Two Colby Students Win Davis Projects for Peace Grants
Linh Dinh ’25 and Erica Lee ’24 will spend the summer in their home countries and hope to make a difference in their communities
From hundreds of proposals by undergraduates across the country, Linh Dinh ’25 and Erica Lee ’24 have been awarded prestigious Davis Projects for Peace grants.
The $10,000 awards will enable both students to return to their native countries this summer to improve their communities. Dinh will go back to her hometown in Vietnam to implement a waste-management project, while Lee will establish a peer-mentorship program for refugees and local students in Hong Kong.
“As an international student in the United States, I always think about how I can use my resources and my opportunity here to positively impact the life of the people in my hometown,” said Dinh, a Presidential Scholar, double majoring in government and economics. “That’s how I came up with the idea and applied for the project.”
Projects for Peace emerged from the vision of philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis and was launched on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2007. The initiative, open to all undergraduates at the partner schools of the Davis UWC Scholars Program, challenges students to initiate summer projects that tackle causes of conflict and contribute to creating lasting peace. Since its founding, the grants have supported hundreds of projects in more than 100 countries.
Dinh comes from An Le Village in southeast Vietnam. With 2,000 households, the village economy is based on agricultural production, mostly rice. Among the producers are Dinh’s grandparents, whose experiences guided her Davis project.
Over the years, environmental pollution has worsened and increasingly threatened her family’s livelihood. Dinh researched the issue and identified a part of the problem that she could tackle: organic waste.
In the absence of a management system, her village’s solid organic waste has been buried underground and contaminated the water reservoirs that crops depend on. “It can become a health hazard, and a lot of people are not aware of that,” she said. “Or even if they’re aware, they’re not sure how to deal with it.”
With the grant, Dinh will implement a waste-management system to combat environmental pollution, and she will assist with farming needs. Her goal is to collect organic waste, such as leftover food, stems, and branches, and turn them into fertilizer, which will be available for purchase at a fraction of the market price.
“A lot of countries successfully implemented this,” said Dinh, “such attempts in Vietnam have been scarce because of problems such as inadequate waste classification and high cost of maintenance.”
But in this small village, where people know and support each other, Dinh believes they can collectively overcome those obstacles and make her project a success. She hopes it becomes an example for the rest of the country.
“I’m very confident that I can persuade people to participate in the project,” she said. “I hope that they see the importance of caring about water, environmental pollution, and start to implement a simple measure in their life to improve the quality of the environment.”
Tackling Racism in Hong Kong
Colby’s other winner, Erica Lee ’24, also wants to make a small change in her community that could yield big results.
Lee was inspired by the United World Colleges (UWC), a group of schools around the globe with the mission of fostering world peace and a sustainable future through education.
In 2017 Lee participated in a diversity summit at Li Po Chun UWC of Hong Kong, where she learned about issues involving ethnic minorities and stereotypes. This experience led her to start Eridanus, an organization aimed to build relationships between local students and ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. But becoming involved in the community made her realize that while numerous organizations cater to ethnic minorities, only a few exist for refugees. “Their voices are not being heard,” she said.
She will use the Davis grant to revamp Eridanus under a new name, FlippED. This renewed program will match local high schoolers with their refugee peers to enable cultural exchange, mentorship, and language support. “I want to create lifelong friendships,” she said.
“It’s important to create an environment that is inclusive because I personally have experience on how local school students have some bad stereotypes against specific individuals just because of their nationality, race, or color,” said Lee, a Davis UWC scholar double-majoring in sociology and economics and minoring in data science at Colby. “After going to UWC, I feel like this should not be happening, especially in Hong Kong, which we say is an international city.”
In the future, she wants to expand the program to reach beyond students and involve human rights organizations and possibly government officials to raise awareness on refugee rights and needs as well as to create an inclusive and open-minded society. “I’m really interested in human rights issues,” she said, “and specifically refugees.”
Since its founding, the initiative has funded hundreds of projects in more than 100 countries. To learn more about Projects for Peace, visit colby.edu/grants/impact/engagement/davis-projects-for-peace/.
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