Davis Projects for Peace

I-House residents of University of Alberta have successfully led many projects over the years, basing in Palestine, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Kenya, Peru, Morocco and Uganda, with goals ranging from improving nutrition and water quality to offering English lessons and computer technology.

The opportunity to work on such projects develops students’ leadership and project management skills, and gives them a “tremendous learning experience to develop their own ideas about peace,” Hannemann said. “It’s a concrete way for them to become more familiar with what it means to become a global citizen—a goal of our efforts at the University of Alberta.”

Projects for Peace is an initiative inspired by the late philanthropist Kathryn W . Davis as she was contemplating turning 100 years old in 2007. The Projects for Peace initiative exists to empower students to take ownership of shaping a better world, in limited but meaningful ways, through projects of their own design and implementation. In honoring Kathryn’s legacy, the Davis family — through its donor-advised fund at the Pew Foundation — and others, such as the McGillicuddy and Colhoun family foundations, are committing ongoing philanthropic resources to keep this program an annual competition among all students at the partner schools of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, and at several additional educational institutions included by special invitation . While peace may be an ever-elusive goal in today’s world, the Projects for Peace initiative suggests that there are many powerful ways, for those willing to assume personal responsibility for positive change, to make a difference in the world. The innovation, energy, dedication, and effort of today’s young people are key to building stepping-stones to peace in the 21st century, and Projects for Peace gives them the resources and motivation to do so. The vision and inspiration of Kathryn Davis live on. Philip O. Geier, Ph.D. Executive Director Davis United World College Scholars Program 

“My many years have taught me that there will always be conflict. It’s part of human nature. But I’ll remind you that love, kindness, and support are also part of human nature. My challenge to you is to bring about a mindset of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war.” Kathryn W. Davis

Children's Peace Library, Palestine

Dalal’s project was designed to improve children’s mental health by developing a community-based library in Betein, Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine. In partnership with Betein’s Community Council, Dalal converted a large room into a library to encourage children and adolescents to utilize the space as an outlet to learn more about peace by reading and being exposed to different perspectives. Students and parents in the Ramallah area contributed over 500 books and the Palestine Ministry of Education and the Give Palestine Association donated another 300 books from authors from around the world. The project’s funds allowed Dalal to outfit the library with a television, a computer, a printer, tables, chairs, and bookshelves and to purchase various reference books. In addition to providing the space, the Betein Council provided electricity, water, heat, and Internet access as well as the salary for a librarian. Currently, the library is open six hours each day and children from four surrounding villages are benefiting. Betein’s community members are continuing to support the project with their time and resources. The librarian, Um Ahmad, says, “I am excited to be a part of this peace-building project as a way to contribute back to my community. I hope the activities and competitions we plan will encourage children to read at a young age, and that reading will no longer be restricted to schoolbooks and homework.” Dalal reports that the Betein Council views this library as a first step towards developing a large Community Learning Center that will expand the library’s value for older age groups as well as offering tutoring programs, language classes, and other activities to enhance intercultural communication.

“This Project for Peace taught me that long-term development and peace building are not achieved by imposing our personal perspectives and ideas on communities abroad. Rather, it is imperative for us as leaders and peacemakers to build intercultural relations and encourage the pooling of ideas from within these communities to ensure our utmost best that our projects benefit their needs and aspirations.” -Dalal Awwad