Princetonians Win Awards for Davis Summer Peace Projects

April 1st, 2011 / Development Com...

Two proposals by Princeton students have been awarded $10,000 each by the Davis Projects for Peace, which is giving more than $1 million for international endeavors in summer 2011.

One of the Princeton projects will encourage youth in Sri Lanka to reconcile via art and sports; the other will provide microfinance loans and skills training to amputees in Sierra Leone.

Nushelle de Silva ’11, a native of Sri Lanka, will lead the project “Express Yourself: Encouraging Creativity and Communication in a Post-War Community.” After 30 years of armed conflict in Sri Lanka, there is still distrust among the country’s four ethnic groups. De Silva’s project will bring together youth from communities in Pallivasalpiddy, Mannar District, to interact through arts and sports workshops. Over the course of the year, her objective is to grow a sustained dialogue that will help the youth to re-evaluate preconceived notions about other ethnic groups.

“There are no organizations in Sri Lanka working at this level of individual interaction with recently rehabilitated communities, nor any projects that plan to use recreation as a means of nurturing articulacy and confidence in service of easing ethnic tensions,” de Silva explained.

In Sierra Leone’s Kono District, Raphael Frankfurter ’13 plans to implement an innovative prosthesis and skills-training program integrated with a monitored microfinance scheme for the amputees in the region. He will be working with the Global Action Foundation to train amputees in good financial decision-making, life-coaching, and peer-counseling skills, so that they in turn can assist others in need. They will be given loans to start businesses and assistance in buying materials and marketing. Frankfurter hopes that his approach will serve as a new model for personal economic development for Sierra Leone’s poorest citizens.

During a ten-week summer research project on mental health and chronic pain in the Kono District, Frankfurter became “convinced that any project that does not address the very real material constraints that the war-wounded experience will not be effective at improving their quality of life.”

The Davis Projects for Peace program, which was established in 2007 by Kathryn W. Davis on the occasion of her 100th birthday, is designed to encourage and support creative and practical ideas by young people for building peace throughout the world. A lifelong internationalist and philanthropist, Mrs. Davis is the widow of Shelby Cullom Davis ’30, who was U.S. ambassador to Switzerland from 1969 to 1975. In 2007, Mrs. Davis and her son, Shelby M.C. Davis ’58, donated $5 million to endow Princeton’s Kathryn W. and Shelby Cullom Davis ’30 International Center. Now 104, Mrs. Davis says, “My many years have taught me that there will always be conflict. It’s part of human nature. But love, kindness, and support are also part of human nature, and my challenge to these young people is to bring about a mindset of preparing for peace instead of preparing for war.”

Davis Projects for Peace invites applications from all students in schools that participate in the Davis United World College Scholars (UWC) program, which provides grants to select American colleges and universities in support of students from all over the world who have completed their pre-university studies at UWC schools, as well as from students at International Houses worldwide and Future Generations.

“The competition on more than 90 campuses was keen and we congratulate the students who proposed the winning projects,” said Executive Director of the Davis UWC Scholars Program Philip O. Geier. “Kathryn Davis was motivated to establish Davis Projects for Peace because she felt a great sense of urgency about an elusive goal: peace in the world. She felt frustrated that older generations had failed in that great quest. Kathryn’s vision has motivated young people, and they have drawn inspiration from Kathryn.”

Applications from Princeton students were sent through the Pace Center, which serves as a central resource for civic engagement activities at Princeton by supporting students in addressing civic problems through public service internships and fellowships, academic work, volunteer service, extracurricular projects, civic action trips, and professional opportunities. A complete list of the winning schools and projects, as well as a video interview with Mrs. Davis from 2006, is available at www.davisprojectsforpeace.org.