Chase Heatherly

#myJourney -- Thanks to an AU ministry led by College of Business grad Chase Heatherly, girls in Honduras are breaking the cycle of poverty, pursuing careers in business, furthering their education, and spreading the Gospel.

The ministry Project Talitha Cumi teaches girls the financial and business skills to overcome their impoverished backgrounds, Heatherly said.

“The name ‘talitha cumi’ sums up the ministry’s mission,” he said.  “It’s a Hebrew term from the Bible, Mark 5:41. In the scripture, Jarius’s daughter has died, and he asks Jesus to heal her. Jesus tells the girl, ‘talitha cumi,’ which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, rise up.’  The ministry has that very mission: to raise up Honduran girls from the ‘dead’ life of poverty, share the Gospel with them, and allow them to be successful.”

The project measures success in small increments. Most of the girls haven’ typed on a computer keyboard.  Now, Heatherly says, they are using them daily in the computer lab created by the AU project team.

Three years ago, Heatherly joined Enactus, a campus group devoted to teaching free enterprise. Through it, he became involved in Project Talitha Cumi and eventually assumed the leadership role.  He has traveled three times with AU teams to Las Esperaza, the city in Honduras where the ministry is based.

The initial trip was exploratory with a goal of determining a framework for aiding the girls. The AU team decided that the first priority should be to teach them financial literacy and computer skills.  Following that first trip, the team returned to campus and developed a plan to create a financial curriculum and the organization of a campaign to obtain computers through donations.

When the AU contingent returned to Las Esperaza, it focused on executing its plan.  “On our second trip, we taught the girls about basic financial matters, such as budgeting, price comparisons, and balancing checkbooks,” Heatherly said.

The AU team also set up a computer lab with equipment donated by AnMed Health System and Anderson County. The lab has 10 computers and a printer.  Heatherly led the effort to acquire the decommissioned, but operable, computers from Anderson County.   

With the help of the computers, the project has continued to progress. Now the emphasis is on teaching the girls entrepreneurial skills. The team is working with the girls to establish a business that sells coffee and woven baskets through an e-commerce website to customers in the United States.  The goals for this phase include building the website and solving shipping and packaging issues.

As the project has moved forward, so have the lives of the girls.  Twelve have graduated and are university students, business owners, and employees of other ministries.  New girls enter the program constantly; 30 are currently in the ministry.

Heatherly said the skills he learned at AU have contributed significantly to the success of the project. His business professors preached the value of initiative, which helped guide him to lead the mission trips.  Exposure in the classroom to different business disciplines, ranging from accounting and economics to statistics and business law played a critical role, as well, he said.

Heatherly is happy he chose AU.  “I had offers from other schools, but AU was the best fit for me because of its excellent academic reputation and Christian surroundings. My success is rooted in that environment and in the solid education that I received through the College of Business.”