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Hands-on help in Africa
Teaching Tanzanian high schoolers about intercultural relations and stocking a library in war-ravaged Sierra Leone are just two of the “100 Projects for Peace” funded around the world this past summer. And both were spearheaded by Skidmore students.
In association with the Davis United World College Scholars program, philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis celebrated her 100th birthday by donating $1 million to provide $10,000 grants to 100 college-student projects aimed at promoting global peace. Of the sixty-five colleges entering, only Princeton and Middlebury topped Skidmore’s success; they each won three awards.
Jazzmina Moore ’09 charted an ambitious schedule for June through August: independent research; interviews with students, teachers, and elders of three ethnic groups in various regions of Tanzania; training of teachers and students to survey and analyze traditional norms of dispute resolution; and honing a peace-studies curriculum, building on a UN-funded pilot project. Multiethnic mediation-based learning, Moore says, is “a beginning to developing a generation of future leaders who know how to access peaceful solutions to issues that constantly arise in societies all around the world.”
Joseph Kaifala ’08, a native of Sierra Leone, found that his country ranked 122nd out of 177 nations in a 2004 UN index of adult illiteracy. In the civil wars of 1991–2002, he says, “it was very simple for rebel leaders to conscript illiterate and unemployed youths, who had nothing to hope for.” His project aimed to supply textbooks and teacher resources to a library under construction in Conakry-Dee, a provincial town where poverty is still a major barrier to education.
Global peace isn’t your average summer project. But with Skidmore brains and Davis backing, the students made small, tangible advances in “education as a grassroots effort that can produce,” Kaifala says, “a silent revolution of minds.” —SR