Philanthropist helps students give peace a chance
100 Projects for Peace provides seed money for conflict-resolution programs.
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One participant wrote that the weekend bridged "the gaps which are filled with stereotypes, stigmas, ignorance and fears.... [It] filled my heart with joy and hope." Participants returned home, Ashkenazi says, "with eyes open and a willingness to ... increase the cycle of change."Skip to next paragraph
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Davis's penchant for peace stems partly from Quaker schooling as a child. "They didn't believe in fighting; they would just keep working toward a compromise ... And I think that's what we all have to do," she says. "Many people are very cynical about peace. They say it's in man's nature to fight, and I say, man has to get over that nature because war has become so dangerous."
"She understands geopolitics; she understands leadership.... She also understands that governments don't do everything in the world, and she was looking for more initiative and fresh ideas," says Philip Geier, who oversees the peace grants as executive director of the Davis UWC program.
Now, in addition to her philanthropy, the golden-haired centenarian enjoys painting (she took it up at 96 when she stopped playing tennis) and visiting swans near her Florida home by pedaling an adult-sized tricycle (she can turn on a motor if she needs a little help getting up hills).
A manifestation of justice
Derron Wallace used his grant to launch a peer-taught literacy program for rural and special-needs students in a violence-prone area of his native Jamaica.
A graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., he says the most humbling and rewarding moment came when a sobbing mother embraced him and declared of her son, "He can read." Before, the boy had repeatedly failed fourth-grade reading tests.
"These children were often the most violent in their schools.... Many of them are from poor families; many were not given equal access to education.... If afforded education, they, too, could be peacemakers in their own communities," Mr. Wallace says in a phone interview from Uganda, where he's working with refugees as a Watson Fellow. "True peace for me is about an active manifestation of justice and a disruption of inequality, and that was what this project enabled me to do."
Such sparks of inspiration encourage Davis, especially as she longs for a peaceful future for her seven great-grandchildren. "I hope it's not just a dream on my part – I hope it's a reality," she says.
To that end, she envisions funding 100 Projects for Peace for at least five more years. "I would like to see what's going to happen in those next five years," she says with a chuckle.