Two Macalester students' Projects for Peace

By Alison Hoyer

Rainbow-colored posters hung around the Civic Engagement Center and tacked on bulletin boards in the academic buildings on campus may have already caught your eye.These bulletins ask you to propose your own “Project for Peace,” and to prepare to pursue your proposal if it is deemed innovative, likely to help promote peace and, of course, plausible to complete over a summer and on a $10,000 budget.

100 Projects for Peace-a campaign for social entrepreneurship and positive, peaceful change-was created by philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman-Davis in celebration of her 100th birthday. Although she will be completing 101 years, the success of last year’s program was influential enough to convince Wasserman-Davis to donate another $1,000,000 to an additional 100 individual or group projects that work to actualize peace.

Last year, Fiorella Ormeno Incio ’09 and Dara Hoppe ’10 were the two Macalester recipients of the $10,000 peace grants for their unique and realistic projects.

Ormeno Incio chose to do her social work in her home country of Peru while Hoppe supported poor farming communities in the Amazon region of Brazil. Both Hoppe and Incio established relations with significant organizations associated with their causes, which helped turn their ideas into reality.

“The organizational partnership is key,” said Karin Trail-Johnson, director of the Civic Engagement Center and the Macalester representative for the program. “This needs to be a project that the community wants and is done in partnership with their goals.”

The time and effort of creating a project are worth it, according to Ormeno Incio.
Ormeno Incio’s project laid the foundation for a series of Peace Building Workshops for several high schools around Peru as the result of her Educational Studies classes at Macalester and her prior experience in organizing a Human Rights workshop with the Peruvian Association of the United World
Colleges (APCMU).

“[This project] was a great way to implement what I’ve learned at Mac,” Ormeno Incio. “This was and still is an issue I’m very passionate about. I got the opportunity to reconnect with my society and do a project that was important to me and made a difference.”

Motivated by the cause of educating teenagers about racial and gender discrimination in divided Peruvian society, Ormeno Incio established a seminar for designated teachers from each of the different high schools to join together under the instruction of a conflict resolution consultant. These teachers then recruited students from their schools to participate in a similar workshop. After this tutorial, the students formed a Peace Club, whose main goal was to educate and enlist fellow students.

“You really understand what you are capable of,” Ormeno Incio said. “It was very hard, but I learned a lot from the difficulties I had to handle.”

For Ormeno Incio, these hardships included hiring a consultant who resigned only weeks prior to the commencement of her workshop, a teachers strike and an earthquake.

Despite these initial adversities, Ormeno Incio’s summer workshop was very successful, and she remains positive in regards to the experience as a whole.

“It was originally just an idea I had, and I saw people who were very motivated by what I had created,” Ormeno Incio said.

Hoppe used the grant money to support the underrepresented agricultural communities in the Amazon Rainforest.

With the aid of her sister, who was studying in the Amazon on a Fulbright scholarship, and Hoppe’s lifetime hobby of jewelry-making, Hoppe established a jewelry co-operative. The jewelry co-op provided environmentally-sustainable work opportunities for women in the small village of Anapu.

“One of the core factors of my project was to work with people that were committed to sustainability,” Hoppe said. “The jewelry workshop that I helped to build was to be a sustainable project because all the materials could be collected in the forest.”

Hoppe used the majority of her grant money to purchase two essential machines that enabled the women to polish and drill holes through acaí seeds, turning them into usable beads. After a tutorial on the proper use of these machines, Hoppe then taught the women how to construct jewelry, and also advised them on styles that would appeal to a U.S. market.

By teaching her knowledge of jewelry-making to these communities, Hoppe provided a source of income for one of many poor, formerly landless peasant farming communities in the Amazon.

Hoppe also believes that the artisan work made by these women authenticates the type of raw-material jewelry which is commonly made and sold by artisans throughout Latin America.

“Eliminating the middlemen establishes more of a connection to the source of the jewelry,” Hoppe said.

The fundamental idea behind 100 Projects for Peace is for these projects to continue long after the summer of their completion.

While Hoppe does her part by selling in the U.S. some of the jewelry created during her workshop, Ormeno is already planning on her next social project.

“I will get further funding for my project because I have something concrete to offer that worked,” said Ormeno.

Trail-Johnson emphasizes this important aspect and claims that the Macalester review committee examines applicants’ goals for a long term impact beyond the summer.

Ormeno Incio, Hoppe, and Trail-Johnson all encourage students interested in developing a project for Summer 2008 to realistically consider this program as an opportunity to define one’s own ideas to restore and create peace.

“Think about what issues you care deeply about,” Trail-Johnson advised. “This is an amazing opportunity to be creative and bold. Put your coursework to action and learn how to put a plan for change into action.”

All students interested in the grant are encouraged to meet with Trail-Johnson and discuss their proposal before the January 15 deadline.