Colorado College students Megan Bott ’20 and Jessica Ramos ’20 have been awarded a Davis Projects for Peace award for their project, “Sumak Kawsay: Peace and the Writing Experience.” The two will use the $10,000 award to conduct a series of writing workshops in Ecuador aimed at empowering local communities to use storytelling to resist environmental exploitation.
Bott, a Russian and Eurasian Studies major from New Orleans, Louisiana, and Ramos a psychology major from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, join nine other Colorado College students who have received Projects for Peace awards since 2012.
In their proposal to the Davis Foundation, Ramos and Bott note that in 2008, Ecuador adopted a constitution rooted in the ancient indigenous way of life sumak kawsay, or “good living” in Kichwa, a Quechuan language that has an estimated 1 million speakers.
However, the continued exploitation of both natural resources and humans in the country is contrary to the sumak kawsay, Ramos and Bott assert. They note that the local communities “are isolated by their suffering and exploitation and thus discount the power of their voices and stories,” and contend that communities become severed from the experiences of marginalized people in other regions, who are going through the same rupture of community and natural environment.
The two are in the process of developing writing workshops to use in Ecuador this summer.
Their ultimate goal is to “empower people to use storytelling as a platform to demonstrate the role of sumak kawsay in their lives and how the exploitation of their lands is disrupting the peace between the self, the community, and the environment.”
When the workshops are completed, Ramos and Bott will work with a publisher in Ecuador to assemble a book of the writings and photographs taken during the project.
“Ultimately, our project goes hand-in-hand with the principles of sumak kawsay: The workshops serve community members in voicing their experiences and finding peace in the self while the physical book functions as a tangible, sustainable, and long-lasting testament of cross-regional peace among communities and the natural environment,” they write.
Projects for Peace is an initiative for undergraduate students currently enrolled in participating Davis United World College Scholars Program partner schools to design grassroots projects that promote peace and address the root causes of conflict among parties. Applicants are encouraged to use their creativity to design projects and employ innovative techniques for engaging project participants in ways that focus on conflict resolution, reconciliation, building understanding and breaking down barriers that cause conflict, and finding solutions for resolving conflict and maintaining peace.