|Summer Service Grants|
Quest Summer Service Grants recognize outstanding summer project proposals by Quest Scholars with grants that financially support their work, volunteer activities, or research. Selection criteria for projects include: the presence of a public service element; its ability to live up to Quest ideas of scholarship, leadership, and service; originality of thought; a well-organized plan; and its relevance to the applicant's history of academic or service work.
Congratulations to our nine 2013 Quest Summer Service Grantees! You can expect to read more about their winning projects on this page in September.
Fostering Microbusinesses to Address the Cycle of Poverty and Disease in Callao, Peru
Tammy and fellow Quest Scholar Lizzette Melo-Benitez plan to work on-site with the Asociacon de Personas Afectadas por Tuberculosis del Peru (ASPAT-Peru) this summer to develop and implement microbusiness seminars for recovering tuberculosis patients in Callao, Peru, a shantytown of Lima that faces extreme poverty.
Gardening as a Social Justice Tool
Mariah will be working with Read Lead, a California-based non-profit that focuses on youth empowerment. She will be hosting workshops on leadership and literacy improvement. Part of her time will be spent leading her own sustainable gardening program, blogging, and filming a documentary on the efficacy of non-profits like Read Lead as well as gardening as a means of promoting social justice.
Unearthing Community: Archaeology of the Beman Triangle
This summer, Amy will work to excavate the Beman Triangle, a 19th-century African American community located on Wesleyan's campus. This unique area provided services such as at-home healthcare for freed/free African Americans denied admittance to hospitals. An aspiring archaeologist, Amy hopes not only to unearth the past but also contribute to a modern-day sense of community.
The Militarization and Privatization of the Public Education System
Mauro's project will focus on the economic privatization of public institutions, the use of increasingly visible military presence in public areas of the United States as a means of social control, and how these subjects come together to transform the public education system in his hometown of Dallas, TX.
Launching Adult Education Pilot Program at Double Discovery Center
The Double Discovery Center (DDC) at Columbia University reaches out to underprivileged middle and high school students of the Harlem community. This summer, Jazmin will coordinate DDC's pilot program geared toward giving young adults the extra academic push they need to obtain their high school diploma and matriculate into college.
Vy Phuong Le
Reducing the Stigma against HIV/AIDS Infected Children in Vietnam
To reduce the prejudice that HIV/AIDS children face, Vy Phuong will implement a project in Ho Chi Minh City that cultivates love and acceptance from the community. She will work with Smile Group, a non-profit organization in Vietnam that aims to restore dignity and hope through educational programs to children and families affected by these illnesses.
Social Media for Social Change in Rio de Janeiro's Favelas
Leslie will explore two main questions through her summer research. First, what are the costs of increased international pressures from mega-events like the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics with regard to vulnerable communities such as the favelas in Rio de Janeiro? Second, how are favela communities using media for social change on the subject of illegal forced evictions and police pacification?
Controlling Exploding Crime Rates in Warren County, Ohio
Paul will work with the Commissioner's and Sheriff's Office in his home county to aggregate statistics to create an image of the daily inmate and court population, identifying those within the system based on type and degree of crime. Warren County will then be able to acquire a grant of approximately eight million dollars to expand and upgrade its jailing system.
Legal Responses to Corporate Negligence: A Case Study of Aguinda vs. Chevron
As a result of Chevron dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the environment, Ecuadorian families have been afflicted with cancer and birth defects. Mackenzie intends to help these rural families win their lawsuit against Chevron. If the petroleum company is forced to pay, this will be the most damaging court sentence an international corporation has ever faced, and will set an important precedent for future cases.
Please click "Read More" to read about Summer Service Grantees from 2012 and earlier.
We are pleased to feature Ivy Nguyen's project, Bolstering Underserved Rural Science & Tech Education via Locally-Designed Sustainable Water Filtration (BuRST). Ivy was also named a Strauss Scholar in the spring of 2012 and received support for her service work in Vietnam.
In the summer of 2012, Ivy worked to improve access to clean water in Phuoc Binh village, Dong Nai Province, Vietnam.
Her work built upon that of a Stanford alumna who, in 2009, introduced a low-cost ceramic water purifier to Phuoc Binh and educated the community on how to use it. These filters worked by acting as a sieve to remove diarrhea-causing bacteria from the water. Ivy's goal was to evaluate how the community was using the filters after three years and to develop a carbon cartridge to add to the filters and enable them to remove pesticides and industrial pollutants in addition to the bacteria.
Upon arriving in mid-June, she found that the majority of the 150 original ceramic filters were still working like new—only a very small number needed to be replaced, so the money budgeted toward replacing those original 150 filters was able to be used toward ordering 200 new filters for families that have not yet received them. Following that initial survey, she worked with several community leaders, chief among them Father Huong, to gather representatives from each family to attend a brief informational workshop on local water pollutants.
As they prototyped the charcoal cartridge, Ivy and her fellow volunteers made sure to use materials and parts that are easily found in local markets so that the design could easily be replicated or replaced if necessary. The final product consisted of a plastic colander used to suspend a fabric bag full of charcoal in the filter.
Setting up a system to make enough charcoal production proved to be the largest obstacle, until Ivy enlisted the help of an American engineer living in nearby Ho Chi Minh city to aid in designing a large rice husk “gasifier” machine, which allowed the volunteers to burn large amounts of rice husk, an agricultural waste that is otherwise discarded, efficiently and cleanly (without emitting smoke). Please see the photo below of a sample of the water, before and after filtering with the carbon cartridges. "It’s so exciting to see how powerful such a simple solution can be!" says Ivy.
One of the most exciting impacts of these filters came from an unexpected place: because these filters purified the water without the need for boiling, most families were able to significantly reduce their reliance on wood cookstoves, the smoke from which causes a number of respiratory illnesses in addition to being a large source of air pollution. Nineteen of the families who received the original 150 filters even reported abandoning their wood cookstoves entirely and now only use cleaner burning propane for their cooking needs.
Ivy is currently at Stanford finishing her last year, but she'll be back in December to see how the new filters are doing. Beyond that, she's already dreaming up ways to go back to Vietnam—several people have reached out to her expressing interest in building a filter-making factory in the region. She can’t wait to see where this project goes next!
Johnny Hung completed a project this summer called A Comparative Analysis on LGBT Minorities in Chicago Regarding HIV Infections.
With the help of a Summer Service Grant, Johnny Hung was able to travel to the far West and South Side of Chicago to film his documentary.
Using a non-profit car-sharing service, I-GO Cars, Johnny carried over $10,000 worth of filming gears to various locations. His current documentary project has evolved quite a bit over the summer. Originally, he was just interested in HIV and the subjects' development as an LGBT minority. As he got to work with more talents, however, he began to realize that the stories they shared seemed to focus on empowerment. Hence, he refined his documentary objectives to gain a better understanding of how empowerment works among LGBT minorities living in South and West Side Chicago, especially when they have been exposed to gang violence, drugs, homelessness, and prostitution.
Johnny began working on this project on his own, but as its scope grew, he sought additional help. He is happy to report that his connections with faculty, campus resources, and networking helped him gain student crew members and, recently, a producer. Additionally, he has collaborated on this project with a University of Chicago alumnus. "The pace of this project is coming along great," says Johnny, "as I am hoping to have a trailer cut together for Kickstarter by Thanksgiving."
Since Johnny wants to distribute this work for free, he hopes to raise more money to cover these costs as well as additional rental car costs. Please visit his website, www.seeingpositively.org, to learn more.
Jallicia Jolly's project, Surviving in the Margins: Empowering Jamaican Women, took her to Kingston, Jamaica.
For six weeks this summer, Jallicia worked as an HIV/AIDS volunteer at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), a non-profit organization that spreads awareness of HIV/AIDS through education and community-based workshops.
At JASL, she facilitated HIV/AIDS and STD prevention workshops and gender sensitivity training sessions in two neighboring parishes in Jamaica, St. Catherine and Kingston.
During her time at JASL, Jallicia was able to explore the plight of women living in poor urban neighborhoods. She learned that the precarious social and economic conditions have rendered poor Jamaican women politically, socially, and economically vulnerable. Women are disproportionately affected because not only are they caregivers of members of their families and at times, their communities, but they also juggle multiple responsibilities, which make them the backbone of Jamaican society. While at the nexus of these socially ascribed roles, the intersection their race, gender, and socioeconomic status strengthens their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.
In an effort to reduce transmission of HIV among young women, Jallicia shared employment opportunities and provided health services to create avenues for social mobility and economic stability. Using information she collected from the Bureau of Women’s Affairs--a women's empowerment organization she volunteered with in January 2012--about the social and economic services available to low-income Jamaican women, Jallicia and her colleague organized public economic empowerment sessions at JASL. The referrals, advice, and contacts these women gained from the economic empowerment workshops enabled them to envision employment opportunities beyond the informal labor sector.
Not only was Jallicia able to increase HIV/AIDS awareness within poor urban communities most vulnerable to the virus, but by sharing economic opportunities with women, she was also able to encourage them to recognize and actualize their full potential. Nothing was more satisfying than seeing a group of women thrive on their own agency and develop strategies to confront both their practical needs--food and clothing--and their strategic interests--employment and education.
We would also like to showcase a project by Katy Ashe, one of our 2010 grant recipients, who pursued graduate studies in environmental engineering at Stanford. Katy's work in Peru was featured in Stanford News.
Katy arrived in Madre de Dios, Peru the summer after her college graduation to study the mercury contamination caused by artisanal gold-mining.
This environmentally destructive practice has turned large expanses of some of the most biodiversity-rich, primary rainforest left in the world into large vegetation-less pits.
The second main concern raised by artisanal gold-mining is the usage of mercury in harvesting gold and the lack of care that is taken to prevent contamination. Along the shores of the Madre de Dios and Rio Tambopata there were as many as 30,000 gold miners at work. This raises concerns of toxicity, as mercury is used in a 2:1 ratio with gold in order to coagulate the flakes of gold found in riverine sediments. According to governmental figures, Madre de Dios produces 16 tons of gold per year. Unfortunately, this suggests the use of at least 32 tons of mercury per year. The potential for this mercury to create significant contamination is disconcerting for the environment and local community.
Katy’s primary goal for the summer was to assess the public health risk caused by the mercury contamination in this region. In order to test the total amount of mercury exposure she designed an ambitious study that combined a health questionnaire and a small sample of hair collected from each participant.
“I was met with incredible luck around every corner,” says Katy, who had never anticipated collecting hair samples from within mining camps. The illegal mining zones are notoriously dangerous regions where outsiders are extremely unwelcome. Yet, one day as she was working in a health clinic, she met a gregarious doctor who offered to help her collect samples. They spent the rest of the summer traveling around illegal mining camps on the doctor’s motorcycle, collecting hair samples. Katy became the first researcher ever to gain access to these zones and to acquire the trust of the miners.
What she found inside the mining zones was more horrific than she had ever imagined. She had heard stories from locals who lived within the city, but even they had only heard stories about life inside mining camps through other people. The mining zones are beyond the reach of government because when mining became illegal these communities fell into a state of isolation. They don’t let anyone that does not look like a miner or prostitute enter the zone without an insider to vouch for their presence. Once you have been deemed worthy you must pay the women that guard the mining camps to lower the chains and let you through on the back of a motorcycle taxi. So, Katy’s commute to work had the addition of a seven-mile motorcycle ride down a two-foot-wide winding jungle footpath at high speed.
Then, she would spend the entire day roaming the mining zones with her Peruvian research partner and the doctor. They spoke to the miners about the risks of mercury poisoning and asked them to participate in the study.
“I spent the summer talking to these people that were all around my age,” says Katy. “They did not want to be mining and the women certainly had never dreamed of being prostitutes when they grew up. They were decent people just trying to get by in an extremely unstable world. They shared their stories with me. They told me their hopes for the future and their struggle to achieve stability.” She adds, “I intend to use my access to education, media, and the scientific community in order to help people in unfortunate situations for the rest of my life.”
Tasha A. Sandoval received an Honorable Mention in the amount of $600 to pursue her project in the summer of 2012.
Tasha A. Sandoval
Educational Programs in Visual Histories at the District Six Museum in Cape Town
As an intern at the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, Tasha spearheaded educational and outreach programs. The District Six Museum seeks to commemorate a once-vibrant community that was destroyed by the forced removals of apartheid in the 1970s. The museum acts as a meeting place for victims of this injustice and their families.
Below are project descriptions from four of our five grant recipients from 2011.
In the summer of 2011, Khalil worked with Hasbro on the production side of NBA Math Hoops, a fast-paced, competitive board game that teaches and applies fundamental math skills to children.
Khalil's job was to find the best way to get as many high quality Classroom Kits as possible for the $100,000 that Hasbro committed to the game's national launch. He participated in decision-making from the initial pricing mockup through finalizing suppliers of the components that Hasbro does not have the ability to produce itself. In the process, he learned what goes into evaluating different production options and how to strategically cut costs without sacrificing functional quality or customer experience.
Khalil also reached out to organizations like KIPP to support the launch of NBA Math Hoops. KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a network of nearly 100 free public charter schools that prepare children in underserved communities for success in college and life. Since KIPP’s mission so closely mirrors NBA Math Hoops’ and shares an identical target market, Khalil sees a successful partnership forming in the near future.
"The biggest lesson I learned this summer was the importance of patience," says Khalil. "When business affairs are slow, it affords time to recollect and prepare for the future. This summer I was able to use idle time to compile a realistic, although ambitious, set of goals and milestones for NBA Math Hoops."
Anh (Annie) Hoang
Annie spent nine weeks in Vietnam trying to comprehend the complex social network that affects young Vietnamese women's sexual perceptions and behaviors.
To that end, Annie conducted over 60 interviews during her time in Vietnam. Thirty were in Ho Chi Minh City, a large international city, and thirty were in Rach Gia, a small, provincial town. "These interviews were surprisingly enjoyable," she says. Due to the strict Confucian culture that still holds strong in Vietnamese society, she believed that she would have trouble engaging in these women in conversations about sexuality. However, they seemed eager to open up and reveal private details about their lives. Many invited Annie to their homes, and some even took her shopping and showed her the best places to eat.
Annie's favorite part was when interviewees thanked her for allowing them to confidentially express themselves on sensitive topics. "These comments are what really made the experience worth it," she says. "I feel that I made some sort of lasting impact on my interviewees, and that, hopefully, I had a positive influence on them."
Over the summer Christian developed a bilingual guidebook for the Community Health Center (CHC) in Middletown, Connecticut.
Christian's English/Spanish book, a step-by-step guide to interacting with the CHC, is designed to give people an idea of what to expect, what to bring, and how to be active participants in their health care. His target audience is immigrant families who are not accustomed to seeing a doctor on a regular basis.
Specifically, his guidebook encourages people to take notes of doctors' instructions and to ask questions if something is unclear. It urges them to monitor their progress and to continue taking their medication if no results are seen immediately. The book also includes a portable place to organize prescriptions and other medical documents, and it gives a brief overview of patients' rights and Spanish-to-English translations of useful phraseology.
"I plan to work with the CHC throughout the school year, and it is likely that I will be in charge of any future revisions to the guidebook," says Christian. "My summer work, made possible by a Summer Service Grant, transformed into a project that may continue for my next two years at Wesleyan!"
Kwan (Jenny) Tang
Jenny volunteered at the Mokhele Art Therapy and Education Project (MATEP) in Soweto, South Africa, this summer. Her work at MATEP combined her two passions: as an educational facilitator and as an art historian who hopes to shed light on masterpieces beyond the Eurocentric canon.
At MATEP, art therapy is the beginning of a healing process for children who have been victims of violence. In a country where race and identity (and one's self-worth) are so intertwined, art enables these children to forge their own identities. As in a past internship at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Massachusetts, Jenny saw how art education is a way of strengthening--and sometimes building from scratch--a sense of community.
Soweto, where tourists come in search of the "real" South Africa, has undergone a dramatic renovation in recent years. Nelson Mandela's former house has been turned into a museum. A memorial has been built for twelve-year-old Hector Pieterson, shot and killed by police during an anti-Apartheid student protest in 1976.
"Yet the revision of history, if such a thing is possible," says Jenny, "doesn't require more memorials. The important work is being done at places like MATEP, where every day is, in some small sense, a confrontation with difficult history."