Students’ Efforts Promote Environmental Sustainability, Interfaith Harmony

Recipients of Projects for Peace Grants Detail Projects Implemented in Trinidad and Pakistan

Hartford, CT, November 12, 2015 – A standing-room-only audience crowded into the community room at Trinity’s Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS) to attend two student presentations on a recent Tuesday afternoon. Both a co-presentation by Andrew Agard ’18 and Cassia Armstrong ’18 and a second talk by Noor Malik ’18 were designed to report to the Trinity community on projects that the students conceived of during the 2014-2015 academic year and successfully completed over the summer. The students’ projects were part of an initiative that encourages college students to promote peace around the world.

Agard and Armstrong, whose project, “Promoting Peace Through Environmental Sustainability,” was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Kathryn W. Davis Projects for Peace program, described their work with the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP) in St. Ann’s on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. The project  involved building a rainwater catchment and storage system to aid with firefighting and provide reserve supplies of water for domestic use and irrigation. They built the system at a study center serving Trinidadian students, incorporating the added benefit of helping students learn about environmental sustainability.

Click here or scroll to the end of this article to watch a video about the project.

 
Cassia Armstrong and
Andrew Agard

Agard and Armstrong met while taking a first-year seminar as Interdisciplinary Science Program (ISP) students. They decided to collaborate on a class assignment to create a mock Projects for Peace proposal. When they began outlining their project proposal, they had no expectation of actually submitting it for funding consideration, never mind eventually receiving a grant, carrying out their project, and having it featured in an article by the Sierra Club’s magazine.

In the report that Agard and Armstrong prepared for Projects for Peace, they wrote: “This project was a stepping-stone towards promoting sustainable environmental practices across the Caribbean and the rest of the world. We learned the value of connecting with a community and understanding the customs & beliefs of that community before working with them.” Agard, who is from Trinidad and Tobago, plans to major in engineering with a concentration in computer engineering. Armstrong, from Vancouver, British Columbia, intends to double major in chemistry and environmental science.

While the summer found Agard and Armstrong in Trinidad focused on environmental sustainability, Malik was in her home country of Pakistan, tackling the challenge of religious intolerance. Malik’s project, “Interfaith Harmony,” also was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Projects for Peace organization. Malik worked in partnership with Seeds of Peace, an American-based organization, to bring together 60 teenagers from several Pakistani cities who belong to different religions and sects, to engage in a weeklong conflict-resolution program in the cities of Islamabad and Lahore. Religions represented included Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Sikhism.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Noor Malik

According to Malik, as camp participants discussed stereotypes and misconceptions during dialogue sessions, students from different communities realized a common belief was that other communities were spreading hate about their community. Malik described the dialogue as providing participants with “a space for the first time in their lives, knowing that others were listening to them.” The final two days of the camp took participants to the capital city of Islamabad, where they observed a session of parliament in the National Assembly and had the opportunity to talk with policy makers.

Malik, who plans a double major in political science (with a concentration in international relations) and philosophy, has been involved with Seeds of Peace for five years, beginning in the summer of 2010 when she attended the organization’s international camp in Maine. She said that after her experiences facilitating dialogue between people of different religious and cultural backgrounds, she is thinking of planning a similar opportunity for students from different religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds to engage in dialogue at Trinity. Mona Deng ’16, president of Trinity’s International House and in the audience listening to the students’ presentations, immediately piped up to say that the I-House would be the perfect place to host such a dialogue.

This was the ninth consecutive year that Davis Projects for Peace grants have been awarded to Trinity students and the second time that two Trinity proposals have been awarded funding in the same year. At Trinity, the program is administered through the Center for Urban & Global Studies. Students interested in proposing a 2016 project must do so prior to February 1, 2016 see the CUGS flyer for details. The Projects for Peace initiative is open to students from the 91 American colleges and universities that participate in the Davis United World College Scholars program (www.davisuwcscholars.org), plus students at International Houses Worldwide, the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Future Generations Graduate School, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, and the University of Maine.

Projects for Peace was launched in 2007 by philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis on the occasion of her 100th birthday. Until her death at 106 in 2013, she was intent on advancing the cause of peace and sought to motivate tomorrow’s promising leaders by challenging them to find ways to “prepare for peace.” The Davis family has chosen to honor her legacy by continuing to fund Projects for Peace. A complete list of the 2015 participating schools and projects, as well as a summary of all previous projects, is available at the program’s website.

Read more about Malik’s project here. Read more about Agard and Armstrong’s project here

The student presentations on Projects for Peace-sponsored projects were part of CUGS’ Global Vantage Point Series. Next up in the series are student presentations on Tuesday, November 17, and Tuesday, December 1, on summer research projects supported by the Luce Foundation. 

Written by Kathy Andrews with photos by Andrew Concatelli.