Wall Service Award 2007 Winners

Alice Gates ’97

Alice Gates ’97 will use her Wall Award to fund the “Advancing Leadership for Worker’s Rights” project for Washtenaw County Worker’s Center (WCWC) in Michigan. As a co-founder of WCWC, Gates wanted to create “a safe space for low-wage workers to organize to find collective solutions to workplace problems.”

Her Wall Award will allow the WCWC to train community leaders in basic organizing skills through internships and externships with established social justice organizations. The award will also support training for the board of directors to encourage the sustainability of the organization.

"Our efforts up to now have been focused on identifying workplace problems and providing support for workers," Gates says. "Developing a base of trained, confident leaders will help us create a power base prepared to advance workers' rights, improve wages and conditions, and guarantee a meaningful voice in the conditions of work."

Benjamin Hodgdon ’96

Benjamin Hodgdon ’96 will use his Wall Award to fund his role as a project coordinator in Oaxaca State, Mexico. In Oaxaca, Hodgdon works with the Autonomous Group for Environmental Research (GAIA), a local Mexican non-governmental organization, to coordinate the initiation of community forestry with a group of Zapotec indigenous villages in the Sierra Sur area of the state.  

Hodgdon sees community forestry as a way to mitigate the negative effects of large-scale commercial logging while providing a vehicle for community livelihood improvement. Working with GAIA, Hodgdon hopes to initiate community forestry in these communities. By the end of the year, they plan to have a locally owned forest management plan in place. "Real success, however," says Hodgdon, " ... [means] that a functioning community forestry enterprise is still up and running and providing benefits to locals in 50 or 100 years."

Dave Calvert ’96

With the help of the Wall Award, David G. Calvert '75 plans to launch Jóvenes Constructores de Centroamérica, an initiative that will provide job training, life skills, and community service opportunities for 5,000 unemployed youth in four countries in Central America. The project has a five-year projected budget of $15 million dollars, and Calvert is "delighted" that the first donation came from Grinnell.

Jóvenes Constructores de Centroamérica (JCC) is a formal initiative of YouthBuild USA, and will provide work and training opportunities for low-income and unemployed youth in communities in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The region has been afflicted with problems of violence and gang activity since the mid-1990s, leading to an "anti-youth backlash" from community members and local government, and significant youth emigration. Calvert sees JCC as a means to provide constructive alternatives for youth in the region. Working with allies in the government, business, and civil sectors, the program will establish 250 locally operated community reconstruction projects over the next five years to provide training and life skills for young people, producing 750 community improvement works.

"Central American youth desire, but lack, options to stay and invest in their home communities." Calvert states. "This is something the region needs and will rally around, and we'll help mobilize the resources, energy, and vision to make it happen."

Calvert invites Grinnellians of any age who are interested in getting involved to contact him at dgcalvert@gmail.com.

Learn more about the Wall Service Award and see other previous winners.