Ruth Van Vliet looked at a number of university international development programs before settling on Redeemer for her degree. “I talked to a number of people in my field who had gone to different universities and they all said, get a Christian education for international development specifically,” she said, emphasizing Redeemer’s key difference, a focus on both the economics and holistic wellbeing of people, in its international development program.
Van Vliet has been pleased to find that this advice has rung true in her experience. Through her Core courses, she has gained a broad understanding of so many areas that have helped her understand the world and how to be an instrument in bringing God’s justice to it.
She’s also been able to apply many concepts and learnings from her international development courses to real world situations. For the last year or so, Van Vliet has been volunteering as a board member with the Canadian Reformed World Relief Fund (CRWRF), a charitable organization based in the federation of Canadian Reformed Churches that presents an avenue for members of supporting churches to respond to the needs of their distant neighbours.
Each board member at CRWRF takes on a different project. Van Vliet has taken on a community development project in Busia, Kenya, a small city about 450 km northwest of Nairobi. She matches Canadian families with families in Busia. The Canadian families act as sponsors similar to popular child sponsorship programs, but the families in Busia join self help groups where they can pitch business ideas, acquire knowledge about health and safety, and learn about ways to boost education in the community such as agricultural practices and techniques. They learn from one another and they have leaders come to the group to teach them and encourage them in different topics. Children also participate in groups to think about ways to help their communities.
“It’s effective because it helps people to think as a community. In this way they can learn from each other and build each other up, so that the community can grow and flourish,” says Van Vliet, adding that the program also ensures participation of the children in the community, so that vulnerable children are built up for the next generation.
Once participants in Busia learn skills, techniques and various aspects of how to help their community, they can set up a small business with the help of a microfinance loan program using money from a CRWRF seed fund.
It’s effective because it helps people to think as a community. In this way they can learn from each other and build each other up, so that the community can grow and flourish.
“These finances will help bolster the community,” she says. “And because it’s set up as a microfinance loan, it’s something that will be sustainable for the community.”
This past summer, Van Vliet had the opportunity to expand her experience with CRWRF. She paused her work with the board to take on an internship through Redeemer’s Career Centre, during which she learned more about the internal workings of the organization. She was able to help with promotional aspects including videos and scripts on how CRWRF operates, so churches, schools and donors can better understand what they do.
A lot of my classes are focusing on incredibly tough topics and you just realize how much the world is hurting … But at the end of each course, it can always be brought back to how God is holding it together.
“Now if there is board member turnover, the new board members have a place to start from,” she says. This project was particularly exciting for Van Vliet because she was able to apply skills and knowledge from her Redeemer courses and watch as the board used her work to select projects to support, improving board efficiency at the same time.
Redeemer’s program has continued to stand out for Van Vliet, taking a global approach to improving societal systems and structures as a way of helping to bring God’s justice to the world.
“It’s been so amazing to see that there’s hope for the world. A lot of my classes are focusing on incredibly tough topics and you just realize how much the world is hurting … But at the end of each course, it can always be brought back to how God is holding it together, how he is going to sustain his people and how his justice will ultimately be carried out by people who are going into the world and trying to solve these issues. It’s something that I wouldn’t have been able to experience at other universities. It would be incredibly heartbreaking to not understand God’s story and plan through all these hardships. Without that, I don’t know if I would be even able to study international development.”