Projects for Peace, a foundation established by Kathyrn Wasserman Davis, is intended to encourage students to create plans for upholding peace and provides winners with $10,000 to implement a plan of their own design. This year, Becca Rosenzweig ’19 won the grant for her plan to teach vocational skills to villagers living on the border of Thailand and Myanmar, making her the first Wheaton freshman to obtain the grant.
With the help of the $10,000 that accompanies the grant, Rosenzweig will take on the ambitious task of building and establishing a student-run café to teach students the vocational skills they need to break from the cycle of poverty that has dictated life in the Hill Tribes for decades. Rosenzweig has visited Thailand on several occasions, and through her experience, has come to fully appreciate the difficulties residents in Hill Tribes face in their daily lives. “They are marginalized by the government without access to medical care and education and can’t get work outside the villages,” she said.
Thanks to the Rustic Pathways Foundation, a school in a nearby town, the local young people of the Hill Tribes are provided with a place to live and receive an education during the school year. Rosenzweig remarks that while the students undoubtedly receive an invaluable education from the non-profit establishment, “they are still not getting vocational skills.”
It is with this problem in mind that Rosenzweig developed her plan to build a student-run café on the site of the school. The café will be run by student volunteers who will learn how to budget, cook, organize and manage a small business. All the profit made from the organization will go towards supporting the local village.
Construction of the café is due to begin in April and should be completed by the time Rosenzweig arrives on site in June. She will then spend the month teaching and interacting with the volunteers to ensure that they get the most from the opportunity.
While Rosenzweig has been brainstorming ways to help the Hill Tribes for a long time, it was thanks to her FYS, “Social Empowerment through the Performing Arts” taught by Professor Julie Searles, that she learned about Projects for Peace. She initially submitted her plan for an assignment and then later met with Dean Trayford to fine tune her draft for submission.
Rosenzweig is excited to have the opportunity to make a difference in the community she has come to love, “I hope that there is a combination of learning vocational skills and cultural exchange,” she said. If Rosenzweig’s level of passionate dedication for the project is any indication of its outcome then it will certainly be a remarkably successful endeavor. It is clear that she is acutely aware of the need for change in the Hill Tribes and by working with the villagers this summer, she will undoubtedly help to make a difference in the community she loves.