Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Faulu Kenya: A Small World

Ken Wathome, the chairman of Faulu Kenya, spoke at a luncheon I attended last week. The meeting became an unexpected “small world” experience for me.

A few years ago, my church partnered with Pastor Francis of Eldoret, Kenya, to start a small microenterprise project through his community church and orphanage. I wrote about his visit to Bud’s Warehouse last summer.

When the project started, Cathy Cutrell, who took the lead on Centennial Covenant Church’s efforts, enrolled in the distance learning economic development program of Chalmers Center. She became our resident expert on best practices in Christian international economic development. One of the organizations she learned about was Faulu. She became the driving force for a partnership between our start-up organization and Faulu in the area of business training.

So last week, I was invited to this luncheon not knowing was the guest speaker. After being introduced as the chairman of Faulu and then sharing some of his story as a Kenyan entrepreneur, it dawned on me that this might be the organization that helped us. After a few swapped text messages with Randy Stensgard of Centennial Covenant Church, my suspicions were confirmed.

After the meeting, Ken Wathome enjoyed hearing how his organization helped our SEDA microenterprise program. While I was talking to Ken, one other man shared that his daughter was visiting Kenya in two weeks. It turns out, she was taking a short-term missions trip with our church to assist Pastor Francis’ project.

Ken Wathome’s talk was very interesting. He shared with us the Kenyan perspective on the recent presidential election. On the night of the election, everyone stayed up until morning wanting to follow the results of their adopted favorite son. He said it felt like the President of Kenya had been elected instead of the President of the United States. Now, he noted, the big challenge for Kenyans is remembering that President Obama is the President of the United States. He will be making decisions in that role.

Ken also talked about the difficulty of operating a Christian business ethically in a business culture where bribes and unethical behavior is common. He also told about how a few years ago Faulu converted its organization from a non-profit to a for-profit in order to obtain capital from investors. I found both of these topics fascinating and look forward to learning more about his perspective on ethics and the unique task of converting a non-profit to a for-profit.

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