April 01, 2013

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — A Bucknell University student group has received a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant from philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis.

The "Light the Way" project will provide solar-powered lamps to students in rural Ninglang County in China, listed as one of the poorest counties in the country. The sophomore students involved in the project are Sean Xu, a political science and economics major; Yili Jiang, a computer science and engineering major; Melissa Dunne, education and history; and Maxy Xiao, international relations.

"The main goal of the lamp distribution program is to improve students' study conditions," said Xu. "Many elementary schools in Ninglang County have no electricity so students can study only until the sun sets, and must go outside on cloudy or rainy days, a practice which can cause myopia."

Ninglang County is located in the northwestern part of Yunnan Province at a relatively high altitude, making solar energy abundant. The solar-powered lamps can be purchased online in China for $11 each; the rechargeable batteries can store electricity for nearly eight hours.

"The project aims to help around 520 students," said Xu, who traveled to China last summer with Jiang to meet with elementary school principals to discuss the project, which will begin this summer during a 20-day trip. || Related Bucknell news story: Xu and Xiao created Bucknell's first-ever service-learning trip to China

During the program, the group will visit schools, distribute the lamps and teach students to create artwork illustrating how the lamps have inspired their education. This artwork will be displayed online and sold to sustain next year's program.

This is the seventh year Bucknell has participated in the Projects for Peace program. As a Davis United World College Scholars Program partner school, Bucknell is invited to nominate student projects for the program.

Bucknell students have worked on providing clean drinking water in South America; establishing a sewing co-op in Guatemala; designing a water pumping station in Nicaragua; making a documentary about the plight of banana workers in Nicaragua; establishing a bicycle co-op for two villages in northern Uganda, a project that has become Bicycles Against Poverty. Dick Muyambi '12, cofounder of Bicycles Against Poverty, was a speaker at Clinton Global Initiative University in April 2013.

Last year, two groups received funding to raise awareness of social problems in Puerto Rico and a government-funded healthcare program in Sierra Leone. The Bucknell groups received an additional $10,000 grant last year in honor of the late Reverend James Richard Leo, a 1956 Bucknell graduate.

The Projects for Peace program honors philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who launched the initiative on her 100th birthday in 2007. Each of the 100 projects selected are designed to encourage and support motivated youth to create and implement their ideas for building peace throughout the world in the 21st century.

"I want to use my birthday to once again help young people launch some initiatives that will bring new energy and ideas to the prospects of peace in the world," said Davis. "My many years have taught me that there will always be conflict. It's part of human nature. But love, kindness and support are also part of human nature, and my challenge to these young people is to bring about a mindset of preparing for peace instead of preparing for war."

A complete list of the participating schools and projects, as well as a summary of all previous projects and a video interview with Davis from 2006, is available on the program's website.

Contact: Division of Communications