| by Jason Warburg

News Stories

Projects for Peace
Participants in the project gathered for a workshop on visual storytelling.

At the Middlebury Institute, learning doesn’t stop during the summer.

Many students take advantage of the break to take their learning in the classroom and put it into action in the field.

That was certainly the case for Environmental Policy and Management student Karan Kunwar ’23, who implemented a visual storytelling program in his home country of Nepal with a grant from Projects for Peace. The initiative grants $10,000 awards to students to execute projects that tackle the world’s most pressing issues.

Kunwar worked with filmmaker Prasna Dongol and alum Ekshana Karki MPA ’18 to design projects in Nepal to work with youth who have lived experiences of the country’s care system—a system under which many Nepalese children are separated from their families and sent to boarding schools to get an education.

The project aimed to explore participants’ stories of internal conflict and the process of belongingness and longing through visual storytelling. The youth who have left the care system often are habituated with norms and routines of institutional care and have difficulty bonding with family after a long separation, feeling new to their own cultures and traditions. They also face family expectations to be financially independent and help their families, as they grew up with a better education in the capital city.

“Our vision for the project is to make a significant and lasting impact on the participants who have been disconnected from their families for an extended period of time,” says Kunwar.

For the project, the team partnered with Care Experienced Network Nepal, an NGO that works with and advocates for “young people with lived experiences of the care system.” The participants also went to the photo exhibition titled “A Way of Telling” to enhance the learning experience and interact with six featured artists.

Workshop participants created and shared examples of visual storytelling intended to convey feelings of aloneness and alienation.

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“Peace is an outcome of a situation where a person is at ease to share their life experiences and be vulnerable in order to overcome challenges,” adds Kunwar. “Only after this can a person have hope to positively impact society and overcome differences existing in society.”

Peace is an outcome of a situation where a person is at ease to share their life experiences and be vulnerable in order to overcome challenges.
— Karan Kunwar MAIEP ’23

Faculty Director of Fellowships David Wick noted that this project was selected for the deep community connections and novel conceptualization of peace.

 “The Institute’s Projects for Peace selection committee was struck by the ways that Karan and his team conceptualized self-reflection and inner peace in their project proposal and their deep personal connections with the young participants in their project. The stories, photos, and videos that Karan and his team created through their work are a testament to the power of sharing stories and collaborative creative expression to foster belonging and promote peace.” 

Projects for Peace Workshop

Each year, Projects for Peace, based at Middlebury, grants $1.25 million to student leaders who are developing innovative, community-centered, and scalable responses to the world’s most pressing issues. This summer Projects for Peace took place in more than 67 countries and 21 U.S. states. The 125 funded projects explored topics including studying farming and climate change in the midwestern U.S.; empowering orphans in Tajikistan; promoting computer literacy for girls in Sierra Leone; fighting racism in public schools in Brazil; and establishing human trafficking prevention programs in Cambodia. 

Middlebury Institute students who are currently enrolled are eligible to apply for the 2024 Projects for Peace award. To learn more visit the Fellowships web page or write to the fellowships team at institutefellowships@middlebury.edu

Projects for Peace is an initiative established by the late philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis, designed to spark innovative, entrepreneurial approaches to building meaningful prospects for peace around the world. Since its founding in 2007, Projects for Peace has supported more than 2,000 student and alumni collaborations with more than 115 partner organizations in more than 150 countries.

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Projects for Peace