For most students, their freshman year is overwhelming enough with a new classes, new friends, and a new home. Even the idealistic students don’t expect to be able to make big changes in their community in their first year of college. Anniella Kabitso, however, is wrapping up her freshman year at The College of Idaho with big plans for an ambitious service project to help the people of her home country of Burundi, for years to come.
Kabitso, who is double-majoring in psychology and international political economy, was selected to participate in the Davis Project for Peace, a national program funded by the Shelby Davis family in honor of Katherine Wasserman Davis. It funds over 100 Peace Projects a year at $10,000 each. Kabitso’s project this year marks the 12th straight year a College of Idaho student has been selected for the Davis Project for Peace.
She’ll conclude her studies for the academic year in May and return home to Burundi, a nation in central Africa, to begin work on her project, “Book, Dialogue, and the Clean Light that Lasts: Burundi.” The goal is to build a solar-powered study center in a remote part of Burundi for the Twa, one of three ethnic groups of the country. Electricity in the region is scarce and many people don’t finish their schooling, so Kabitso wants to provide an opportunity for the Twa specifically to further their education. She says it is the smallest of the three ethnic groups – comprising of one percent of the country’s 11 million people – and is not officially recognized by the nation’s government. With this project she hopes to cast a light on their people and their stories, and she hopes to help them learn.
“I would not be here (at the College) if not for the opportunities I was offered, opportunities to be able to carry on with my studies,” Kabitso said, explaining the origins of her idea. “So I thought that a solar-powered study center that would be nearby, that would be open 24 (hours), 7 (days per week) would allow them to get further along with their studies to build themselves a future.”
Once she returns home for the summer, she’ll visit the project site and use the funding provided by the Davis family to purchase materials needed to build the study center. She has friends who will help with some of the organization of the plan and her younger brother will help document the project with photos and videos. The workers who will do the actual building will be from Burundi, but not necessarily Twa.
“That way, they’ll get to know this minority group,” Kabitso said of hiring workers from the other ethnic groups of Burundi to work on this project for the Twa. “They’ll get to see that they’re not savages as we are taught to believe as we grow up, to create more inclusion for that minority group.”
The work will be done over a four-week period, but is not limited to just building the structure. Kabitso will also be engaging the local citizens in training and mentorship in order to make the best use of the facility. In her proposal to the Davis family, Kabitso noted that only 40 percent of the country’s total population, not just among the Twa, has adequate access to basic education. Once complete, she hopes the center can continue to run at no cost to the local community and provide the region opportunities that don’t currently exist.
“My getting a scholarship was not expected, or my going to UWC (United World College) and, ever since then, I’ve thought, ‘I’m going to get somewhere to be able to impact lives,’” Kabitso said of her Davis Scholarship. “I did not expect anything of this magnitude so soon.”
Kabitso’s proposal was selected by a committee at the College before making its way to the Davis committee for review. Dr. Robert Dayley, a professor of political economy, says there are about 10 submissions for the Davis Project for Peace at The College of Idaho each year and deciding which proposals are selected to be reviewed by the Davis committee is challenging.
“The College of Idaho is privileged to be among an elite class of colleges involved in the Davis Project for Peace Program,” Dayley said. “Anniella will join students from top tier liberal arts colleges and Ivy League universities in completing Peace Projects this summer. Only students from the nation’s top research universities and liberal arts colleges are in fact eligible for these grants. No other Idaho college or university is eligible for this program – only our students. Our participation speaks to the quality of our academics and stands as another indicator of the global mindset that permeates our campus culture.”
“I am really excited and quite scared,” Kabitso said with a smile. “It is a big thing and I hope to get it implemented successfully.”
Recent Davis Project for Peace award-winners from The College of Idaho:
2018 Project, Ferdinand Nyabenda, Burundi-Empowering Girls’ Education through Sanitation
2017 Project, Ahmed Arafat, Palestine-Access to Water: A Matter of Health, Education, and Justice
2016 Project, Saraswati Devray, India-Encouraging Girls to Attend School
2015 Project (1), Unoziba Moyo, Clean Water for Rural Zimbabwe
2015 Project (2), Moha Mudaqiq, Afghanistan-Promoting Education & Saving Lives/Hand-Pump Wells
2014 Project, Margarette Pierre-Louis, Haiti-Water for Peace
2013 Project, Minh “Mark” Bui/Rahul Sharma: India-Bringing Smiles Where They Never Were
2012 Project, Mauricio Santiago/Luis Reyes: Brazil-Peace Me the Ball
2011 Project, Sophie Dresser: Ecuador-The Working Boys Center
2010 Project, Keats Conley/Casey Mattoon: Egypt-The Recycling School
2009 Project, Kaite Justice: Tanzania-Rural Education
2008 Project, Jacob Fulcher/Samatha Fundingsland: Malawi-Fighting Malaria
The College of Idaho has a 128-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, 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.