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Skidmore College

Student projects earn $20,000

April 8, 2016

Two students have won grants from Davis Projects for Peace. One will head to his native Pakistan on a mission to distribute life-saving vaccines in one of the country's poorest regions. The other will journey to her native Maldives to establish a recycling awareness and education program. Both will make a difference in the world.

That was Kathryn W. Davis's intent when, on her 100th birthday in 2007, she established Projects for Peace. The program this year is making awards of $10,000 each to 120 college students across the country, to enable them to carry out summer projects that provide opportunity, build community, foster understanding, or foster reconciliation. Skidmore students have participated every year; these are the 13th and 14th projects to be implemented by Skidmore students.
For the first time since 2010, Projects for Peace is funding two Skidmore students. Darren Drabek, coordinator of international student and scholar services, says the double award is "a tribute to the creativity, social awareness, and persistence of our students." Also this year, Skidmore's nominating committee included an alumnus and past Projects for Peace recipient: Johane Simelane '13 met and shared advice with the applicants.

This year's winner are:

Ebrahim Shah
Ebrahim Shah

Ebrahim Shah: Vaccines for Peace. Students choose to major in physics for a lot of reasons. The satisfaction that comes with learning how the universe works. The opportunity to work in state-of-the-art facilities. The prospect of achieving research breakthroughs.

But Ebrahim Shah '18 had another reason: helping people through science. He'll embark in mid-May on a three-month mission to his native Pakistan to save lives. The funding will help him buy a van to take him into one of Pakistan's poorest regions, a refrigerator to store vaccines, and van-top solar panels to power the refrigerator. In the fall, he'll leave the equipment with a family-funded agency that serves the region-in Pakistan's Sind Province, where Shah's grandparents lived and he has visited.

"It pains me to see the poor, malnourished faces of children and adults who don't have access to basic health care," he says. Such diseases as tuberculosis, hepatitis C, cholera and enteric fever are common. Heavy monsoon rains breed mosquitoes that spread malaria and dengue. Snakes are common, so the people also are in great need of anti-venom. The nearest basic health-care unit, which is underequipped and underfunded, is seven miles away."

Shah continues, "I've seen how much these people need our help, and I know that a lot of people are going to benefit from this project. It feels really good to be able to go back and make an important contribution."

Shah plans to pursue a master's degree in engineering and has applied to Skidmore's five-year program with Dartmouth College's Thayer School of Engineering.

Hulwa Khaleel
Hulwa Khaleel

Hulwa Khaleel: Environmental Awareness. The Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is home to resorts and white beaches. But those postcard views don't reflect the reality for many who live in the archipelago, says Hulwa Khaleel '16. On her native Hidathoo Island, she has seen garbage piling up on beaches and open spaces. She once stuck her hand in a floating diaper while swimming at a local beach. "My cousin was hit by a metal rod," she says. "I saw a young boy using a refrigerator door as a float."

Most islands in the Maldives simply have no waste management systems. A plan to build a waste-to-energy incinerator and facilities for recycling and composting will help, "but such projects can succeed only if we support them with public education and an intentional community waste-management program," Khaleel notes.

She's applying her Projects for Peace award to partnering with the Ministry for Environment and Energy to establish a pilot education and recycling program in three communities. An economics major who is writing her senior thesis on the political economy of climate change, Khaleel also is developing a curriculum in environmental education as an independent study project. She'll incorporate this work into her efforts this summer.

"We face a huge problem on Hidathoo Island," she admits. "But we can take an important first step by helping the community understand the civic component of reducing, reusing, and recycling-to create awareness and foster a sense of responsibility for the environment through action and practice."

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