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Press Release

Bard Students Win Davis Projects For Peace Award

Mark Primoff
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Two Bard College students—Jennifer Lemanski ’09 of Boulder, Colorado, and Sofia Belenky ’11 of Cabot, Vermont—have won a prestigious Davis Projects for Peace Award, which provides $10,000 in funding to start an expressive arts therapy center for youth in Sri Lanka. The Davis Projects for Peace program awarded students from 81 colleges and universities in the Davis United World College (UWC) Scholar Program a total of $1 million to undertake 100 proposed projects. 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.

Lemanski and Belenky plan to initiate a new expressive arts center in the metropolitan region of Colombo that will bring together Tamil, Sinhalese, and Muslim youth, ages 7–17, for after-school and weekend workshops. The children will be selected by teachers at local schools and by directors of local rehabilitation and childcare facilities. The new center will provide a space where traumatized children can free their imaginations and process the harsh experiences of their lives through multiple modes of artmaking. Facilitators will model nonviolent behavior and positive ways to resolve conflict and disturbing emotional issues.

“Since 1983, Sri Lanka has been in the midst of a brutal civil war, and the internal armed conflict that has ravaged the country for 25 years has taken the lives of well over 50,000 people,” write Lemanski and Belenky. “Throughout these years, peace treaties have been signed and broken, international relief organizations have come and gone, and on January 2, 2008, the government of Sri Lanka announced its decision to terminate the country’s 2002 ceasefire agreement, which has resulted in the swift departure of foreign peacekeepers. More than ever before in the last five years, there is an immediate need for social reconciliation in Sri Lanka. At the expressive arts center, children will come together to heal the relations that have broken down between their ethnic and religious groups as a result of terror tactics and the untold miseries of war. It is our hope that the youth who participate in the workshops will plant the seeds for a nonviolent, thoughtful, and tolerant society.”

Davis Projects for Peace invited students from schools participating in the UWC Scholars Program to submit plans for grassroots projects for peace, to be implemented during the summer of 2008. 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 winning 100 projects receives $10,000 in funding. Davis is an internationalist and philanthropist, and the mother of Shelby M. C. Davis, who funds the Davis UWC Scholars Program. “My many years have taught me that there will always be conflict,” says Davis. “It’s part of human nature. But love, kindness, and support are also part of human nature, and my challenge to these young people is to bring about a mindset of preparing for peace instead of preparing for war.” For further information about the Davis Projects for Peace, visit

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This event was last updated on 10-21-2008