BCS business students help fight poverty

Posted: May 14, 2008
Briercrest College is training up business students to work overseas and help those who are suffering from poverty. How? By helping the extremely poor have access to what might be their only hope for personal subsistence—credit.

Two current business students, Sonya-Rose Bremnes and Tanis Brady, will be heading to Bangladesh on May 26 for a 90-day international business internship. They’ll be working with an organization called Child Development Network, a company that provides very small loans (a concept called "microcredit") for women who lack collateral, steady income, or a verifiable credit history and are therefore ineligible for traditional credit. These small loans (at reasonable interest rates) enable women to begin small businesses.

This gives them the means to meet their own needs rather than simply giving the kind of relief that breeds dependence. It’s less dehumanizing that way, said Bremnes, because it ultimately helps them get out of poverty instead of providing a temporary solution to a permanent problem.

She and Brady will be working closely with Bangladeshi women as they provide borrower training and follow-up, collect and process loan payments, consider case studies, and learn office reporting and the accountability tasks necessary for running a business that involves microcredit.

How did such an opportunity come up? About a year ago, Kurt Frers from OMS International (a missions organization) visited the Briercrest campus, and while he was here, "his passion for microcredit came through loud and clear," said Danny Gamache, who coordinates Briercrest College’s business program. Later, Frers approached Gamache with the idea of partnering with OMS and sending a few Briercrest business students to work with Child Development Network in Bangladesh.

"Tanis and Sonya-Rose will make a great team," said Gamache. "Both of them very quickly came to my mind because they both have a heart for using business skills to reach the world for Christ."

Part of this desire has come from what they’ve learned at Briercrest. "God changed my heart in World Views [class]," said Bremnes. "Social justice issues became very real to me…When this came up, I knew it would be good international experience."

Even a cyclone in Bangladesh that killed millions earlier this year didn’t deter Bremnes. Such a natural disaster would scare most away, but for her, it confirmed that she was supposed to go. She said, "I saw [the news coverage] and realized, 'That is where I’m supposed to be!' "

Brady is just as excited to use her business skills overseas. "I want to use my business degree…to help people get ahead," she said. Having worked overseas before, she’ll bring some international experience to the project. She’ll also bring a great deal of heart, because according to Gamache, hers is "filled with compassion for those who are hurting."

Tanis and Sonya-Rose ask that their friends at Briercrest pray for health, safety, adequate financial support, strength as they adjust to a different culture and language, and that their hearts and eyes will be open to what God has to teach them. For updates, visit their blog.