March 26, 2008

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LEWISBURG, Pa. — A Bucknell University student group is working to educate people about the effects of the pesticide Nemagon on banana workers in Nicaragua through a recent $10,000 grant from the Davis Projects for Peace program.

Members of the January 2008 volunteer trip with the Bucknell Brigade met with banana workers camping outside the capital city of Managua who are protesting the use of the pesticide.

Banned since 1979 in the United States, Nemagon is used in many Central American countries, the Caribbean, and the Philippines to kill worms that ruin bananas. According to the workers, Nemagon has led to harmful effects such as breast and uterine cancers, infertility, skin problems, and miscarriages.

Basic life necessities
These workers are not looking to win excessive amounts of money from the companies, according to Bucknell senior Alex Madsen. "They're asking for the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, healthcare, but most importantly, the peace of mind that this pesticide will not harm their children in the future. They simply want to die with dignity.

"As citizens of the wealthiest nation in the world, it is our responsibility to aid and raise consciousness about such issues," she said.

Joining Madsen in the creation of the project are senior Connie Low, juniors Christian Etherton and Emily Rath, sophomore Kylie Brandt, and first-year students Grace Han and Dick Muyambi.

Return to Nicaragua
Five students — Low, Muyambi, and Han, along with senior Brittany Szabo and sophomore Laura Weinstein — will return to Nicaragua for two weeks this summer to conduct interviews and collect oral histories for a documentary. The Jubilee House Community, the host in Nicaragua of all Bucknell Brigade trips, has agreed to provide room, board, and transportation for them while there.

The students also hope to provide food and clothing to the workers as well as sustainability, using this project as a stepping stone to allow the banana workers to fight their own battle, while also increasing awareness in the United States. The group plans to produce pamphlets for Nicaraguans to distribute to legislators to support their cause.

After returning to Bucknell, they will edit, produce, and distribute the documentary to many other colleges and will post it on YouTube. "We hope that this project will inspire individuals to think about their consumption habits, and question multi-national companies whose aim is to make a profit but not care for their workers," said Madsen.

Second Davis grant
This is the second year in a row that a Bucknell student group has received a Davis Project for Peace grant. The first supported two projects in Guatemala and Nicaragua: a sewing cooperative in Mi Refugio and a water supply project in El Porvenir.

The Bucknell student project is one of 81 colleges and universities in the Davis United World College (UWC) Scholar Program to receive $1 million in total funding to undertake their proposed projects. The program, in its second year, honors philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who launched the initiative on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2007. Designed to encourage and support motivated youth to create and implement their ideas for building peace throughout the world in the 21st century, each of the 100 projects will receive $10,000 in funding.

"We are grateful to the many students, faculty, and staff who participated in this year's competition," said Philip O. Geier, executive director of the Davis UWC Scholars Program. "Kathryn Davis is a leader, and what she has set in motion with this important challenge is a growing number of young people committed to putting into place the building blocks for peace."
The winning projects propose specific plans of action that will have lasting effects including post-conflict community building, youth empowerment and education programs, improved community water supplies worldwide, and a multitude of agrarian enterprises in countries where famine is pervasive. Students will travel to more than 54 countries over the summer to work on their projects and report on their experiences once they return.

Contact: Office of Communications

Posted March 26, 2008