Project designers will receive $10,000 to implement each plan

WALLA WALLA, Wash.— Three Whitman College students who designed two innovative “projects for peace” have won funding from the inaugural Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace program.

Whitman’s winning entries, which each received $10,000 for implementation this summer, were submitted by Samuel Clark ’07 and Sophia Kittler ’07, who will embark on “Microfinance and Migration: Lending in Chiapas” in Mexico; and Henry M. Kpaka ’09, who will travel to his home country to implement “Youth Empowerment in Sierra Leone.”

Philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis, in celebration of her 100th birthday, committed $1 million to fund 100 selected projects submitted by students from around the country that could be completed during the summer of 2007 and could “bring new thinking to the prospects for peace in the world.” A competition for the funding took place on 65 of 76 campuses nationwide that participate in the Davis United World College (UWC) Scholars Program.

Clark and Kittler, who studied the issues of immigration from Mexico on a fact-finding trip to the U.S.-Mexico border last year, plan to address the economic “push factors” that encourage people from Mexico and Central America to attempt border crossings. The majority of immigrants seeking to enter the United States illegally come from farming families who have been harshly affected by the free-market restructuring of the Mexican and U.S. economies, they said. “Providing economic alternatives will help mitigate a migration cycle that displaces families, risks lives and creates political tension.”

Their micro-lending project in Chiapas will offer small ($50-$500) loans to help farmers who would otherwise lack the capital or credit to shift from traditional crops like maize and coffee to more stable enterprises that are less dependent on foreign markets.

The project, which Clark and Kittler hope will inspire other similar projects, will help relieve migratory pressures toward the United States by expanding economic opportunities in Chiapas. “One of the best ways to diffuse these pressures that lead to border violence, racism and anti-migrant sentiments in the United States is by giving potential migrants the opportunities they need to stay at home and live with their families,” said the students in their application.

Kpaka, a Davis UCW Scholar, will address the youth problem created by Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war. Although the war ended five years ago, he said in his application, the youth problem has compounded because the post-war rehabilitation of children and youth affected by the war has been so limited. “Apart from classroom education, they remain largely unguided and lack direction or motivation to get involved in society. As a result, every day the country loses enormous contributions that could be tapped from this segment of the population.”

Kpaka plans to work with National Accountability Group, a non-governmental organization located in Freetown, to organize a two-day national workshop to which he will invite one or two students from each of Sierra Leone’s 100 accessible Senior Secondary Schools (youth aged 16-20). The workshop itself will provide motivational speakers who will talk about peace building, youth leadership, rights and privileges of youth and youth responsibility to society. Students will then brainstorm about possible service projects they could implement in their home communities, and be provided with skills training in areas such as first-aid, HIV/AIDS sensitization and malaria prevention.

“Through my proposal I hope to bring together, for the first time in Sierra Leone, youth from all ethnic backgrounds to empower themselves,” said Kpaka. “I am excited about the possibilities of bridging ethnic barriers, a major factor in the conflict, and creating inter-ethnic bonds among these students.” At the end of his workshop, these students will return and establish community service programs in their schools, start community projects in their communities, educate their fellow students, and create a climate in which community service carries over from generation to generation.

In addition to these two Whitman projects, 98 additional projects will send students to 40 countries to implement projects, according to the administrators at the KWD 100 Projects for Peace program. “The winning projects propose specific plans of action that will have lasting effects—from youth empowerment and education programs to improved water supplies worldwide to a multitude of agrarian enterprises in countries where famine is pervasive.”

A complete list of the winning schools and projects, as well as a 2006 video interview with Mrs. Davis, is available on the program’s Web site at http://www.kwd100projectsforpeace.org

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CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156
E-mail: parishlj@whitman.edu