July 01, 2015, BY Elaine Waldron

Sule Temple in Yangon
Carmen Oo '17 will ship books from Yangon, Myanmar, to Dumbang village.

Bucknell civil engineering major Ngone "Carmen" Oo '17 has been awarded a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant. This summer, she will develop "Books for a Better Society," which aims to educate and provide books and electricity to the people of the Dumbang village in Kachin State of her home country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), a country with a history fraught with strife. In 2012, Myanmar abolished censorship, and the military has eased control over the government, but villages including Dumbang continue without electricity or internet.

"Books will educate people to bring peace, awareness of current affairs and help them to make better choices for their society and country," said Oo, whose father has a farm near the village.

This is the ninth year that Bucknell has participated in the Projects for Peace program. All undergraduates at the 91 American colleges and universities that are partners in the Davis United World Scholars Program are eligible to submit proposals for the grant. The grant posthumously honors Kathryn W. Davis, an philanthropist and peace advocate who started the grant program in 2007 in celebration of her 100th birthday. Every year, the winning projects are designed to encourage and support motivated youth to create and implement their ideas for building peace throughout the world in the 21st century.

Oo is collaborating on this project with the Dumbang Edin Baptist Church. She will help to provide books and equipment for the library and teach a system of storing books and rules needed to maintain the library in the long term. She said she has chosen books that will promote academics and help the students and villagers gain further knowledge on concepts central to life in that area. She plans to provide textbooks that range from elementary to high school levels. Also included will be dictionaries, children's books, agriculture books, novels, translated novels, autobiographies, magazines and newspapers. The church will maintain the electricity and the library. 

There are roughly over 700 students ranging from elementary level to high school level in the village, said Oo. The library will become a source of income for the villagers by providing part-time job opportunities and hiring a librarian. Oo's project also provides to the village 10 solar lanterns, two personal computers and a printer. These resources are also gateways to other, potential resources the village may need, said Oo. Oo plans on buying the books and library equipment in Yangon, the central city in Myanmar. She will then send the items to the village via train.

Oo's project is one in a long history of connections between the University and her home country. The relationship dates back to 1858, when Bucknell's first international student, Maung Shaw Loo, arrived on campus from Burma. Loo went on to become a physician in his home country. The University continues to draw students from Burma today. 

Past Bucknell Projects for Peace include:

2014: "A Better Transportation Decreases Poverty Gap"

2013: "Light the Way"

2012: "Puerto Rico Se Anima" and "Boloka Ngwao [Preserve Your Culture]"

2011: "Bicycles Against Poverty" and "Hear our Cry"

2010: "Providing Clean Drinking Water in Suriname"

2009: "Bicycles Against Poverty"

2008: "Educating People on the Effects of the Pesticide Nemagon on Banana Workers in Nicaragua"  

2007: "Sewing Cooperative at Mi Refugio" and "Procuring Sufficient Water in Nicaragua"