MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – This summer Projects for Peace is funding a proposal submitted by a Middlebury College student for a project in Ghana and jointly supporting another in Vietnam with the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Collaborative in Conflict Transformation.
The Projects for Peace initiative, now in its 16th year, seeks to fulfill the vision of Kathryn Wasserman Davis, the late philanthropist and scholar who pledged $1 million per year to work toward lasting peace in the world. She challenged college students “to bring about a mindset of preparing for peace instead of preparing for war” through innovative projects that promote love, kindness, and global understanding.
The students’ 2022 projects are <code_gh> and Bridging the Gap: Rural Education in Vietnam. Kevin Ntoni ‘24, an economics major, organized a two-week accelerated boot camp that will take place in August–called <code_gh>–that aims to give high school students in Accra, Ghana’s capital, a chance to work in the tech world. In his proposal, he cited an increase in unemployment among Ghaniain youth as one of the motivations for the project.
“Unemployed youth can, out of sheer frustration, resort to unethical sources of income, creating chaos,” said Ntoni. “The few who know about computer science are bombarded with lots of myths, including that tech is for an elite few, the stability of tech jobs is very low, or that you need very sophisticated high-cost tools if you want to delve into that area. These myths eventually discourage the youth from giving it a try.”
Ntoni’s goal is to contribute to peace and sustainable development by providing participants with digital skills in the form of training, mentorship, and information on ways to subsequently leverage their new skills for economic gains. The program includes an introduction to the programming language Python, UI/UX design, budgeting and management, and access to mentors across industries.
Ntoni is working on the project with two other students—Rupert Tawiah-Quarshie, a computer science and mathematics major at Hampshire College, and Nathaniel Wullar, a computer science and electrical and computer engineering major at Duke University.
Nhi Dang ‘23, who is majoring in computer science, is working to address educational inequality with her project, Bridging the Gap–Rural Education in Vietnam. She is based in Cần Giuộc in the country’s rural Mekong Delta region, where she is providing junior high and high school students with the resources they need to mitigate the devastating impact the pandemic has had on their education. Students have access to computer equipment and supplemental instruction in math and literature through free virtual tutoring with local teachers.
Dang is from Ho Chi Minh City but Cần Giuộc is the hometown of Dang’s mother. Dang said that while schools were shut due to COVID-19, students in this area had to take classes remotely by receiving materials in the mail and watching teachers on TV, since many rural schools lack the resources—including Internet access, running water, and adequate funding—available to those in urban centers.
“As a first-gen student, I believe that education is the key to global understanding and peace,” said Dang. “With equal access to a quality education, students in Cần Giuộc can be exposed to and challenged by a multitude of topics and viewpoints.”
Middlebury announced the creation of the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Collaborative, which is helping to support Dang’s project, in March 2022. Funding from the collaborative allows Middlebury to deepen and build on the conflict transformation work–including Projects for Peace–that is currently being led by faculty and staff throughout the institution.
Middlebury students have undertaken 25 Projects for Peace since the program was launched in 2007. They have operated an English language immersion summer academy in Bulgaria, run a training camp in entrepreneurship and conflict resolution in Burundi, helped low-income women in Turkey to promote their handcrafted jewelry to international markets, and challenged racism through oral histories in North Carolina. Other projects directed by Middlebury students have taken place in Senegal, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Israel, Guatemala, Thailand, Afghanistan, and Uganda.
Information about submitting a proposal to Projects for Peace is available online. Middlebury College students interested in applying should contact Ben Yamron, creativity and innovation associate at the Innovation Hub, at email@example.com.