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Kathryn Wasserman Davis

Philanthropist challenges college students to actively encourage peace [video]

March 17, 2009

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ? The Davis Projects for Peace initiative has been renewed for 2009 by philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis. Students from nearly 100 campuses will collectively receive more than $1 million in funding during the summer of 2009 for projects in all regions of the world. Now 102 years old, Kathryn Davis launched the initiative on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2007 and now renews her challenge to today's generation of college students to undertake innovative and meaningful projects. Designed to encourage and support motivated youth to create and implement their ideas for building peace throughout the world, each of the more than 100 projects will receive $10,000 in funding.

Davis Projects for Peace invited all students from partner schools in the Davis United World College (UWC) Scholars Program plus students at International Houses worldwide and Future Generations to submit plans for grassroots projects for peace, to be implemented during the summer of 2009.
"The competition on nearly 100 campuses was keen and we congratulate the students who proposed the winning projects," said Executive Director of the Davis UWC Scholars Program Philip O. Geier. "Kathryn Davis has been a lifelong internationalist and philanthropist, and has left her mark on a wide range of institutions and countless students. The wisdom of her years has led her to look to young people for new ideas and fresh energy to improve the prospects for peace."

VIDEO: Htar Htar Yu '09 has won a 2009 Davis Projects for Peace grant to train journalists in Thailand.
Of the 11 proposals submitted by Middlebury College students, one was awarded funding. Middlebury College senior Htar Htar Yu and sophomore Simone Zhang submitted a project titled "One Month Journalist Training for Media Forces of Burma in Thailand." Yu is from the ethnic group of Tavoy in the southern part of Myanmar, and has become involved over the years with human rights organizations in her native land, including the Tavoyan Women's Union (TWU) and the Tavoyan Human Rights Foundation (THRF). Both TWU and THRF are based in Mae Sot, Thailand, and Yu has been actively involved for more than 10 years in carrying out their respective goals to raise awareness.  

Zhang is from Minnesota and has a passion for journalistic writing. Of Zhang, Yu says, "She writes beautifully. Since I have known her, one thing Simone does is ask questions, often focused on the Burmese people's struggles and their stories. When I tell my story or their stories, Simone wants to write about them.  She is passionate about helping to free Burma through her writing."

As partners, Yu and Zhang will help plan, organize and implement a month-long journalist training in June 2009 for news groups in and around Thailand as well as the TWU and THRF. Their hope is to help these news groups gain further awareness as they strive to bring democracy to Yu's native land. 

For one month, two trainers and 15 trainees, including a total of four from TWU and THRF, will have daily classes. At the end of this training all participants will be able to research and report news, and work more effectively and efficiently for their news groups. According to Yu, "The goal is to have a voice to free Burma."

After reviewing the submissions, Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz's office chose to fund an additional project titled "Development of a Model Micro Hydropower Project in Nepal." Middlebury College sophomore Dristy Shrestha has teamed with two other non-Middlebury students to develop a micro hydropower unit that will generate hydroelectricity for at least 30 households as a model with the hope to inspire and educate other villages and encourage rural development in Nepal.

"Nepal is the second richest country in the world in water resources and it has been estimated that it has the potential for developing hydro electricity. Ironically, the reality is quite the opposite," said Shrestha. "Fewer than 40 percent of Nepalese have access to electricity; the rest depend on kerosene and firewood."

Hydropower is a renewable source of energy and its implementation creates no pollution at any point, according to Shrestha. The power generated can be used for lighting, heating water, and cooking in low-watt cookers. Other renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind, do not generate enough power for these purposes and are more expensive to install. Electricity also has the potential to promote the economy of the area through income-generating activities. "Furthermore," adds Shrestha, "providing electricity to a village will enable children to study at home at night, thus improving the quality of primary education and promoting independence and innovation among the youth and other individuals."

"I want to use my birthday to once again help young people launch some initiatives that will bring new energy and ideas to the prospects of peace in the world," said Kathryn Davis. "My many years have taught me that there will always be conflict. It's part of human nature. But love, kindness, and support are also part of human nature, and my challenge to these young people is to bring about a mindset of preparing for peace instead of preparing for war."

A complete list of the participating schools and projects, as well as a summary of the 2008 projects and a video interview with Davis from 2006, is available on the program's Web site at