How do you define peace? What would you do if you had $10,000 to help peace grow?

Natalie Braun ’19 and Ludia Ock ’19 answered both questions when they applied for—and won—a pair of $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grants. As part of the application process, each woman worked with Amherst’s Center for Community Engagement to design a project that would reduce conflict and promote peace. 

Although they developed their Davis projects separately, Braun and Ock had a shared mission: to call back forgotten or repressed memories of war-related suffering. The Davis grants allowed them to pursue that mission in the summer after their senior year.

Ludi Ock sits at a table in front of four portraits
Ludia Ock ’19 sits with four of the portraits she painted to reflect themes from the subjects’ emotional interviews with their grandparents. Ock’s memory transmission project was supported by a Davis Projects for Peace grant. Photo by Jeong Yeon Choi ’21

Braun’s Davis project, “Using Memorials to Prevent Conflict and Promote Peace,” grew out of her senior honors thesis on the Camp des Milles, a World War II internment camp in France. Horrified to learn from a 2018 poll that more than 20 percent of French citizens between the ages of 18 and 34 had never heard of the Holocaust, Braun, a French major at Amherst, wondered how memorials like the one at Camp des Milles could educate young people to help avert future genocides. Over the summer, she visited 21 more Holocaust memorials in Germany and France and interviewed their visitors, curators and managers to create The website explains how memorials can educate visitors about the Holocaust in a way that equips them to resist present-day forces of hate.

Ock’s Davis project took her back to South Korea, where, during a junior-year semester of study abroad, she taught English at a senior center. From her interactions there, Ock discovered that Koreans of her grandparents’ generation had lived through significant wartime trauma, and yet most rarely spoke of it. That revelation and her grandfather’s own physical battle scars—which Ock learned about only by accident—inspired her project, “Collecting Memories from Our Grandparents’ Lived Histories.” She hatched a plan to interview Korean elders and then paint their portraits to honor their firsthand experiences of violent conflict.

What began as a solo project instead became intensely collaborative when Ock realized she could more effectively guide the elders’ grandchildren to undertake the interviews. To illustrate the importance of memory transmission, Ock painted portraits of the grandchildren overlaid with indelible images from their grandparents’ stories. “I’ve always seen art as a way to translate feelings and emotions that can’t be articulated,” said Ock. The portraits were later displayed at a commemorative event hosted by a popular café in Seoul.

Projects for Peace is the brainchild of the late philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis, who called for a “new peace force” to encourage the positive aspects of our humanity. Sobered by the events of 9/11, Davis resolved to mark her 100th birthday by funding 100 “projects for peace” dreamed up by college students like Braun and Ock. At least one Amherst College student has won a Davis Projects for Peace grant each year since the program’s inception in 2007.

Zoë Jacobs, associate director of the Center for Community Engagement and the current campus liaison for Projects for Peace, sees the grants as “custom-made” for the work of the CCE since the students who receive the grants tend to “take what they’ve learned in Amherst College courses, co-curricular activities and summer experiences and apply that learning in other contexts.”

“I never cease to be amazed by the creativity and caring of Amherst College students,” said Jacobs, who worked closely with Braun and Ock over the summer. “Ultimately, each project evolved and became something even better than what had been originally proposed, because of the deep commitment and passion the students brought to the experience.”