April 1, 2010: Volume 77, Number 21
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Union's latest peace scholars headed to Kenya
Their summer is for the birds – chickens to be precise – and sophomores Jonathan Chew and Mcolisi Dlamini couldn’t be happier about it. To fight famine and promote self-sustainability, the two mechanical engineering students will spend their vacation building a poultry farm in Kenya.
It’s an expensive proposition, what with the cost of travel, construction material, labor, training and chickens. But thanks to their recent Kathryn Wasserman Davis Projects for Peace award, Chew and Dlamini will have the funds to farm. With the $10,000 prize, they’ll build the operation at Koimbi Orphanage in Kenya’s Muranga District.
“The goal is to develop a source of food and income for the orphanage that will make it more independent and less reliant on donors,” Dlamini said.
He speaks from experience, with personal knowledge of their need for agricultural, financial and economic self-reliance. In July 2007, Dlamini visited Koimbi with Kumbuka Universal Learning Experience (KULE).
Mcolisi Dlamini '12, at right, and Samuel, of Koimbi Orphanage, during Dlamini's first visit
“Most the children at Koimbi have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS,” he said. “My own country, Swaziland, has the highest rate of HIV infection at about 26 percent, and also has a growing number of orphans. So hearing their stories was very moving.”
It was also galvanizing.
“When I visited Koimbi, KULE brought a few bags of corn and beans,” Dlamini said. “I can recall Grace, one of the caretakers, saying, ‘You saved us, we were just running out.’ We hope this project will improve the orphans’ health.”
Chew and Dlamini also hope it will serve as a model for the rest of the country, which still bears the scars of horrible violence that occurred after a fraudulent, Kenyan presidential election in 2007. The unprecedented turbulence resulted in hundreds of deaths and the internal displacement of a quarter-million people.
“The construction process and daily operation of this farm are chances to cultivate self-empowerment, financial independence and a spark for progress in children and adults,” said Chew, who is from Malaysia. “Our vision is for this community to be an example of a peaceful, stable, progressive and involved society – we want it to inspire the nation.”
The pair will be aided by KULE, which has a strong working relationship with the community and has successfully launched a similar poultry project for women.
Davis Projects for Peace, designed to encourage motivated youth to create and implement ideas that promote peace, is now in its fourth year. It’s also the fourth year Union students have been named recipients.
Last year’s scholars, Jared Iacolucci ‘09, Erin Schumaker ‘09 and Kaitlyn Evans ‘09, raised awareness of the plight of immigrants in the border town of Naco, Mexico. In 2008, Kara Lightman ‘09 strove to help Cambodian women escape lives of poverty through education, and in 2007, Karyn Amira ‘08 worked to curb landmines in the same country.
To learn more about the program, which supports 100 projects annually, click here.
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