Two students win Projects for Peace grant
There is a difference between talking about how the world needs to change and actually taking steps to make that happen. Seniors Rachael Powell and Arielle Burstein have been doing both every day as residents of the Environmentally Conscious Community Oriented (ECCO) House. And now they will be playing an even larger role as environmental advocates.
The two have been awarded a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant for their proposal to build greenhouses in Yanahuara, Peru, where malnutrition is prevalent due to climate changes that affect sustainable food sources. The Projects for Peace initiative is made possible by Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who started the program in 2007 in celebration of her 100th birthday. The grants aim to help promote world peace through projects that are undertaken each summer.
“I’ve always wanted to do something that is actually proactive rather than sitting back and just voicing my opinion that something needs to be done and never really accomplishing anything,” said Powell, a political science major.
She and Burstein are close friends and share similar ideas about advocating for the environment and social activism. ECCO House also has been involved in developing the greenhouse near the Presidents’ House. So seeking this project came natural to them.
Burstein had already been interested in Peru. After she spent a semester abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she traveled to Peru for the first time. Also during her “Environmental Anthropology” course in the fall, she read about excessive glacial melt in the Andes and the repercussions of it, which deepened her interest in Peru.
“The current worldwide dialogue concerning climate change has been grossly negligent of marginalized communities whose livelihood is independent of the global industrial economy,” the students wrote in their proposal. To address the issue, they plan to help isolated communities adapt to the challenges presented by the changing environment by working at a local level.
Because water and arable land is limited in the area, most families have small plots, which makes farming difficult. Consequently, 70 percent of the families suffer from malnutrition, Powell and Burstein point out.
Using local materials and working from the end of May through the end of July, the two plan to collaborate with members of the community to build two greenhouses, one in coordination with the primary school in the village and one in coordination with the secondary school. Students and staff will be responsible for the maintenance of the greenhouses, as well as tending to the plants.
“I’m very excited about getting to know the people of Yanahuara while working along side them to build the greenhouses,” said Burstein, who is double majoring in international relations and Hispanic studies. “I’m also excited about the prospect of having the opportunity of applying our liberal arts education to a problem.”
Powell said she is excited to be doing something that is important to her. “I have always had a deep concern for our environment,” she said. “Living in the ECCO House definitely increased my awareness of the work that needs to be done concerning our environment and gave me the resolve to actually work towards change.”