Anne Gleason '07, a psychology and sociology/anthropology major from Holliston, Mass., and Logan Gibson '08, a politics major with a concentration in poverty studies from Charlottesville, Va., were recently awarded grants from 100 Projects for Peace, an organization that invites undergraduate students to submit a project proposal that enhances the idea of world peace.
Both Gleason and Gibson will receive a $10,000 grant made possible by Kathryn Wasserman Davis, an accomplished internationalist and philanthropist.
Anne Gleason '07 Gleason's project, The Healthy Community Curry Kitchen, will be established in Bulathsinhala, a rural town in the Kalutara District of Sri Lanka. It will provide a free weekly dinner to members of the impoverished community.
"My inspiration for this project stems from my experience working in a public hospital in Sri Lanka in the summer of 2005," said Gleason. She fell in love with the Sri Lankan people and their culture, and wants to help alleviate the malnutrition prevalent among the women and children.
The Healthy Community Curry Kitchen has many aims: to improve community solidarity, to reduce food insecurity and to improve nutrition through health education. Gleason hopes to provide a secular meeting point for community members, in hopes of facilitating open interaction among them.
While in Sri Lanka in 2005, Gleason witnessed the intense conflict between Sinhalese, Muslim and Tamil people. "Based on the premise that all Sri Lankans have a right to both healthy bodies and healthy communities, the Curry Kitchen takes a multi-faceted approach to promoting peace," Gleason said.
"Establishing the Curry Kitchen and sustaining it in the future will be a great challenge, but I believe W&L has prepared me very well," Gleason continued. "Over the past four years, I have received constant support in my studies and volunteer experiences abroad. W&L has also given me the academic background, interpersonal skills and confidence to make this project possible."
Logan Gibson will use her grant money to travel to Rwanda, where she will open the first library in the town of Rwamagana. Her project will collaborate with the local non-governmental organization (NGO), Rwanda School Project, to provide a library to the school being built there. The library will be available full-time to students at the school and accessible several times a week to community members, as well.
Before 1994, the Rwandan educational system was hindered by ethnic division. "During the Colonial period, the Hutus were barred from schooling and good jobs," said Gibson. "After independence in 1959, the reverse was practiced- the Tutsis were repressed. "There is only one public library in all of Rwanda," Gibson continued. "It is funded by the NGO American Friends of the Kigali Library, and is not yet open. By developing a library at the Rwamagana school, I can help facilitate social reconciliation in Rwanda through education and literary access for both ethnic groups."
Gibson became interested in the African region by taking Professor Tyler Dickovick's class on international development the fall of her sophomore year. "I am also a Shepherd Poverty student--I recently wrote my capstone thesis on gender inequity in South African education--and the combination of the Shepherd outlook and the new exposure to development issues in really sparked my interest in the region," she said.
She has already begun collecting books for her library. "I drove to the Green Valley Book Fair in Harrisonburg and purchased many of the books and I ordered the rest from Amazon.com," said Gibson. "A few sets were donated from friends and from the Leyburn library here at W&L. Dick Grefe and Karin O' Callaghan have been especially helpful."
Both women will travel to their chosen countries this summer to begin work. Gleason will spend five to six weeks in Sri Lanka before returning to the U.S. to begin work for a group of community clinics in Denver this September. Gibson will return to W&L after her trip to Rwanda, and will serve as the Speakers Chair for W&L's 2008 Mock Convention, among other activities. She is considering applying for a Fulbright to study in South Africa following her graduation next spring.