Recent Pomona College graduates Ariel Gandolfo ’11 and Daniel Low ’11 are the recipients of a $10,000 grant from the Davis Projects for Peace to work at an orphanage in Honduras.
The Davis Grant is awarded to undergraduate students who design grassroots projects which promote peace and address the root causes of conflict among parties. Every year, 100 projects are funded.
Deciding to spend the summer at a Honduran orphanage came as a result of Gandolfo volunteering there during high school. In their project proposal, they drew connections between ongoing poverty, political instability, recent natural disasters, and the increasing amount of children left without families and living on the streets, leaving them vulnerable to violence and the perpetuation of the vicious cycles of poverty.
Part of the problem involves public perceptions. “Orphanages are seen as a drain on communities and people perceive this orphanage as bringing more poverty, violence and instability to the community. Children get ostracized,” said Gandolfo.
They proposed to open a community center as an expansion of the orphanage, which recently moved to Valle de Angeles. Their aim is to use the center to engage the youth in a curriculum that emphasizes education, safety and self-empowerment by teaching culturally appropriate health, hygiene, nutrition and sexual education classes. Teaching methods will include skits, dramas, sports and formal lectures, in partnership with various organizations like Support for International Change, Right to Play and The AIDS Support Organization. They will also help create clubs for children and community members.
Their plan is a challenging one, but they are hopeful. “We chose the place where we thought we could make the biggest difference and that would be the most practical,” said Low.
Both from Kirkland, WA, Gandolfo graduated with a degree in international relations and Low graduated with a degree in anthropology and was a pre-med student. Both also have experience working with children as part of international development. Low taught health education in Tanzania and Kenya and received the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, which allows him to get his master’s degree in public health in Malawi, where he will also teach health education classes. Gandolfo has previously worked with youth in Peru and Ecuador.
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