LEWISBURG, Pa. — He's alleviated poverty in Uganda, brought attention to the plight of banana workers in Nicaragua and raised awareness about the struggles of child soldiers — all while pursuing an undergraduate dual degree in civil engineering and economics at Bucknell University.
Muyambi Muyambi, Class of 2012, was honored by Bucknell for these achievements with the 2011 Burma-Bucknell Award, which recognizes individuals who have made distinctive contributions to international and intercultural understanding.
In presenting the award at the kickoff of International Education Week, President John Bravman said, "Muyambi has left an indelible mark on those at Bucknell and beyond. He has tirelessly led and inspired student volunteers, and his achievements are testimony to his vision and hard work."
"I have found myself in such a fortunate position that I can do something about helping others achieve their version of a 'good life,'" said Muyambi. "Besides, if the tables were turned, I would sure hope someone would help me achieve my version of a 'good life' if I could it do it all by myself."
Bicycles Against Poverty In 2008, with support from the Clinton Global Initiative, Muyambi founded Bicycles Against Poverty, a microfinance program that distributes bicycles to low-income entrepreneurs, particularly farmers, in his native northern Uganda.
Bicycles are essential to transportation, and therefore to economic development, said Muyambi, because they can be used to transport goods, produce, well water or fare-paying passengers. Recipients pay back half the costs of the bikes to a general fund, which is used to purchase more bicycles. Often, families share the bikes with several other people in the village.
The program — run solely by student volunteers — has since distributed more than 300 bicycles and educated communities about bicycle repair and money management. Two-thirds of the recipients have increased their income and more than 90 percent regularly save money. The program has expanded to include chapters on the campuses of Brown, Cornell and Skidmore. It is moving toward 501c3 status and will formally appoint an executive director in January.
"Missing seeds" Muyambi became involved in international service during his first year as an undergraduate, when he traveled with the Bucknell Brigade to Nicaragua to provide relief work in a region devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. He later helped to secure a Davis Projects for Peace grant to return to Nicaragua with a group of students to participate in making a documentary film about the plight of banana workers affected by the pesticide Negamon. The film, "Missing Seeds," has been shown on multiple college campuses and received more than 4,800 hits on YouTube.
Campus advocate In addition to his work abroad, Muyambi has done advocacy work on campus, launching an annual Gulu Walk and bringing speakers to campus to educate students about the struggles faced by Ugandan children and child soldiers.
"I am honored to receive the award," said Muyambi. "The past few winners of the award have been my mentors, and to share the award simply humbles me. I may be the physical recipient, but the award represents something way beyond anything I have done myself. It's a representation of what Bucknellians and the Bucknell community can achieve as one. Nothing I have done or that Bicycles Against Poverty has done would have been possible without the support of the many Bucknell faculty, staff, students and the community at large."
After he graduates, Muyambi plans to integrate his career with his service work. "I believe loving one's career is waking up every day and not feel like it's another hard day ahead, but rather another day to touch or change another life," he said. "To me this will be when my career becomes indistinguishable from my service, because to serve others is a passion of mine."
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