Union’s latest Davis Projects for Peace winner headed to Fiji

Publication Date

During winter break, Sruti Bandlamuri ’21 spent three weeks in Fiji as a Klemm Fellow.

The Union program places students in a foreign country, where they stay with a host family and volunteer with a local organization.

Working with Fiji Projects Abroad, Bandlamuri visited a series of villagers’ houses and community centers, collecting health measures such as height, weight and blood pressure. She also counseled patients, some of whom were in poor health, about the importance of diet, exercise and sleep.

Sruti Bandlamuri ’21

Sruti Bandlamuri ’21

One fact that made a deep impression on Bandlamuri during her visits: women had higher rates of chronic illnesses and obesity than men. This was due in part to cultural customs, where women often take care of the home, leaving little time to exercise.

This summer, Bandlamuri is headed back to Fiji to continue her work.

She is the latest Union student to win a Kathryn Wasserman Davis Projects for Peace award.

Now in its 13th year, the Davis Projects for Peace is an invitation to undergraduates to design grassroots projects that they will implement during the summer. The objective is to encourage and support today's motivated youth to create and try out their ideas for building peace. Each project is funded with a $10,000 grant.

Bandlamuri’s experience with the Fijian women was the driving force behind her winning proposal. She plans to visit new sites, collecting health measurements, hosting cooking workshops, planting gardens and coordinating exercise plans for Indo-Fijian women and indigenous Fijian women.

“I believe that everyone’s story matters,” Bandlamuri said. “We can all learn from sharing the various windows through which we view our common world. My project revolves around empowering women with resources and information, so they can then transform the health of their communities.”

Sruti Bandlamuri ‘21

Hometown: Tucson, Ariz.

Major: Interdepartmental major in sociology and biology

Project title: Peace of Life

Synopsis of proposal: “According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases contributed up to 74 percent of all deaths in Fiji during 2002. Research shows a mere 15 percent of Fijians are eating adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, which contributes to the high prevalence of hypertension in indigenous Fijians (who comprise over half of the population), high prevalence of diabetes in Indo-Fijians (who comprise about 40 percent of the population), and high rate of obesity in both groups. Through the Klemm Fellow International Internship Program, I volunteered for three weeks in November and December of 2018 with Fiji Projects Abroad, going to villagers’ houses and community centers to implement community-based nutritional intervention programs. This summer, in partnership with Fiji Projects Abroad coordinator Meiva Vuniwai and Projects Abroad volunteers, I would like to conduct intensive community-based health interventions in 10 new sites for long-term intervention. All of them will be located on the interior of Western Viti Levu, on the main island. These sites have remained inaccessible due to insufficient funds for the volunteers’ transportation. However, local connections between Fiji Projects Abroad with village heads and ministry officials ensure that the sites will accept our assistance. We will empower both Indo-Fijian women and indigenous Fijian women in villages. Our goal is to tackle the main health problems that are common in Fiji: weight problems, diabetes, and hypertension, all of which have a higher prevalence in women than men.”