Two students receive Davis Projects for Peace grants
Two St. Olaf College students have each received a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace initiative to establish grassroots projects abroad.
Love Odetola ’14 will use the $10,000 grant to develop a public health initiative in Senegal, while Duy Ha ’14 will use it to create an interactive educational experience about environmental issues in Vietnam.
The grants are awarded to students who use creativity and innovation in the development of a project that promotes peace and addresses the root cause of conflict among parties. Over the past five years, seven St. Olaf students have received the prestigious award.
Odetala’s project, “Peace through Public Health and Women Empowerment,” will take her to Lambaneme, Senegal, just hours from where she grew up in Dakar.
Ha will spend his summer in his hometown of Hanoi, Vietnam, implementing an interactive learning experience for students about environmental issues in the Vietnamese rainforest. His project is titled “Rung Oi!,” which literally means, “Hi, Forest!”
A love of public service
Odetola credits the development of her project to conversations she was having both inside and outside the classroom at St. Olaf. She developed her own “Health and Wellness Disparities in the Developing World” major through the St. Olaf Center for Integrative Studies, combining diverse methodologies and subject matter across the curriculum related to public health.
“I started thinking about the disparities I see at home and what I could possibly do to change the problems I was seeing,” she says. “Senegal was a good place to start, because its familiar, I speak the languages, and I understand the people.”
Through connections with her father’s mission work in the region, Odetola was able to get in contact with Mission Inter Senegal (MIS), an evangelical nonprofit that focuses on community development in the rural interior villages of Senegal, and they agreed to act as her partner organization for the project.
MIS put her contact with the village spokesperson of Lambaneme, and together he and Odetola developed the three goals she will work on over the summer: the implementation of a water pipe to bring fresh water to the village from the nearest source (currently more than four miles away); the development of multiple public health workshops in conjunction with the women of the village, in order to focus on their individual wants and needs; and the establishment of micro loans for about 10-15 women to develop small business ventures in the field of agriculture and livestock.
“I’m excited to be a leader with the same authority as the adult directors I’ll be working with,” Odetola says. “This is leadership on a whole new level.”
Education and the environment
While on a canopy tour in Costa Rica last winter, Ha noticed a group of elementary school students going into the rainforest to do experiential learning activities.
“I quickly came to admire the allocation of public and private resources into the development of environmental education programs in Costa Rica,” he says. “I thought, ‘Vietnam, a beautiful country with extensive biodiversity, is facing serious problems of deforestation. Why shouldn’t we have a similar program back home?’”
Ha was inspired to apply for a Davis grant to develop an interactive learning experience about the rainforest in his native Hanoi. Over the course of the summer, he plans to: directly reach at least 1,000 Vietnamese youth and expose them to the rainforest; provide training for 50 exceptional young leaders with interest in the cause; publicize materials through Vietnamese mass media and online networks; and establish a network of youth interested in Vietnamese rainforest protection and environmental preservation.
“The rights to be educated about living sustainably and harmoniously are crucial to keeping the world a peaceful place,” he says. “I hope to balance that social injustice by providing in-depth and experiential learning opportunities about one of the under-addressed major issues facing Vietnam today.”
As an economics major with a concentration in management studies, Ha hopes to one day develop a sustainable business in Vietnam.
A ‘United’ front
The Davis Projects for Peace grants are open to all students (both international and domestic) at the 94 Davis United World College partner schools. St. Olaf has been a member college in the UWC program since the fall of 2008, and 46 of the college’s current international students are Davis UWC Scholars.