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Student undertakes Davis Project for Peace in India

It was the same routine for everyone in school. If you have to go to the bathroom, you raise your hand, you take the hall pass and you go. But in the village of Badur, India, you don’t need to raise your hand and you don’t need a hall pass because there are no toilets—a harsh reality that prevents many girls from attending school during menstruation.

But College of Idaho sophomore Saraswati Devray hopes to change that this summer. Devray recently was awarded a $10,000 Davis Project for Peace grant to install bathrooms at Badur’s high school and drill a well to provide access to safe drinking water in the drought-stricken region.

Devray also has arranged to teach high schoolers about sanitation and instruct teachers on new techniques for teaching English and math. Special attention will be given to girls’ education, with the goal of increasing the village girls’ confidence in setting long-term goals.

“I want to inspire them, because I have had the opportunity to achieve so much,” Devray said. “So, I want to give something back to the community where I grew up.”

Devray went to school in Badur—a village of 1,000 people—until the seventh grade. She eventually was accepted into the United World Colleges program. Comprised of 15 international schools and colleges, UWC delivers a challenging and transformational educational opportunity to students around the world. For Devray, the opportunity to learn opened her mind to the possibilities life could hold.

“One quote I remember is, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,’” she said. “And I feel that way, too.”

Before she was accepted into UWC India, Devray figured she would get married at 18, have kids, and that would be her life. Where she comes from, education for girls is viewed as a waste of time. Her former neighbor in the village got married after finishing 10th grade—the last year of education provided for girls in that region.

“I feel it is important for girls to have access to education because then they’ll know what the world is about,” she said. “They’ll know how to survive, be independent and achieve what they want in life.”

Devray, a business major, has a life goal of getting involved in social work and giving back to people in some way. When she learned her Davis project had received funding—and that she’d be making an impact on her home community this summer—she was thrilled. She leaves for India on May 18 and will be in Badur village for two months to complete the project.

“It’s wonderful to see the passion our students put into these Davis Projects for Peace,” said Dr. Rob Dayley, a professor of political economy who also advises the Davis United World College Scholars program at the C of I. “What Saraswati is doing for the villagers in providing them clean water and giving schoolchildren access to bathrooms is truly amazing. Plus, she’s a great role model for the young girls in her village to look up to and realize what they too can achieve.”

The College of Idaho has had 10 Davis Projects for Peace funded in the past nine years. Students previously completed projects in Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Haiti, India, Malawi, Tanzania, Egypt, Ecuador and Brazil. To learn more about Davis Projects for Peace, visit www.davisprojectsforpeace.org.

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.