Luther College students Ervin Liz, class of 2016; Mahadeva Illanco Kavindra, class of 2015; and Noorullah Zafari, class of 2015, were selected to have their projects funded in the competitive Davis Projects for Peace program.
The Projects for Peace program is an invitation to undergraduates at American colleges and universities in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to design grassroots projects that can be implemented around the world. The projects judged to be the most promising and feasible are funded with $10,000 each. The objective is to encourage and support today's motivated youth to create and try their ideas for building peace.
Liz, Kavindra and Zafari will set off in summer to personally offer much needed services to their selected regions.
Liz will be traveling to his homeland in the Tierradentro region of Columbia. He will work with the Nasa Indigenous People in San Adrès on building a greenhouse as the base of study for endangered agricultural plant species. Within the region, 20 families will also be asked to cultivate the seeds produced in the greenhouse on their private lands.
"Peace for our purposes is defined as the recuperation and protection of the cultural and biocultural Nasa memory as a result of the conservation and redistribution of native species," Liz stated in the proposal of his project. "This redistribution of seeds will simultaneously enhance food security, generate and promote economic alternatives and ultimately empower the community."
The native species, including the highly nutritious Cacha and Chachafruto beans, will be planted and cultivated in critical areas within the region. Each year, 20 additional families will be added to the list of those cultivating the crops and through their continued hard work and dedication, the project will be allowed to continuously expand and feed a wider circle of people.
Kavindra and Zafari will travel to the Northern province of Sri Lanka, Kavindra's homeland. They will offer assistance to children still suffering from the fallout of a bloody civil war that ravaged the country until 2009 and left thousands orphaned.
They will visit two schools, Sivabhoomi Arakkatalai and Muththuthambi Vidyalayam, and take action that will improve the activity level and mental health of its students. At Sivabhoomi Arakkatalai, they plan to help construct a playground and have extended conversations with the children to help bolster their self-esteem and confidence. They will also build functional bathrooms at Muththuthambi Vidyalayam and provide counseling for students dealing with stress from traumatic situations.
"We believe that by the end of this project, the children in Sivabhoomi Arakkatali will become more active and interested in participating in sports," Kavindra said. "On the other hand, we also believe that the newly built toilets will reduce the children's vulnerability to infectious diseases in Muththuthambi Vidyalayam."
Projects for Peace is an initiative inspired by the late Kathryn W. Davis, an accomplished internationalist and philanthropist. Upon the occasion of her 100th birthday in February of 2007, Davis chose to celebrate by committing $1 million for one hundred projects.
"I want to use my 100th birthday to help young people launch some immediate initiatives—things that they can do during the summer of 2007—that will bring new thinking to the prospects of peace in the world," said Davis of the project.
Projects for Peace continues to be funded by the Davis family.