Women in Roanoke’s Sudanese refugee community will soon have their own website to sell their handmade goods, thanks to a team of Pamplin College of Business students who undertook the website development as their senior class project. The students — all business information technology majors in professor Alan Abrahams’ Business Analysis Seminar in IT class — are Elon Daghigh of Fairfax Station, Va.; Daniel Booth of Blue Ridge, Va.; and Michelle Ching of Fairfax, Va.
The developed website is on a temporary, grading server and will be moved to a live server and domain once these are set up, said Daghigh, who led the project and, along with Booth and Ching, is training the women to use the site.
“Sewing is a way for the Roanoke Sudanese Women’s Group to come together to learn a new skill while practicing English,” the students wrote in their report. The women sell their goods — including bags, dolls, blankets, placemats, and garments — at community events to raise money and awareness. The proceeds support the Sudanese Peace Dancers, a youth group, and development projects in Sudan. “By selling their goods at community events, the women educate their neighbors about Sudan, South Sudan, and all refugees who live in the Roanoke Valley,” the students noted.
Community events, however, offered only a limited pool of customers, and the women wanted to expand their market through an e-commerce site. Through Dan Nemes, a project manager with AmeriCorps VISTA and coordinator with the Coalition for Refugee Resettlement Project at Virginia Tech’s Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships, the women were linked up with Abrahams’ students.
The students envisaged a website for online customer transaction processing and inventory tracking. The system would allow customers to add products to their shopping carts and create individual accounts to allow them to view previous orders and store personal information for speedier checkouts, their report noted. “A site editor should be able to edit inventory levels as well as add, remove, or edit product information.”
The students went to Roanoke earlier this spring to meet with members of the women’s group whom they have emailed regularly during the course of the three-month project. The complete website has received favorable feedback from Nemes and the Sudanese group members. “The website is striking,” said Nemes, adding that the women were all generally impressed with the site. “It was a pleasure to work with the students from Professor Abrahams’ class.”
– Submitted by Sookhan Ho, Virginia Tech