Sierra Leone (MNN) — "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." This quote by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu well highlights the story of the economic plight in Sierra Leone. Easily one of the poorest nations in the world with over 70% of the population below the poverty line, Sierra Leone may as well have a journey of a thousand miles ahead to climb out of their economic crisis.
First Step is a subsidiary program of WHI with the goal of stimulating the economy and businesses of Sierra Leone. While the project has been underway for about a year, they are now seeing results with partnerships being formed. This program was reported on by CNN last weekend June 24-26th as President and CEO of World Hope International, Dr. Karl Eastlack, spoke on First Step's beginnings, its partners, and its mission.
Here's how it works. Much like a jigsaw puzzle, Sierra Leone has most of the pieces. They have a labor force in desperate need of jobs, resources for products, and businesses with creative ideas. First Step is providing the "box top" and a few of the missing pieces so that businesses can get the big picture and figure out how to fit all the jigsaw pieces together.
First Step is building warehouses for manufacturing products that will be rented out to businesses demonstrating enough promise for economic stimulation. They will also be installing state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment so that products can be processed. Also, when businesses need certain materials to be imported and combined with native raw materials to finish their product, those materials will be imported by First Step.
All this is being done in a Special Economic Zone established by First Step near the country's main seaport. The first tenant in the zone with First Step is a pineapple and mango juice concentrate manufacturer called Africa Felix Juice. Dr. Eastlack spoke of their work with Africa Felix Juice, which has now been in production since April 2011 and is proud to be the first fruit juice manufacturer ever based in Sierra Leone.
First Step also wants to look out for and encourage growth in the employees. Workers with the partners of First Step will be engaged in WHI training programs such as HIV/AIDS awareness, health nutrition, and adult literacy. WHI promises that those employed in First Step work zones will experience safe and respectful work environments and businesses will be eco-friendly.
Sierra Leone's government under President Earnest Bai Koroma is very supportive of these projects and Sierra Leone's Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Sheka Tarawalie also spoke with CNN in their piece on the benefits First Step is having on their economy.
By showing the people of Sierra Leone that they are not forgotten and without hope, WHI seeks to be the hands of Christ. WHI is a Christian relief organization that has their feet in several countries around the world, bringing aid to the poor and suffering. As they stimulate the economy, they hope to open doors in the hearts of the Sierra Leonean people who may become curious about this ministry behind First Step and why they would want to help. Christ does not forget about the poor, and in providing help for their physical welfare, hopefully it will provide opportunities to stimulate their spiritual welfare.