Notre Dame senior Molly Boyle has won a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant to implement the education program she designed to empower disadvantaged women in Peru.
“Right now, the women are insatiably searching for the power they need to help their children—education can help fill this void,” she says.
Boyle, an anthropology major in the College of Arts and Letters, will head to the community of San Juan de Lurigancho this summer to start her project. “Lima is already one of the poorest cities in South America, and this barrio is home to some of the most impoverished,” she says.
After volunteers built a new school there last summer, it became clear that one of the factors preventing the children from learning to their highest potential was their parents’ own lack of education, Boyle explains.
“Like any mother, these Peruvian women want the best for their children—they want them to be able to learn with the hope of sustaining themselves in the future,” she says.
Yet the women are ill-equipped to help their children succeed in school. According to Bolye, about 25 percent of the mothers never went to school and cannot read or write; the rest generally only have the equivalent of a sixth-grade education.
That, she says, was the impetus for her proposal to offer women basic instruction in math, literacy, nutrition, and hygiene. The program will also incorporate art projects, gardening, social events, field trips to museums and other sites—all with an emphasis on developing confidence and self-worth.
“Providing women with this personal empowerment would grant them the peace that comes with serving those they love,” Boyle says.
The women of San Juan de Lurigancho have already expressed interest in the initiative, and Boyle has lined up a local teacher. The grant will pay for training and start-up supplies—everything from books and pencils to a playpen for mothers who need to bring their infants to class. The money will also cover construction of a much-needed bathroom at the school.
Funded by philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis, the Davis Projects for Peace program encourages college students on more than 90 campuses to design their own grassroots projects—anywhere in the world—which promote peace and address the root causes of conflict among parties. At Notre Dame, the application process is administered by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.