Children’s greeting cards sustain after-school program in Tanzania

Ashley Mott ’08 and Caitlin O’Connor ’08 spent their summer helping to expand and enhance an established after-school program in Tanzania as winners of a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant. But long before they set foot in the country, they were already asking how they would economically sustain the project financially once they returned to Wheaton.

Children's artworkThe answer can be found in the college’s Old Town Hall Bookstore, where Mott and O’Connor are selling boxes of colorful greeting cards with artwork created by the Tanzanian students. The $10 boxed sets contain eight beautiful cards with reproductions of collage and colored pencil artwork.

Mott and O’Connor were two of three Wheaton students who won a grant to promote world peace from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace initiative. An internationalist and philanthropist, Davis is the mother of Wheaton trustee Diana Davis Spencer ’60. She launched the program this year to celebrate her 100th birthday.

The nationwide competition, which continues in 2008, was open to students at the 76 American colleges and universities participating in the Davis United World College Scholars Program. Students were invited to design grassroots projects, and they were judged on the promise and feasibility of their proposals. The goal was to motivate today’s young women and men to try their hand at building peace in the 21st century.

Children's artworkDerron J.R. Wallace ’07 also received a $10,000 award to establish small school libraries and provide school uniforms for children in Jamaica and Tanzania.

In addition, Wheaton funded the projects of three other students–Kelly Maby ’09, who implemented social, recreational and cultural programs at an orphanage and helped promote a women’s micro-credit group in Argentina; Ryan Patch ’08, who worked with Nicaraguan villages to create and oversee micro-credit loans to help locals start businesses; and Ashley Pillsbury ’09, who designed the Youth Cultural Art Exchange between students in Norton and Ghana.

In Tanzania, Mott and O’Connor developed curriculum for The Hopeful School working with founder Thompson Akyoo and teacher Gebriel Williams. They built a new classroom to accommodate a growing population of students ages 3 to 20 in the Sing’isi community of Arusha, Tanzania. They also established a cross-cultural Internet pen-pal program between the students in Tanzania and members of the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club in Massachusetts so each group could share life experiences.

Children's artworkAs part of the curriculum, Mott and O’Connor added an artistic component to enhance the educational opportunities for the students, as well as a way for them to contribute directly to the on-going fundraising for their school through art projects.

“We knew a majority of the $10,000 from the Projects for Peace grant would go toward constructing the new building, confirming the need for continued fundraising,” said Mott, a psychology major.

The money will help pay the teacher’s salary, buy porridge for the children and supplies for the classroom, as well as continue to fund Internet access for students in the local Internet café.

The Hopeful School students created collages from scraps of Kitenge fabric and other materials such as banana bark to show images of their homes, surroundings and scenes of daily life. “Watching the students work gave me great happiness, as I am sure anyone can relate to seeing young minds using art as a vehicle for expression,” said O’Connor, an anthropology major.