Vassar junior Maria Méndez awarded a Davis Prize for Peace for project in Honduras.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Vassar junior María José Méndez, a native of Honduras, has been awarded $10,000 by the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace, an initiative of the Davis United World College Scholars program, to build a “Fuente de Paz”(Fountain of Peace) in Honduras this summer. This year, the annual initiative has awarded students from 90 colleges and universities in the Davis United World College (UWC) Scholar Program a total of $1 million to undertake more than 100 proposed projects.


“In the song Diosa de la Lluvia, Guillermo Anderson, one of our most treasured Honduran songwriters celebrates the miracle of water and asks the Goddess of Water to shower the hearts of those who look withered and devastated, who have been abandoned by selfishness and negligence,” wrote Méndez in her application. “I have witnessed the agony that Anderson alludes to in his song, an agony that stems of the innumerable economic and social hardships that my fellow Hondurans who struggle for water face.”

This need for clean water is global. According to a report from the World Health Organization that Méndez cited: “every year more than 2.2 million people from developing countries die from diseases associated with the lack of access to safe drinking water and inadequate sanitation” (Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000 Report, WHO). However, through her summer project, Méndez hopes to alleviate this struggle for one Honduran community.

Méndez plans to work with her Honduran community to build a sustainable and safe water source in the village of El Ciruelo. Working with the 16 members of the village council, and workers with intricate knowledge of water projects, she decided that an already existing well was insufficient for the needs of the village. This summer, she will lead an effort to build a new 10-meter deep well, as well as a 10,000-gallon water tank on top of a neighboring hill, a water pump, and piping system.

“This will ensure a sustainable delivery of clean and safe water to every house in the village,” said Méndez.

Additionally, the project will be integrated with an educational campaign on water conservation. It is her hope to create awareness about the close relationship between access to safe water and watershed protection.

Since its inception in 2007, the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace initiative has invited students from partner schools in the Davis United World College (UWC) Scholars Program to submit plans for grassroots projects for peace. This year, projects include using bicycles to fight poverty in Uganda; creating an educational economic stimulus plan for Shimbwe, Tanzania; assessing the public health of gardening in America; and using rainwater in India; and a “Harmonization” summer camp in Vietnam.

The Davis Projects for Peace are designed to encourage and support students to create and implement their ideas for building peace throughout the world. Lifelong philanthropist Kathryn Davis launched this initiative on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2007.

“The competition on nearly 100 campuses was keen and we congratulate the students who proposed the winning projects,” said Executive Director of the Davis UWC Scholars Program Philip O. Geier. “Kathryn Davis has been a lifelong internationalist and philanthropist, and has left her mark on a wide range of institutions and countless students. The wisdom of her years has led her to look to young people for new ideas and fresh energy to improve the prospects for peace.” (See:

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, April 30, 2009