When Jeffrey Reppucci ’14 returned to the United States after an intensive six-week study abroad program in Moscow last summer, the Russian major could not stop thinking about what he had seen. “Even in the most sophisticated city of the country,” he says, “childhood felt overlooked.” This summer, Reppucci will return to Russia to battle that troubling reality as a scholarship recipient from the Davis Projects for Peace program.
Reppucci, a Newburyport, Mass., native and defenseman on the Holy Cross men’s ice hockey team, was awarded a $10,000 Davis grant for his proposal to build recreational facilities and promote healthy life choices for children at a local school in a small rural area called Suzdal, about six hours east of Moscow. The project, titled “Playing for Peace,” will include the construction of a new playground, basketball court, and soccer field, as well as the donation of balls, jerseys, whistles, hula hoops and other recreational equipment.
The second component of “Playing for Peace” involves the promotion of health and alcohol education. Russia today is plagued by rampant alcoholism, drug abuse, and high abortion rates. Reppucci’s research found that Russian children develop dangerous drug and alcohol habits much earlier in life than children in most other parts of the world. In addition to providing pamphlets and other educational materials, Reppucci will organize a community kickoff and ribbon-cutting ceremony in which the community will come to engage in a field day of games with the new facilities.
Davis Projects for Peace was created in 2007 by philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis. The program funds 100 projects proposed by undergraduate students and select graduate students from around the nation, and put into action around the world.
Reppucci says the project will be a collaborative effort.
“In addition to working directly with the children of Suzdal, I will be meeting with teachers and administrators at the school to conduct a cultural exchange directed at how to best utilize the new equipment and organize after-school recreational programs,” he wrote in his project description. Reppucci has been developing the plans for his project with the mayor of Suzdal and the school principal for several months.
Reppucci hopes the project in Suzdal is the start of a larger humanitarian effort to be carried out by his newly formed organization, Students Helping Children Across Borders, Inc. Created by Reppucci last October, the Massachusetts registered non-profit organization is aimed at making positive impacts on the lives of disadvantaged youths across the world.
“My vision is to grow the non-profit into an organization spread across many college campuses incorporating students of language and culture all over the country,” he says.
“Playing for Peace” will have a total budget of $30,000. In addition to the Davis grant, a governing body in Russia has donated $10,000. The remaining $10,000 will come from Reppucci’s own fundraising efforts driven primarily by the non-profit.
To date, Reppucci has raised roughly $8,000 for the Suzdal project. He projects another $2,000 before he arrives in Russia on May 27 to break ground on “Playing for Peace.” The organization has raised this money through Facebook fundraising blasts, donations via its website, mail solicitations, and by sponsoring events both on and off the Holy Cross campus.
“We are in the process of organizing a benefit concert for the project on campus involving Holy Cross’ singing and dancing performance groups,” says Reppucci, who also sings in the a capella group Fools on the Hill.
Even as Reppucci’s return to Russia approaches, he already has his sights set on new projects for 2013.
“A potential project site is Nicaragua along with another project in Russia,” he says. “The goal is to double our non-profit’s fundraising to allow for two projects next year.”