ISSUED: 3 August 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — A Shepherd University business administration major has received a U.S. Department of State Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Noah Kerns, Gerrardstown, would have used the scholarship to travel this summer to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to work on a project bringing water and food to villages; however, due to COVID-19 he is working on the project virtually. Kerns is collaborating with his friend, former Shepherd student and Timor-Leste native Deta Kolo-Johnson, to help get food and water to villages there.
“Deta and I have been trying to tackle different obstacles that villages in Timor-Leste face,” Kerns said. “I am passionate about helping others, and these villages need the help.”
Kerns and Kolo-Johnson have done several food drives for villages in Timor-Leste and have been trying to help solve other problems the villagers face. Kerns said the onset of the dry season has meant they are losing access to water and, because of COVID-19, are having trouble getting access and funds for food. Kerns and Kolo-Johnson are exploring whether the water problem could be solved by digging wells, creating storage for rainwater collection, or constructing new streams so that the water will reach the village from springs.
Kerns and Kolo-Johson had originally planned to spend part of the summer in Timor-Leste hosting food drives and researching how to establish a nonprofit organization.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to travel there. but I am very excited to be able to use the Gilman Scholarship to further my education in nonprofit studies,” Kerns said. “I do believe that completing the project virtually will be enriching. I believe that everyone should take the time to learn about a different culture than their own. This project is how I plan to do that.”
Kerns is communicating with a nonprofit organization in Timor-Leste that is assisting him with the project. He and Kolo-Johnson would eventually like to start their own nonprofit that would focus on early childhood development.
“Most learning materials in the villages aren’t in their home language,” Kerns said. “So, it is very hard for students to excel in a learning environment.”
The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding so they can study or intern abroad and gain skills critical to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.
— 30 —