Student's bikes-to-fight-poverty plan wins Clinton Global Initiative grant
September 23, 2008
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LEWISBURG, Pa. – A Bucknell University engineering student is rubbing elbows this week with more than 130 leading chief executive officers, current and former heads of state and private sector leaders attending the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York City.
Muyambi Muyambi, a sophomore civil engineering major from Uganda, may expect to run into the likes of U.S. presidential candidate John McCain, former President Bill Clinton, Bono from U2, cycling champion Lance Armstrong and U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the fourth annual meeting of global leaders whose goal is to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
“It’s a huge honor. I am thankful to be going,” said Muyambi.
Outstanding Commitment Award Muyambi is attending as a recipient of an Outstanding Commitment Award from the Clinton Global Initiative that includes a $5,000 grant to combat poverty in a war-scarred region of Uganda. The meetings begin today and conclude this weekend.
“I’ll be there to talk about my project, meet people and answer any questions,” he said. The project is formally called Bicycles Against Poverty.
Muyambi’s project, selected in a competitive process, would equip low-income families in the northern Ugandan district of Gulu with shared bicycles that will be used for transportation and as a tool for economic development.
Importance of bicycles “I am from Uganda and I see how important bicycles are,” he said. “Bicycles by Ugandan standards are expensive but extremely useful. You can do so much with it. Motorized transport is not only scarce but also unaffordable to the majority of people.”
Families will initially share about 100 bicycles that can be used for ferrying passengers, fetching well water and transporting to market farm goods like bananas and cassava. “If they can get a bicycle, there is so much they can do to earn an income,” Muyambi said, adding that as many as three families may share one bicycle at a time. In return for using the bicycles, each family would pay about 50 cents a month to a fund run by community elected leaders. That money, in turn, would be used to fund the purchase of additional bikes, parts and ongoing maintenance.
Sustainable fund Because the fund is sustainable, “with time, every family will have at least one bicycle in the whole district,” Muyambi said.
In the proposal submitted to the Clinton Global Initiative, Muyambi said a group of Bucknell students will travel to Uganda in the summer 2009 to work with groups like the Red Cross to help get the project off the ground.
He hoped that sponsorship from student organizations and fundraising at Bucknell would help to generate additional start-up costs. The bicycles cost about $75 for acquisition and transportation from the capital, Kampala, to Gulu.
Mover and shaker Muyambi, a second-year student at Bucknell, is already known as a campus mover and shaker.
He has visited Nicaragua as part of the Bucknell Brigade, which has been assisting residents of a small town devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. He, too, has participated in the production of a student film documentary, "Missing Seeds," about the plight of banana workers affected by chemical pesticides. As a first-year student, Muyambi was recognized as a student leader with the Class Award of Excellence.
Since 2005, the Clinton Global Initiative has made nearly 1,000 Commitments to Action valued aabout of $30 billion to improve more than 200 million lives in over 150 countries around the world.
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