Tufts International Development: Ecuador Team Wins the Davis Peace Prize

Tufts International Development (TuftsID) is a student-led organization that engages students in the theory and practice of sustainable development around the world.  Students, with the assistance of non-profit partners, identify communities and engage them to develop projects that can help meet their needs.  TuftsID now consists of four teams: India, Honduras, Ecuador, and the addition this year of Costa Rica.

The Ecuador team was the 2018 recipient of the Davis 100 Projects for Peace Prize. The Projects for Peace program is open to undergraduates at the U.S. colleges and universities in the Davis United World College Scholars Program, inviting them to design grassroots projects that they will implement over the summer. Each winner, initially selected by the host university, is funded at $10,000. The objective is to encourage and support today's motivated youth to create and try out their own ideas for building peace.

TuftsID Ecuador received the prize for their digital libraries project. There are many communities in Ecuador that are isolated and do not have access to educational information or technological tools. Coaque, on Ecuador’s coastline, is one of them. Coaque is home to approximately 3,000 people and 600 families, of which 99 percent live in poverty. People in this coastal community not only face the threat of earthquakes, but also of flooding and El Niño phenomenon.

In April 2016, the community was severely affected by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that caused families to lose their homes, factories and schools. As a result of this, TuftsID’s Ecuador team decided to implement a digital library program that would support local educators to reimagine classroom dynamics, stimulate more interactive student relationships, and make effective use of high-quality and relevant education technologies.

In the summer of 2017, the Ecuador team implemented the Koombook Program in Coaque with the help of the NGO’s Libraries Without Borders and Avanti. The Koombook is a digital library server that consists of a portable device preloaded with educational content, including Wikipedia, Khan Academy, online videos, 20,000+ books, and more. The Koombook allows its users to access the content without an internet connection; it can hold two terabytes of information, essentially a library unto itself. It is beneficial in communities with limited technology, and resources.

With the Peace Prizefunding, the Ecuador team implemented the Koombook program into two additional communities in Ecuador in August 2018. The first of these new locations was San Jose de Minas, a medium-sized town about two hours outside of the capital of Quito. The learning center in Minas is unique because it is the first time that a center has been established inside a school. The school serves 500 students in grades 1-12 from Minas and the surrounding areas.

The second program was implemented in a community center in the very remote community of Jatumpamba, also located in the greater area of Minas but about 40 minutes away from the central town by car.

Tufts International Development worked with Libraries Without Borders and their partner NGOs; Avanti (original partner NGO, based in Quito), FONAP (new partner NGO based in Minas), and Plan International (new partner NGO based in Pedernales/Coaque) to customize and design the educational content for the e-libraries.

To implement the digital library, the team conducted workshops for local community leaders and volunteers on how to use, update, customize, and troubleshoot, the technology, and also on how to leverage the technology to increase the capacity and impact of existing educational programs. Through this expansion, the communities hope to leverage digital education in order to continue providing opportunities that were previously unavailable for students and community members.

The Davis Projects for Peace selected the TuftsID digital library project as one of sixteen (out of 100) outstanding projects from the summer of 2018 and will be profiling the project.