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The Scarlet & Black

Students awarded grants for peace

Two projects by Grinnell students have been selected by the Davis Projects for Peace to receive 10,000 dollars each in funding this summer. Leah Lucas ’14 and Emily Nucaro ’14 will work with local artisans to promote economic development in Guatemala. Anam Aslam ’14 and Messiah College student Matthew Miller will implement their vision to improve child nutrition in Ecuador.

The Davis Projects for Peace program encourages undergraduates at American colleges and universities to create and try out their own ideas for building peace. Projects judged to be feasible, creative and sustainable are funded at 10,000 dollars each. These criteria clearly resonate with the winners’ projects.

Lucas and Nucaro’s program, called “Weaving Peace and Stringing Hope in Pachitulul,” seeks to create economic revenue for local artisans in Pachitulul, Guatemala who rely on selling hand-woven textiles and jewelry to make a living and pay rent for their land.

According to Lucas and Nucaro, residents in Pachitulul have historically relied on agriculture, but increased water levels have reduced the amount of available land for them to farm. Therefore, many women instead sell handmade beaded goods to tourists in order to make money. Still, the city benefits little from tourism, which makes it difficult to make a profit from the goods.

Lucas and Nucaro plan to facilitate a connection with area markets in order to address this difficulty.

“We are going to help them connect with other larger cities and find better markets for their goods,” Nucaro said.

“[We were] hoping to use these products to help them generate economic revenue for them to be able to pay the cost of the rent for more land,” Lucas added.

Apart from the marketing aspect of the project, Lucas and Nucaro will also use the fund to improve production conditions. By working with local carpenters to construct rocking benches, they hope to implement technological improvements to the workplace, thereby improving women’s health.

“The women are currently weaving on the ground and they are often weaving into old age,” Lucas said. “This is a very intensive process of weaving the beads, so they often have back problems.”

Finally, the project will provide the women with business and Internet training.

“We will be partnering with local organizations and [the community members] will come to teach classes on business practices, like what products might be better to sell tourists,” Nucaro said.

Lucas explained that some training will be required before the women are familiar with the Internet.

“They [do] have cellphones, technology and everything, but pretty limited access to computers,” she said.

For her project, Aslam and her partner will look into malnutrition in young children in Ecuador. Their program, called “Empowering Women to Bring Peace through Children’s Health,” will help strengthen the local Mothers Club and make sure its members receive the education and resources they require to combat malnutrition.

The Mothers Club seeks to help mothers fight the high childhood malnutrition rate by providing skills in breastfeeding and connecting them to doctors and nutritionists. However, statistics reveal a drop in club attendance, indicating the need for different methods.

“[The community members] started the club a while ago, except only three or four mothers go to the club and the statistics we have prove that there [are] way more mothers in the community,” Aslam said. “So we want to figure out why only three people attended and what the mothers need for the club to work.”

By inviting mothers to discuss their concerns with the doctors, Aslam hopes to open a dialogue between mothers and doctors and figure out what mothers need in order to be successful in their pregnancies, thus decreasing the malnutrition rate.

“We want to get [mothers and doctors] all together at one setting, and figure out what they need to tackle the problem,” Aslam said. “The whole point of the project is to let the mothers decide what they want, and then help them figure out how to do it because that is the only way we think would be sustainable.”

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