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Lydia Slattery
Media Relations Specialist

Phone: 563-387-1417

Building Peace

DECORAH, IOWA—Two Luther College students, Esther Bitijula and Mansur Kasali, received grants through Projects for Peace, a global program that partners with educational institutions to identify and support young peacebuilders. The $10,000 grants will fund the students’ innovative community-centered projects in their hometowns this summer. 

Bitijula, a junior majoring in psychology and social work, will empower young women with physical disabilities in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Kasali, a first-year majoring in economics and international studies, will teach youth in Ibadan, Nigeria, the skills to fight against cybercrime. 

Since 2007, Luther students have initiated and led 23 different summer Projects for Peace programs in locations across the globe, according to Jon Lund, director of international admissions and Luther’s liaison to the Projects for Peace program office. The two projects selected this year represent the 24th and 25th summer projects and the first ever in Nigeria and the DRC. 

“Esther and Mansur are both great examples of the types of liberally educated, purposefully engaged, and globally minded students we educate at Luther every year,” Lund said. “I am proud of both of them and am confident that their summer projects for peace will make a difference in the communities in which they work and serve.”   

Esther Bitijula “United Gifted Young Women: Fights Against Ableism” in the DRC

Esther Bitijula headshot against a gray background.

Esther Bitijula

Bitijula’s project, “United Gifted Young Women: Fights Against Ableism,” will focus on women ages 18–25 with physical disabilities by providing themwith technical skills – like sewing – and computer skills, as well as mentors. 

The goals are to enable economic independence for the young women, provide a safe space for women to talk about their experiences, and foster a sense of community. 

Bitijula was inspired by witnessing what happened when a family friend was impacted by a physical disability. 

“Growing up, I witnessed a sudden and dramatic change in the life of a close family friend who lost her leg due to a road accident,” Bitijula said. “She was immediately fired from her job and was deemed a burden to her family, as she could no longer provide for their basic needs and needed constant health attention.” 

She will work with the organization Maman Shujaa (Hero Women Rising), which was started by a woman who has a physical disability resulting from a polio infection when she was young.

“I’ve always been passionate about making an impact on my community and empowering women,” Bitijula said. “Coming to Luther and learning about the Projects for Peace, this was a great opportunity to use the money toward making an impact.” 

Mansur Kasali “Empowering Youth Against Cybercrimes in Nigeria” 

Mansur Kasali headshot against a gray background.

Mansur Kasali

Kasali’s project, “Empowering Youth Against Cyber Crimes in Nigeria,” will create long term initiatives to navigate the digital world and combat cyber crime. He will work with juniors in high school during his project, providing classes and mentorship. 

Cyber crime organizations will often recruit young people, like high school students, into schemes, and Kasali wants to provide these students with the knowledge and tools to understand when they are being recruited for cybercrimes. 

“I want to teach young people about all the positive capabilities of technology,” Kasali said. “This is an opportunity to teach students how to hone skills that they can bring into the future.” 

Part of his funds will provide technological equipment to the school, including laptops and SmartBoards, as well as educate them on both the advantages and drawbacks of technology. Kasali wants the program to produce digitally literate young people. 

Students who successfully complete the initiative in school will have the opportunity to job shadow accomplished individuals in the Nigerian tech industry. 

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

Contact Information

Lydia Slattery
Media Relations Specialist

Phone: 563-387-1417