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Business Students, Faculty, Help in Unexpected Ways on Kenya Visit

Aug. 30, 2012

By Logan Angel

Cindy Riemenschneider, associate professor of Management Information Systems (MIS), did not know what was in store when she agreed to go on a mission trip through Baylor Spiritual Life, but she was really looking forward to it.

And since having the honor of being with the medical mission team at Baylor on their fourth trip to Kenya, she is excited for her return to the country.

"Dr. Lisa Baker of the Honors College has taken pre-med students the past few years to Kenya, but this year it was decided that myself and Tisha Emerson, associate professor of Economics, would be able to bring along Business Fellows students for the first time," Riemenschneider said.

Business Fellows is a program offered by Baylor's Hankamer School of Business. High-achieving students can combine their interests in more than one field of study with a personally customized degree plan.

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From May 13-30, 64 students and faculty members from Baylor along with doctors set out to help some of the 52,000 people of Nyakach Plateau, outside of Kisumu, the second largest city in Kenya.

While the doctors and pre-med students spent their time tending to patients at a local orphanage, Riemenschneider, Emerson, and the Business Fellows students helped other people in the surrounding areas.

"Our mission was to aid 10 different groups of women, known as the business groups of Bethlehem Home, in their ventures of raising money for orphans and widows in the local area, as well as supporting themselves," Riemenschneider said.

Over their time spent there, Riemenschneider, Emerson, and the students introduced new business concepts to the women of the Bethlehem Home, and got some hands-on experience in some unexpected ways.

The first of the visits was to a clothing store where many people in the surrounding area venture to get clothes for their families.

"The group had already been doing a good job, but we wanted to help by telling them about the concepts of having sales to get rid of extra inventory, making coupons and discounts available, and even giving out frequent buyer cards for them to be able to implement in years to come once we were gone, " Riemenschneider said.

With the assistance and brainstorming of Riemenschneider and company, the group hopes to get into the market of selling school uniforms in the near future.

Another group visited included women who raise goats to produce milk, three goats of which were given as a gift to the group from donations raised by Emerson's third-grade daughter and her friends at school.

Other groups grow vegetables such as kale, maize, and tomatoes, and sell homemade baskets.

But no group felt closer to heart than the women raising chickens, something Riemenschneider has lots of experience doing at her home.

"We soon realized after visiting with these women that they could really benefit from an incubator so they could hatch more eggs at a time, something readily available to people in America who are in the same field," Riemenschneider said.

Creating an incubator in Kenya was a different story however, resulting in many trips to various spread-out areas for all involved to collect necessary items such as the light bulb and fan. It required five days of work to make the product functional.

"Surprisingly, I was somewhat knowledgeable about the incubator, since my husband had just created one for our chickens. You never know what God is going to do with your talents," Riemenschneider continued.

Lastly, Riemenschneider was inspired by taking a trip coordinated by the Kenyan director of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to a branch operations office in Busia, Kenya with some of the students.

"They've created so many new innovations, from foot pedals for water at outhouses to prevent the spread of disease, to chlorine distributors at water sites for purification. They also helped with the distribution of deworming medicine for all sorts of school children," Riemenschneider said.

"I'm really looking forward to getting another chance to go back to Kenya to pick up from where we left off on this trip," Riemenschneider finished.

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