BU students travel to Guatemala

For immediate release: April 30, 2007

BLOOMSBURG — A Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania student and two of her childhood friends will spend part of the summer working on a project designed to change the lives of women in Guatemala.

Julie Pfromm of Nescopeck, a BU senior majoring in anthropology, will travel to Guatemala to work with her friend, Danielle Winter, Berwick, a junior majoring in Spanish at Bucknell University. Another friend, Rachael Prosseda, from Berwick, a Bloomsburg senior majoring in anthropology, will document the experience on film for an anthropology internship.

The idea for the Guatemala trip came from a poster Winter saw on Bucknell’s campus offering a $10,000 grant opportunity from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis’ 100 Project for Peace.

Pfromm and Winter decided to pursue the project through Mi Refugio, a Christian school located outside Guatemala City that provides education, food, clothing, medical assistance and outreach services to more than 250 students and their families.

“We decided to do a sewing co-op to get women from the Guatemala Dump and the surrounding areas involved,” said Pfromm.

Winter had traveled to Mi Refugio (My Refuge) with members of her church several times so she had the contact necessary to start a project. The students worked with Faith Warner, associate professor of anthropology at BU, to come up with an idea that fit the grant’s goal. The project had to be sustainable, promote peace and be completed in one summer.

“This project is a good example of grassroots development,” said Warner. “I believe that grassroots development projects do so much more than improve the economic conditions of people’s lives, they truly do promote peace and cross-cultural understanding.”

Students at Mi Refugio travel from their homes in the Guatemala City garbage dump to scavenge for food, clothing, recyclables and building materials. The residents of the dump face drug addiction and violence every day, Pfromm said.

While creating the project, Pfromm wanted to make sure she could include women from outside of Mi Refugio, as well. She hopes that teaching the women to sew will also empower them.

“The school has the space available for sewing. It is something that can be taught and will, hopefully, empower the women to improve their lives because they’ll learn a skill that will allow them to become more involved,” said Pfromm.

Before traveling to Guatemala, Pfromm and Winter will buy the necessary supplies and patterns. They will also need to hire a teacher and find a market for the products the women create.

“The profits made from the sale of the products will be split. Half will go to renewing the resources needed and the other half will go to the women,” Pfromm said.

Although Pfromm and Winter will spend only a month in Guatemala, they do not want the project or their involvement to stop after they leave.

“There is a lot to get done. We want to find a strong leader who will keep the project going after we leave, and I definitely will want to go back down and stay in touch,” said Pfromm.

The 100 Projects for Peace is being made possible by Kathryn Wasserman Davis, a philanthropist who will soon celebrate her 100th birthday. She awarded $10,000 to 100 different projects that will be completed during the summer.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Professional Studies, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.