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Litwin, Mayer earn 10,000 Projects for Peace grant

Carleton students Emily Litwin ’09 and Melissa Mayer ’09 earned the prestigious $10,000 “Projects for Peace” grant through the Davis United World College (UWC) scholars program. Their project, “Talking with Our Hands: Personal Expression through Puppetry Arts,” will take place in Londonderry, an impoverished area in Northern Ireland.

In their proposal, Litwin and Mayer identified the goals of their project; “The program will engage at-risk youth in a creative, educational, and secular curriculum geared to enhance position and peaceful social interaction.” Their project is the result of Litwin and Mayer’s experiences with the Cathedral Youth Club in Londonderry. “Many troubled youth there expressed frustration at the lack of available leisure activities” within their immediate community. Litwin and Mayer will implement a three-week puppetry arts workshop.

The youth of the Londonderry community face a unique set of challenges given the troubled history of the area. Historically, Northern Ireland has been in a state of constant conflict-resolution. According to Litwin and Mayer, the area is “in the process of rebuilding and recovering from three decades of sectarian violence.” Northern Ireland continues to seek a peaceful end to its history of violence and bloodshed.

Londonderry proved an area of interest after Litwin and Mayer spent significant time in this particular Protestant community during their study abroad experience with the School for International Training’s Peace and Conflict Studies program. According to Litwin and Mayer, Londerry is a “microcosm of Northern Ireland.” The Cathedral Youth Club in the Fountain Estate is located in an area that has been identified as a “high Targeting Social Needs (TSN) region. Litwin and Mayer describe the area as “small, impoverished, and dwindling Protestant community.”

With youth as their target audience, Litwin and Mayer provided in their project proposal the objectives of their final project; through their puppet workshop, they hope to instill “An increase in self-esteem due to a greater ability for self-expression and the pride garnered by the completion of a project and craft.” In addition, they seek to promote, “The development of valuable life skills: the ability to articulate emotions, to teach conflict resolution through a non-threatening medium, and cultivate constructive and peaceful social interaction.” Their design proves creative and promising.

Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who initiated the project on her 100th birthday in 2007 the philanthropist behind the Davis Projects for Peace. In its second year, Litwin and Meyer follow class of 2007 “Projects for Peace” winners, alumni Michael McCullough and Nzish Zafar. McCullough and Zafar designed a project, “The Napkin Project: Health Education on the Street” that used napkins to educate citizens of Brazil on the importance of female nutrition and prenatal health.

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