas, students completed an in-country project that involved working with local Kenyan businesses for four days.

As Heavenly Treasures works with hundreds of small businesses, TWU and ANU students were grouped together and assigned to work with local Kenyan firms. One group of students worked with a photo frame producer, another with a wooden bird producer, and another with a bag producer. Firms varied in size and expertise, which meant that students needed to learn quickly and adapt.

“In the spirit of mutual collaboration, the goal was simply to listen and learn from each other,” Dr. t’ Hart said of the in-country project. “Everyone found the experience valuable… Overall, it was a great opportunity to build strong connections with local business people and understand the challenges they faced on the ground.”  


“Business is often perceived as self-serving, but I recognize that as a Christian, my chosen career within business is actually missional. This trip shaped my view of business tremendously as I want to empower people of all walks of life along their employment journey."



Business student gains global experience

Fourth-year business student Isabella Alvarez was among those who joined the Kenya travel study.

With an interest in human resources, especially employee relations and employee learning and development, Isabella is pursuing a BBA specializing in Human Resources Management, plus a certificate in Pre-Law.

As part of the travel study, she is completing a research paper on the topic of “Talent Development in Kenya”. During the trip, she gathered her observations while learning about talent development within a new cultural context. 

“Having the opportunity to connect with dozens of business people and tour factories made every day memorable,” she said.  



While visiting business development groups Sinapis and Africa Yes, Isabella was impressed by how these organizations intentionally invested in Kenyan entrepreneurs through “human-centred” venture support and training, and mentorship programs.

“I was inspired to see so many businesses effectively meeting the economic, physical, relational, emotional and spiritual needs of their community, sustaining themselves and those around them,” she said.

As she reflects on the intersection of faith and business, Isabella comments, “Business is often perceived as self-serving, but I recognize that as a Christian, my chosen career within business is actually missional.”

She continues, “This trip shaped my view of business tremendously as I want to empower people of all walks of life along their employment journey. While I deepened my ability to identify opportunities and challenges in conducting business abroad, I recognize the importance of making a meaningful and lasting social impact with my God-given skillset.”

One of the most memorable activities during the trip was the Maasai Mara National Reserve safari, which Isabella describes as “the most surreal and beautiful experience.”

Isabella adds that her business professors made the travel study an excellent learning experience, “Professors Brian Albright and Brian ‘t Hart were absolutely phenomenal leaders and made the journey a truly unforgettable one. They represented the thoughtfulness and excellence that Trinity professors are known for, and I am grateful to them and the School of Business for this entire opportunity.”


"It was a truly humbling experience to be welcomed with generosity, even when those we were visiting did not have much. I saw Christ exemplified through their hospitality and selflessness and was inspired by their perseverance in the midst of hardship."



'A truly humbling experience'

Andrew Bouchard is a fourth-year business student specializing in marketing, and he is the incoming 2022-23 TWU Student Association (TWUSA) President.

Among the most significant parts of the trip for Andrew were the five days spent at Living Room International's hospice. “Throughout our stay we visited previous patients of the hospice to deliver medicine and to learn about their lives and culture,” he said. “It was a truly humbling experience to be welcomed with generosity, even when those we were visiting did not have much.”

“I saw Christ exemplified through their hospitality and selflessness and was inspired by their perseverance in the midst of hardship,” Andrew continued. “I saw that adversity can be a blessing when seen from the right perspective, and that our attitudes can have a monumental impact on each other. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to learn and participate firsthand through this travel study.”


“I learned that as a Christian with a calling to business, I will not only strive to create value within a company but also [endeavour] to serve others and share the gospel through my work.”


Beyond 'business as mission'

Another memorable experience for Andrew was a conversation with Peter and Wendy Twycross, who own and operate Business For Life, a business development program in Nairobi.

Andrew recalls how Peter shared on the topic of “business as mission,” where, through running a business, Christians immerse themselves within a local culture for the purpose of sharing the gospel.

The challenge however, as Peter shared, is that this model requires the business to be successful, which is often difficult for someone without a business background, in an unfamiliar place.

Yet there may be a better way. “Peter introduced us to the idea that instead of having to utilize the structure of business as mission, we can see that business itself is mission,” Andrew recounted. “Christian business owners can share the gospel through their morality and excellence exemplified in their industries.”

Andrew summarized what he gained, “I learned that as a Christian with a calling to business, I will not only strive to create value within a company but also [endeavour] to serve others and share the gospel through my work.”

Finally, Andrew gives credit to the professors who organized and led the travel study, saying "I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to attend this trip and for the incredible leadership of Professors Brian Albright and Brian ‘t Hart. They spent a considerable amount of time and effort to ensure that the trip ran smoothly and that the students on the travel study were able to grow and learn as Christian leaders."

"They personally mentored and encouraged us to dig deeper in our research and understanding of business. I am so grateful for their servant-hearted leadership, which is an example of the standard of quality and character seen throughout the business program."


See also — TWU students and instructors teach science and conservation to elementary kids through long-running Salmon in the Valley program
 
TWU News


About TWU travel studies

Travel studies allow you to immerse yourself in a different culture. Every moment spent abroad is an opportunity to learn. TWU professors lead the courses, joined by guest speakers who provide a local perspective. For many students, participating in a travel study is one of the more memorable experiences, if not a life-changing one. Learn more at TWU travel studies.


About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier global Christian liberal arts university. We are dedicated to equipping students to discover meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. Drawing upon the riches of the Christian tradition, seeking to unite faith and reason through teaching and scholarship, Trinity Western University is a degree-granting research institution offering liberal arts and sciences as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has four locations in Canada: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, and Ottawa. Learn more at www.twu.ca or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

For media inquiries, please contact: media@twu.ca.
 
The views expressed by students and alumni are their own. They do not necessarily represent the views of Trinity Western University or of any other companies, groups or organizations named.

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