MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ― College students across the country are once again being challenged to design and undertake “Projects for Peace” around the world, thanks to philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis. Now 105 years “young,” Davis launched Projects for Peace on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2007 and has renewed her commitment every year since. In 2012, nearly $1.25 million will be awarded in $10,000 grants to students submitting the winning proposals for projects to be completed over the summer of 2012.

Projects for Peace 2012

From left: Sydney Alfonso ‘12, Mutothori Mugo ‘12, Jihad Hajjouji ‘14, Otis Pitney ‘12 and Maya Neria ‘15. Not pictured: Charlie Wemyss-Dunn ’12.

Davis is eager for motivated young people to come up with effective building blocks for peace-building in the world, and she is providing the money to make their plans a reality. Projects that address conflict resolution and reconciliation, foster understanding, provide opportunity, and build community are among the many successful endeavors to date.

Undergraduates at all of the 94 partner schools of the Davis United World College Scholars Program (see www.davisuwcscholars.org), as well as those at International Houses Worldwide, Future Generations, and the Graduate Institute in Geneva, are invited annually to submit plans for Projects for Peace. Winning proposals selected from competitions at all these campuses are funded through Davis’ generosity.

“Competition is keen and we congratulate the students whose projects have been selected for funding in 2012,” said Philip O. Geier, executive director  of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, which administers Projects for Peace. “Kathryn Davis feels a great urgency about advancing the cause of peace in the world, and she is investing in motivated youth and their ideas in order to accelerate efforts for peace in the 21st century.”

Of the 16 proposals submitted by Middlebury College students, two were awarded funding. Sydney Alfonso, a member of the Middlebury class of 2012, will travel to Turkey to pursue her project, “The International Jewelry Fund Pilot Program.” Said Alfonso, “My goal is to improve the living conditions of low-income Turkish women as well as women within the migrant Kurdish community. The project will help them to manufacture their handcrafted jewelry and promote it to international markets.” Alfonso created the International Jewelry Fund (IJF), a licensed corporation that is a fusion of a nonprofit and for-profit business, after she returned home from studying abroad in Turkey, importing bracelets from women who had worked as vendors on the street where she had lived in Istanbul. “The grant will allow me to significantly expand and enhance the IJF through a distribution pilot program,” she said.

Jihad Hajjouji, a Middlebury sophomore, and Hafsa Anouar, a first-year student at Tufts, will work together to start “The National Entrepreneurial Camp,” a 10-day summer camp in Bouznika, Morocco, that will introduce the concept of entrepreneurship to students aged 16 to 19. According to Hajjouji, the unemployment rate in Morocco is nine percent and the country’s major employer ― the Moroccan government ― does not create enough jobs to keep up with demand. “Our goal is to develop a generation of job creators, not job seekers,” said Hajjouji. In three to five years, they plan to set up similar training camps in various regions around the county. “Within 10-20 years, we want to have a network of young camp alumni who have started their own ventures,” she added.

Kathryn W. Davis

The office of Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz will fund an additional project, “Build a Library to Secure a Future.” Middlebury seniors Mutothori Mugo, Otis Pitney and Charlie Wemyss-Dunn, along with first-year student Maya Neria, will organize the construction of a library in Kenya in the central Huruma slums on the outskirts of Nairobi. The library will supplement the academics and vocational training offered by New Dawn, a school in the same location co-founded in 2006 by Mugo, who served as a teacher and coach there before his arrival at Middlebury. “Education is fundamental for helping to break the perpetual poverty cycle in the Huruma and neighboring Githogoro slums,” said Mugo, who is from Nairobi. The total budget for the building is $20,000 but the students have already raised the initial $10,000 via Middstart, a micro-philanthropy website that supports Middlebury student-based projects.

“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 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.”

For more information on Projects for Peace, see www.davisprojectsforpeace.org.