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What Dollars Do at the Grass-Roots Level

WHEN Nazir Ahmad thinks of third-world development, he thinks small. So when he helped set up the nonprofit, campus-based Overseas Development Network (ODN) in 1982, he saw it as a way to fund small, locally initiated projects at the grass-roots level, where a few dollars can go a long way.

In the eight years since, ODN (which sponsors Bike-Aid) has:

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Provided $4,000 to the Nyafaru Cooperative in Zimbabwe to construct ponds for a commercial trout farm;

Given $4,430 to the 35 families involved in the Kechuaymara Dairy Project in Bolivia for new cheese-making facilities;

Funded a group of women in Chile starting a sewing cooperative, a village in Kenya building an adobe library building, a coconut-processing plant in the Philippines, and scores of other projects;

Begun an Appalachian internship program, which now sends groups of students to community service projects in Kentucky and Tennessee.

ODN began as a way to help American students understand third-world citizens not as ``all these unfortunate people'' who need handouts, but as ``people with a lot of dignity who are working hard and facing lots of challenges.''

Nazir and his younger brother Kamal were at Stanford University and Harvard University, respectively, when they founded ODN, which now has more than 75 chapters on campuses across the United States and funding from several major national foundations. The first projects supported by ODN were in their native Bangladesh.

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