La Sierra SIFE Members Drink Up for Kalaala, Win SIFE Nationals

Adventist-owned La Sierra University's SIFE team celebrates its recent win. [Photos: www.lasierra.edu]Source: Adventist News Network

[May 21, 2007] By simply drinking water,students at Seventh-day Adventist-owned La Sierra University can help build classrooms, science labs and libraries for villagers in Kalaala, Ethiopia.

As part of the global, nonprofit organization, La Sierra University's Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team joins others on 1,600 college and university campuses in 40 countries in using classroom knowledge to impact communities at home and abroad.

For one project, the team partnered with a bottling company to produce a private-label water bottle. They're sending 100 percent of the profits from the first one million bottles sold--totaling about U.S.$50,000--to the Ethiopian farming village of Kalaala.

So far, La Sierra students and other residents of Riverside, California, have drunk some 85,000 bottles of water and plan to top one million by the end of the year. The team hopes to eventually sell the water online.

The La Sierra SIFE team's water bottle project is one of seven similar economic and development projects that landed them a win at this year's SIFE USA National Exposition finals, held May 6 to 8 in Dallas, Texas.

Facing Heritage University, Drury University and the University of Arizona in the final round, La Sierra students presented their projects to a panel of executives from SIFE sponsoring companies who evaluated each project's creativity, innovation and effectiveness. The team will represent the United States at the SIFE World Cup this October in New York City.

John Razzouk, La Sierra's SIFE student leader, credits the team's success to each member's level of commitment. "[As a member], you're able to align yourself with a specific project from start to finish, and that really brings out the passion and dedication to these projects," he says.

The village of Kalaala is a good example. There, SIFE members are involved in projects that range from developing solar-powered ovens to teaching local women to help mend an unraveling economy by sewing medical scrubs. In addition to sewing skills, the women learn the basics of supply and demand and how to attract buyers. This year the team is establishing buyers in the United States to expand the scrubs market.

La Sierra's SIFE team is active in other places around the world, too. In Ghana, they're establishing Internet cafés and in Lesotho, they're providing new shoes for AIDS orphans. Using a new building material manufactured by the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth), they're building durable, fireproof, inexpensive villages in Darfur, Sudan. The material's 90 to 10 ratio of earth to cement makes it ideal in areas ravaged by war and natural disasters or depleted of natural resources. "We're able to build these things fast, and basically with just dirt or sand," says Razzouk.

Razzouk says some of the team's ideas initially met raised eyebrows. "A lot of people may think, 'Oh, you're young and foolish,' but if you are persistent and committed, they will get behind you. There's an advantage to being 'young and foolish'; you can take a few more risks. Sure, you might mess up, but usually it really pays off."