Students Use Writing Skills to Help Poverty-Stricken

by Sandi Harner, senior professor of technical communication

Recently, a group of Cedarville University students majoring in technical and professional communication (TPC) partnered with a nonprofit organization to help poverty-stricken people in developing countries.

Sandi Harner, senior professor of technical communication, and Melissa Faulkner, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, traveled to Oak Park, Illinois, to meet with the Strategic Communications Manager of Opportunity International (OI), Rob Moll, a 2001 graduate of Cedarville University.

During the visit Moll explained that OI provides financial products and strategies to over two million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world. Clients in more than 20 countries can use these services to expand a business, provide for their families, create jobs for their neighbors, and build a safety net for the future.

Opportunity offers a variety of products, including loans, savings, micro-insurance, and training, to meet the diverse needs of their clients. This is their way of responding to Jesus Christ’s call to love and serve the poor. To do this, they build and work through sustainable, local microfinance institutions.

The goal of OI is that each client in these developing countries be able to have a website that would advertise their services. Because most of these clients were not native English speakers and have had little, if any, training on the technology of setting up a website, the TPC students were asked to use their skills to bridge the gap in this endeavor.

“I was excited about this unique opportunity to use my technical communication skills for the good of others. Knowing that Opportunity International releases people from poverty by providing the means to support themselves really motivated me to work hard and to create the best manual for the organization,” describes Allison Dunlap, senior TPC student and project manager. “I knew that my team and I were making a difference in the world through this project, which made the experience more special than a typical project."

While teaching the course Design of Manuals, Harner led her students through the process of writing and publishing a user manual for clients in developing countries to use Opportunity’s content management system (CMS) that enables them to publish their own website.

“It was a good learning experience for the students,” explains Harner. “First, the TPC students had to teach themselves how to use the CMS; then, they worked together as a team to produce a twenty-two-page user manual. In addition to learning how to write a clear, concise, and effective manual, they learned how to stay organized, to schedule and implement different stages of the project, and, perhaps most importantly, how to work together as a team to accomplish a goal.”

Today, Moll shares, “The Malawi site has launched, and they're using the manual to be able to update the website.”

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University attracts 3,200 undergraduate, graduate, and online students to more than 100 areas of study. 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