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Winning “Napkins” proposal brings alums to Brazil

Carleton alumni Michael McCulloch ’07 and Nazish Zafar ’07 have been educating people on the prevention of malnutrition in Brazil. Their innovative proposal, entitled “The Napkin Project: Health Education on the Street,” was funded by a $10,000 grant provided by Kathryn Wasserman Davis’s 100 Projects for Peace Initiative.

When Mrs. Davis turned 100 years old in 2006, she decided to celebrate her birthday by donating $1,000,000 to fund projects that will promote world peace. The 100 projects were selected from 85 different schools, and McCulloch and Zafar’s project was chosen from Carleton.

The idea behind “The Napkin Project” was to promote basic knowledge of nutrition by printing nutritional facts onto napkins that would be widely used by the citizens of Brazil. The inventive idea of knowledge through napkins originated from the two alumni’s interest in street food. “At Carleton, we used to talk a lot about our love for street food and, eventually, the idea of using napkins bubbled to the surface,” said McCulloch and Zafar. McCulloch and Zafar started in June by asking local napkin vendors in Fortaleza, Brazil to print their public health messages. Since food vendors in Brazil interact with a variety of people, McCulloch and Zafar hope that these napkins and messages will find their way into everyone’s lives. The two focused on keeping their project local, working with local artists, local companies, and researchers to get the right message across. As exemplified by McCulloch and Zafar, the grants are meant to “give students experience in putting ideas into action,” said Associate Dean Elizabeth Ciner.

Charged with the task of promoting world peace, the responsibility can seem a bit scary. In carrying out the project, McCulloch and Zafar said, “It was a little intimidating at first, but we learned the ropes eventually.” Post graduation, the two have created an organization, Osmosis, which “designs and implements public education campaigns around the world.” After wrapping up the project in Brazil around mid-December, McCulloch and Zafar have their eyes on implementing napkins in Russia.

The $10,000 grants help students implement and finalize original ideas that will contribute to solving problems in the world. Of the fellowship, Ciner said, “To stimulate 100 students into tackling world problems with innovative ideas is something that we can all applaud.” These proposals can be made by any undergraduates as groups or as individuals and can be carried out on anything in the world. “I don’t think every idea to promote world peace has been thought up of,” said Ciner, “And there are lots of ways to contribute to world peace. Interpretation of the idea is very open and this fellowship allows Carls to do just about anything.” At Carleton, the Student Fellowship Committee nominates one proposal and two alternates and sends them to the Davis UWC Scholars Program, from which the final decision will be made. Mrs. Davis has committed to giving away another $1,000,000 this year for projects to be carried out in the summer of 2008. The deadline for this fellowship is January 14, 2008 by 5 p.m. and should be submitted to the Dean of College office.

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