Over a decade ago a group of American missionaries set out to tackle poverty and social injustice. Today, students from Oklahoma Christian benefit from their dedication to impact thousands of lives.
Kibo Group International started in 2004 after a group of American church-planters in East Africa recognized the immense need for development work including healthcare, environmental concerns and issues concerning economic development.
Director of the Center of Global Missions Ben Langford was a member of the missionary group that founded Kibo Group. Langford said the team agreed the people of East Africa needed aid, so they decided on the idea of Kibo Group and the people of East Africa working as a team.
“Instead of talking dependency or independency, we started talking about shared responsibility,” Langford said. ”We need to share responsibility and to do sustainable development, it works. It doesn’t create dependency, it actually shares resources.”
Kibo Group offers aid to the people of East Africa through four primary programs: Water Source, the Mvule Project, Women’s Empowerment and Community-Led Total Sanitation. These programs allow missionaries and East Africans to work together to meet community needs such as providing clean water sources, developing economic skills, equipping women through Bible and health lessons and implementing healthy sanitation practices.
Langford said he wants students on campus to take special interest in Kibo Group because it works to provide help to the most impoverished areas in the world.
“People are lining up to be doctors in America, to be engineers, to be lawyers, to be whatever degree you’re going for, and I think it’s great,” Langford said. “I think OC is a great place to get that education, but not many people are lining up thinking about Africans, or the least of these. A lot of good people are lining up to do good, but there’s not many lining up for some of the poorest communities.”
According to Langford, students have the opportunity to help those in need through Kibo Group.
“What Kibo can do is connect our story with really talented students who can think about development and healthcare and resources with people that don’t have resources around them and the luxury and experiences that helps solve these problems,” Langford said. “There’s a lot of smart people in Uganda, but some of these developments you can develop a lot easier when you know people and have resources.”
One specific way students can get involved with Kibo Group is through its internship program. This past summer senior Tori Puellman and sophomore Rett Parker had the opportunity to intern with Kibo Group.
Puellman said one of the most impactful aspects of the internship was the opportunity to observe the work being done through the four programs.
“We would just watch, but there’s so much power in that,” Puellman said. “We got to experience what real change looks like and experience how the African culture interacts with each other. We could just be there and be welcomed by these people.”
Another aspect of the internship was the students worked in the Source Café, sponsored by Kibo Group to cook and serve alongside the African people.
“It was more of a moment to just be with these people and talk to them about their lives by kind of getting to explore the real life of their community,” Puellman said.
Puellman said this internship allowed her to realize her major of International Business and her passion for serving others can be connected.
“It was kind of that ‘aha’ moment where I realized this is what I was passionate about and this is what I have been learning about,” Puellman said. “Now every time I see a program or am evaluated for a job it’s like I see it through this lens of sustainable development — help people help themselves.”
Parker said one of the biggest impacts the internship made on him was in his faith.
“The internship showed me how the Ugandans helped each other out and loved each other,” Parker said. “I gained so much faith from watching how these people came into villages and God pulled the villagers together.”
According to Parker, this internship gave him a new perspective on different cultures throughout the world. Parker said this perspective helped him in his personal walk with God.
“Now I have a wealth of experiences that I can draw from about how Ugandan culture works, which I use whenever we talk about theology and culture in my classes,” Parker said. “It has expanded my view on the world, which is something I am constantly grateful for as I work towards better understanding God’s word.”
For more information or ways to get involved with Kibo Group, contact Ben Langford.