by Nathan Pilling, Public Relations Writer
Alumna Abigail Eustace is using the knowledge she gained through Cedarville’s global business major to help small business owners in the Dominican Republic. Eustace, who graduated in 2012, is a financial analyst fellow for HOPE International, an organization that invests in the dreams of the poor through Christ-centered microfinance.
Her interest in “business as mission” began before she came to Cedarville, but her time on campus helped to solidify and focus that passion. It was through conversations with a fellow member of the debate team that she was introduced to the concept of microfinance. Then, during spring break 2009, she found herself on a missions trip to the Dominican Republic with a campus business organization. Little did she know, just four years later she would be working there full time.
Operating in 16 countries around the world, HOPE uses microfinance to help individuals work their way out of poverty. “Microfinance,” a model that was developed by Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, refers to the practice of lending relatively small amounts of business capital to those living in poverty.
Through HOPE International, financial support isn’t all that’s available to those in need. Loan recipients — known as “associates” — are eligible for additional services as well. In the Dominican Republic, HOPE’s field partner Esperanza offers a variety of medical and educational services to their associates. These complimentary services open the door to sharing the Gospel with those who might not otherwise hear it.
Eustace was able to witness this model in action in her first month in the field as she attended loan meetings in northern Santo Domingo. Although the meetings’ official function is to collect loan payments from each associate, Eustace saw them serving a bigger purpose.
“A lot of the people attending aren’t even Christians yet,” she said. “They might not come to church, but they would come to ask for a microloan to start their business,” she said. “In the loan meetings, they’re going to hear the Word of God and be there for worship and prayer. Associates have even accepted Christ during the loan meetings.”
HOPE’s model of Christ-centered microfinance accompanies people in the long-term process of spiritual and physical transformation. Each loan is serviced by up to 20 community visits and meetings over a period of six months. During this time, HOPE offers ongoing business training and connects associates with churches and individuals in their community who can disciple them.
Eustace, who describes her position with HOPE as her “dream job,” is currently working on a multi-month costing analysis to increase organizational efficiency for Esperanza. “This year, administration is pushing initiatives to redesign and standardize internal processes,” she said. “A lot of changes are being made to help us impact thousands of more Dominicans. It’s an exciting time to be involved.”
Daniel Sterkenburg, M.B.A, who taught one of Eustace’s senior business courses at Cedarville, is gratified to see the work that she is doing. “It’s really pleasing to see Abby use the skills that she obtained here both in business skills and specifically through the global business major,” he said. “It makes my work worthwhile.”
Eustace remembers with fondness how Cedarville influenced her involvement in business as mission. “My business professors always emphasized keeping Christ at the center of our lives and work,” she said. “I remember the OneVoice Gospel Choir singing in chapel, ‘Jesus Be the Center of It All.’ That’s my prayer as I work with HOPE in the Dominican Republic: to help free people from spiritual and physical poverty.”
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University attracts 3,400 undergraduate, graduate and online students to more than 100 areas of study. Inspiring greatness for over 125 years, Cedarville is a Christ-centered learning community recognized nationally for rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. Visit the University online at www.cedarville.edu.