Monday, May 20, 2013

Summers of Service

When Macalester students hear about the “service to society” component of the mission statement, they are often curious to understand how students manage to incorporate it into their college lives. International students Andrea Grimaldi ’16, Omar Mansour ’16, and Joseph Sengeh ’16 did not take long to realize the best way for them to do so was to apply for a Davis Project for Peace grant, to carry out a project in Sierra Leone the summer after their freshman year.

The three students will fly into Sierra Leone in late May, where they will work with their partner organization in Pujehun town. Over the course of eight weeks, they intend to build bathrooms in the local village and install zinc roofs on the houses, as well as run a community-wide celebratory event. Sengeh, who is from Sierra Leone himself, first learned about the Davis Peace Projects while studying at the United World College in Maastricht, Holland, and looked forward to applying once he was at Macalester.
What’s more, these are not the only Macalester students among this year’s Davis Projects for Peace recipients. Valentino Grbavac ’15 (Croatia) will spend his summer working to improve the quality of education in the town of Ljubuski, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He plans to renovate the science classroom in an elementary school, as well as to use peace workshops to promote multi-ethnic understanding among students from different backgrounds. Grbavac, who grew up witnessing the implications of ethnic war, says his UWC education gave him a new perspective on ethnic relations. Through this project he intends to “share his experience and show that coexistence is possible.”
The Davis Project for Peace is an initiative by the late Kathryn Davis, mother of Shelby Davis, who funds the Davis UWC Scholars Program. She decided to celebrate her 100th birthday by committing $1 million to fund 100 student-led projects. Six years later, Davis Projects for Peace continues to fund grassroots projects designed by college students (studying at schools in the Davis UWC Scholars program), with the objective of encouraging and supporting “today’s motivated youth to create and try out their own ideas for building peace.” Macalester students have had 11 projects approved, at least one every year since the initiative was launched, in countries such as Peru, Cambodia, Niger and the Philippines.
But Macalester also offers its own initiative for students to create and try out their own ideas. The Live It! Fund, created by the college’s Institute of Global Citizenship Student Council, grants student awards ranging from $500 to $10,000 to carry out projects during the summer or J-term. Students are asked to draw from the core values of the school, namely academic excellence, multiculturalism, internationalism and civic engagement, to live out their definitions of global citizenship.
The Live it! Fund has also attracted some international students to run projects this summer. In a month I will be heading back to my home country of Brazil to renovate a community center in rural Montes Claros, along with Carolyn Gilbert ’15 (Montpelier, Vt.). Mariana Roa Oliva ’13 (Mexico City) will also be returning home to kick-start a grassroots education project. Bringing in people with a variety of skills and experiences, she’ll open a “space for free classes, events, and resources for artistic creation and community organizing in Mexico City.”
According to Project for Peace winner Sengeh, Macalester “puts a lot of effort into making sure students can carry out their own projects.” The Live it! Fund and the Action Fund (for Twin Cities projects) not only give students service opportunities but also give them experience in grant writing and project planning. Says Sengeh, opportunities like these allow students “to go out and experience, and finally put into practice what they had put down on paper.”
For more information  
Davis Projects for Peace: