This article originally appeared on the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) Newsroom.
Two Middlebury Institute students and one alumna implemented development projects through Projects for Peace, which grants $10,000 awards to students to execute projects that tackle the world’s most pressing issues.
Projects for Peace began in 2008 when philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis committed $1 million to fund proposals that promote peace in the 21st century. This year, grants were awarded to Kimberly Arevalo MAIPD ’21, Saif Abdelrasol MAIPD ’21, and Shannon Casey MPA/ITED ’21, who pursued projects dedicated respectively to women’s entrepreneurship in Madagascar, student debate programming in Egypt, and youth development through jiu jitsu in Honduras.
Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in Madagascar
Kimberly Arevalo put her International Policy and Development training to the test this past summer developing a sustainable solution to women’s inequality in Moramanga, Madagascar. Arevalo teamed up with a local entrepreneur named Malala to create a Handicraft Training Center, which provides local women with business literacy training and transferable work skills.
Through the Projects for Peace grant, Arevalo successfully completed the construction of the training center and equipped it with resources that will support local entrepreneurs for years to come.
Elevating Youth Voices in Egypt
Saif Abdelrasol applied his training from the Institute’s International Policy and Development program in a hands-on way within his home country of Egypt, where he helped develop a debate program called Debate for Action dedicated to elevating young voices.
In addition to helping local youth develop skills in debate, public speaking, and research, Abdelrasol connected the students with policymakers by inviting officials to attend sessions. Abdelrasol’s experience learning to write policy papers at the Institute also prompted him to include policy paper writing as part of the program’s curriculum.
Youth Conflict Prevention in Honduras
Middlebury Institute alumna Shannon Casey focused on youth development using the Projects for Peace grant to grow a jiu-jitsu program for young Hondurans to help combat gang violence and school dropout rates. Casey became involved in youth development through the World Compass Foundation in 2015, working on the foundation’s Souldiers Program in tandem with her attendance at the Institute’s joint Public Administration and International Trade and Economic Diplomacy program, where she gained practical training in managing development organizations.
Through the grant, Casey successfully kickstarted the expansion of the jiu jitsu program to two additional cities and also began implementing a marketing plan with a local production company, ensuring that more students will be able to participate in the program in the future.