Sharmen Hettipola '17, environmental studies and economics, has been awarded a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant to rebuild a school in an impoverished village in Kandy, Sri Lanka, this summer. The Mailapitiya Maha Vidyalaya School has deteriorated and does not have the monetary resources to improve its facilities.
"I hope to repair the building in an environmentally friendly manner to ensure that the building is not only more durable, but also leads to a better student learning experience," said Hettipola, whose extended family lives in the Mailapitiya district and will help with the reconstruction.
Hettipola plans to use sustainable methods for the project. These include the maximization of natural light, an emphasis on local and recycled materials, a natural ventilation system that takes advantage of prevailing breezes, a rainwater harvest system and feasible sources of renewable energy.
While the school is being rebuilt, Hettipola will also be working with the students and their families to initiate green projects in their village. These will include simple acts like planting trees as well as more comprehensive efforts like establishing an environmental school curriculum with distinct modules concerning matters of sustainable living.
Hettipola became interested in making education available to impoverished communities when she visited Sri Lanka in 2012. "These individuals often don't have access to a proper education, which further propels them into poverty," she said. "Environmental factors play into this cycle, as deteriorated and uncomfortable conditions can further discourage students from attending school."
Through the project, Hettipola hopes to bring awareness to the intersection of poverty, environmental factors and education in Sri Lanka. She plans on showing the students that keeping green spaces and taking advantage of natural light can keep them motivated in school.
This is the 10th year that Bucknell University 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. 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. The grant honors Kathryn W. Davis, a philanthropist and peace advocate who started the grant program in 2007.
Past Bucknell University Projects for Peace
2013: "Light the Way"
Devin Collins '16 is a 2015–16 Undergraduate Executive Intern in the Division of Communications.