Global Peace Exchange (GPE) is a program based at Florida State University that coordinates student based exchanges for volunteering and developmental endeavors in countries around the world. The non-profit organization, founded in July 2007 by the current co-founders/directors Nick Fiore, Maria Kuecken and Alex Merkovic, is housed in the Claude Pepper Center for Intercultural Dialogue in Tallahassee, Florida.
The endeavor originally started in the fall of 2006 when Merkovic and Fiore, along with a small team of volunteers, made the initial plans for a volunteer trip to Ghana. A team of five was assembled and traveled to Ghana during the summer of 2007. While in Ghana, the students met and collaborated with the UNHCR offices and workers UNDP as they began working on a project in Buduburam, Ghana. Buduburam, a refugee camp with thousands of displaced Liberians, was where the group chiefly worked and retains a presence. By establishing a scholarship fund for ex-child soldiers of the Liberian civil wars and offering seminars on human rights and gender equity amongst other topics, the group was able to provide education to many and create sustainable partnerships. GPE will be sending a team of six volunteers to Ghana in May 2008 to continue building on the existing project.
The flagship project that will be undertaken during May and June 2008 is the construction of a technical school and center outside of Kigali, Rwanda. A group of 17 students will be traveling to Rwanda to break ground on the site and begin providing educational resources such as computers. While teaching computer literacy and being involved in cultural exchange, these students will be joining forces with other students from Global Peace Exchange chapters that have been springing up worldwide in such places as University of Westminster in London, University of Central Florida and University of Florida. Many of the costs for the project have been underwritten by a Florida State University's "True Pride" campaign that has sold thousands of t-shirts to provide aid for student exchange initiatives.
On February 11, 2008, the first "Building Bridges" conference was held at Florida State University and chief among the visitors was President Paul Kagame of Rwanda who delivered an address to the students and faculty of Florida State about the importance of sustaining quality education for continuing the development of Rwanda. On behalf of the students of Florida State University and GPE, President Kagame received a plaque and other commemoration after a speech from Joe O'Shea of GPE, who also served as the Student Body President and sat on the board of Trustees at FSU. The conference was a building block that established important ties between Florida State University, Global Peace Exchange, and the government and people of Rwanda.
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