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- The gift of education
Micro-lending projects aim to lend a hand
Students in Professor John Powers’ public relations campaigns class are straying away from essays and tests this semester and working on projects which may be used in impoverished villages. In this capstone course, six groups of five students will each compete to have their micro-lending project idea implemented in the Dominican Republic.
Powers, an adjunct professor in the School of Communications, said he has been very active in trying to eliminate poverty in the Dominican Republic for the past 23 years. Starting in 1990, Powers and his wife, Aimee, a physical therapist at Masonicare, began travelling to the Caribbean country with members of their church, and now they even take QU students on their voyages.
When Powers and his wife first began travelling to the eastern half of the Dominican Republic, Powers said the hospitals and schools they built were not exactly what the Dominican people were looking for.
“The primary thing people were saying was that they were hungry,” Powers said. “They needed more than just medical care, houses, hospitals and schools.”
For the past few years, Powers has been taking students from his QU301 courses to the Dominican Republic to give back to those living in poverty.
“We would pass out a week or two worth of food to people the villages, but I realized that it was only a temporary fix,” Powers said. “With this basic micro-lending project idea, we can provide more sustainable nutrition for these people.”
Rather than simply handing out food, Powers said these micro-lending projects will use the concept of a very small business.
“We may give people chickens, so they can sell the eggs and later pay back this loan,” Powers said. “The idea is to raise the whole standard of living.”
Aside from being a great help to the impoverished Dominican villages, Powers said this project is a useful way to tie together all of the coursework public relations students have completed over the past three years.
“All of the coursework comes together in this semester-long project,” Powers said. “And this isn’t just for the sake of school – students can use this in their portfolio once they graduate.”
Senior Lauren Geary said the course takes everything she has learned in the past three years and puts it to use.
“It’s more like the real world than any other project I have done,” Geary said. “All of our work does not seem like it is for nothing, and can help a lot of people.”
Senior Alexander Miller said he is happy his major allows him to give back to people in need.
“Instead of working with a fake organization, we are working with real non-profits and the campaigns we produce could be used,” Miller said.
Powers said he wanted to make this project as real as possible by bringing in people from the Dominican Republic to talk to students.
“I want to ensure that the students have a passion for their work, and that they’re not just going through the motions,” Powers said.
Geary said as she learns more about the non-profit organization she is working with, she becomes more enthusiastic about this project.
“I think my group as a whole is very passionate, not only because we want to win the competition, but because we have put in so much time already,” Geary said. “We feel like we are a part of the organization already.”
During finals week, Powers said he will bring in 10 to 12 individuals from the Dominican Republic to evaluate each group’s project and help choose a winner. The presentations will be held in Echlin 101, and students will have a maximum of 15 minutes to present their ideas and answer questions.
This is the part of the project Geary is most looking forward to.
“I think it will be a very rewarding experience to see all of our hard work pay off,” Geary said. “But whether our campaign is chosen or not, I will look into different ways to help in the Dominican or even other places. This project has made me realize how even doing something little can help people in need so much.”