Philanthropist helps students give peace a chance
100 Projects for Peace provides seed money for conflict-resolution programs.
Kathryn Davis decided to give a gift to celebrate her 100th birthday: $1 million to galvanize college students' pursuit of an elusive goal – peace.Skip to next paragraph
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A philanthropist with a lifelong interest in international affairs, Mrs. Davis launched 100 Projects for Peace last summer. She was so pleased with the creative, practical proposals the winners came up with that when she turned 101 this year, she put out a call for 100 more.
"I started Projects for Peace because I was really a little discouraged about our world," Davis says in a phone interview from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Fla. "I got tired of feeling sorry for the younger generation.... I thought maybe [they] would come up with good ideas if I gave them the opportunity."
Rather than focus on wars and military policies, Davis says, many of the projects addressed "the fundamentals of life," such as the need for clean water in a village. "You can't expect people to be interested in peace in the world if they can't get water to quench their thirst," she says.
Colleges see the need to prepare young people for a borderless world, but very few can provide grants large enough for such projects outside the United States, says Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., one of the schools that ran competitions for the peace grants. "This is an experiment in encouraging students to be individual social entrepreneurs," he says.
About 15 percent of the peace projects took place in the US, with the rest spanning the globe from Zimbabwe to Brazil. Solo or in teams, students taught conflict resolution through soccer games and theater workshops. They made their mark on everything from health to sustainable development.
In Dafna Ashkenazi's experience, one weekend can be enough to start a person on the path to peace. She's an Israeli student at Wellesley College near Boston, where Davis will celebrate her own 80th reunion in May. The school is one of about 80 US colleges chosen to run the peace grant competitions because of their affiliation with the Davis United World College (UWC) Scholars Program, a group that fosters cross-cultural understanding and is funded by Davis's son, Shelby Davis.
With their $10,000 grant from Mrs. Davis, Ms. Ashkenazi and her twin sister, then a student at Grinnell College in Iowa, set up weekend Arabic courses in Arara, a small Arab village in Israel about 50 miles outside their hometown of Tel Aviv. The cultural-exchange weekends were subsidized so a wide variety of Israelis could attend. One group included soldiers, Orthodox women, and a grandfather-grandson pair. A nonprofit is continuing the first-of-its kind program in Israel because people want to cross barriers, Ashkenazi says.