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Reed Undergraduates to Aid Rwandan Orphans Through Davis Projects for Peace

Mandala and Macdonald hope to engage with and educate 80 orphans between the ages of nine and 19 over a four-week period.

Portland, OR (May 15, 2009)--The Davis Projects for Peace initiative has awarded Reed students Kirsten Mandala and Skye Macdonald with $10,000 to teach peaceful conflict resolution to traumatized orphans in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. It is estimated that over one million orphans live in Rwanda due to the combined effects of HIV/AIDS and genocide. Mandala and Macdonald hope to engage with and educate 80 orphans between the ages of nine and 19 over a four-week period. The goal of their project is to promote understanding and tolerance in youth who have been burdened by the loss of a parent and live in a region that is often overshadowed by ethnic hatred.

Their plan is to modify the Alternatives to Violence Program, and the Compass Manual on Human Rights Education with Young People to use these as tools to raise the children’s awareness of human rights. These tools will serve to guide their overall curriculum, which will include games and activities designed to foster trust between races, and encourage peaceful behavior and conflict resolution as alternatives to violence. Mandala and Macdonald are confident that their efforts will help reduce ethnic hatred and animosity in the next generation.

Mandala and Macdonald will work with the community to construct a lending library. Kigali is in desperate need of this type of development, as there are currently no public libraries and only one publisher in Rwanda. By instilling cooperative skills in the children, and helping to construct a library, they hope to build a sense of hope for a better future. Coming away from the experience, Macdonald, a junior anthropology major, and Mandala, a sophomore political science major, hope to share the lessons they learn with their respective Reed departments.

Mandala has experience in teaching, including a brief stint in Costa Rica. Currently, as an intern for Students for Education, Empowerment, and Direct Service she helps organize programs for Reed students to teach after school. Macdonald spent time as an English tutor in Paris and led the most recent alternative spring break volunteer trip to New Orleans to aide in the reconstruction of buildings damaged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

 “If we don’t accomplish anything in our curriculum, we’re still giving them the idea that the international community does in fact care for them,” says Mandala. Macdonald says that she feels similarly, adding that she hopes to form meaningful interpersonal relationships with the children and staff. Mandala and Macdonald are also quick to recognize that for them this is not merely a chance to teach, but also a chance to learn about the lives of people living in dramatically different circumstances from their own.

Annually, the Davis Projects for Peace awards $10,000 grants to 100 undergraduates at U.S. colleges. The proposals must include practical plans for making ideas for peace manifest. The organization is named for Kathryn Wasserman Davis who founded the program on her 100th birthday.

For more information about the Davis Projects for Peace, visit: