When Kudakwashe Ngogodo ’08 first arrived on campus, memories of his home in Mberengwa, a small village in Zimbabwe, were still fresh in his mind. He could not forget the long, scorching days spent trudging through rough terrain in search of clean water for himself and his family.

After reading a campus-wide e-mail about the 100 Projects for Peace program, Ngogodo was inspired. The program gave students who were interested the chance to win $10,000 to put their “project for peace” into action.

Along with Ngogodo, 45 University students submitted proposals for the grant. Although the committee was impressed by all of the proposals, the judges believed that Ngogodo’s project stood out from the pack.

“It impressed the selection committee for its universal applicability to peace, for its concrete, practical intention, for its controlled and manageable scope, and for the power of its simplicity,” said Assistant Director of the Career Resource Center (CRC) Jim Kubat.

Ngogodo’s winning proposal is called the “Hope-Water Project.” His idea is to supply the inhabitants of Mberengwa with clean water. In order to do this, Ngogodo proposes the sinking of two boreholes, which would provide the community with clean and safe water.

In the past few decades, the region has suffered through severe draught and famine, and Ngogodo hopes that the new water source will unite the community.

“I have a dream, and that dream is to bring peace to the community in which I was raised,” Ngogodo said. “Whether my dream is a flirtation with an illusion or a goal worth fighting for, I have decided to concentrate my energy and education to make it a reality.”

Ngogodo values education highly since few students in Mberengwa go beyond elementary level schooling, and he stressed that his experience at Wes has influenced him tremendously.

“One of my main motivations to undertake this project was the culture of activism I have learned and have come to appreciate during my time here at Wesleyan,” Ngogodo said. “It has indeed been the single most important education I’ve gotten: ‘Stand for what you believe in.’ Nothing is ever a long shot.”

Renowned philanthropist, Kathryn Wasserman Davis, is funding the grant for Ngogodo’s project. Davis, who will celebrate her 100th birthday this year, donated $1 million to finance 100 unique peace projects proposed by students nationwide.
“I want to use my 100th birthday to help young people launch some immediate initiatives, things that they can do during the summer of 2007, that will bring new thinking to the prospects of peace in the world,” wrote Davis on the 100 Projects for Peace website.

Wesleyan is one of 76 colleges in the Davis United College Scholars Program, the organization that is administering the 100 Projects for Peace program. Each school chose one finalist and the remaining 24 finalists will be chosen from among the alternates.

The program remains purposefully vague about the definition of a “project for peace.” The ambiguity allows the students to decide for themselves what they believe the best type of project will be. The Wesleyan selection committee received a wide range of proposals, each one creative and unique.

“True to form, the compassion of Wesleyan’s student body for those less fortunate was wide-ranging,” Kubat said. “The proposals addressed issues of bigotry toward female converts to Islam, disadvantaged youth, child abuse, poverty and violence, and covered the globe, from Middletown to Chicago to Northern Ireland to Nepal.”

With so many students presenting promising and exciting projects, the task of choosing just one Wesleyan finalist proved to be difficult. Project proposals were read and discussed by a selection committee comprised of seven members of University staff and faculty.

So far, Ngogodo is the University’s only finalist and will receive $10,000 to put his plan into action. Two other students, whose names have not yet been released, have been chosen as alternates. The alternates’ projects will be presented to the foundation and could ultimately be given funding as well.

“It was a challenge to come up with our finalist and two alternates,” said Betsy McCormick, associate director of Foundation and Corporate Relations and the Wesleyan campus representative for the 100 Projects for Peace program. “We look forward to hearing more from the foundation, and hope one or both of our alternates will be selected.”