January 14, 2010

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By Sam Alcorn

LEWISBURG, Pa. — A Bucknell University student who returned from Haiti just before this week's devastating earthquake after laying the groundwork for a poverty alleviation program says he doubts the disaster will delay the project's implementation this summer.

"As a matter of fact, it might hurry the project because there is need for as much help as Haiti can get right now," said Muyambi Muyambi, a civil engineering and economics major from Uganda.

Muyambi is the founder of a student group called Bicycles Against Poverty (BAP), which, with the support of extensive campus fundraising and Clinton Global Initiative grants, took a student group to Uganda last summer to distribute more than 100 bicycles to the poor. BAP, in partnership with Brown University, was planning to distribute bicycles next in Haiti, which was rocked by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake this week, the strongest quake to hit the impoverished nation in 200 years.

Waiting to hear
Another Bucknell student, Christophe Bonnard, Class of '11 and a management major, was waiting to hear from loved ones in his hometown of Gressier, Haiti — near the epicenter of the earthquake that killed as many as 100,000 people, The Daily Item of Sunbury, Pa., reported today.

Finally, at 4 a.m. Wednesday, his father answered the phone.

"He was all right, but said he was very fortunate," the newspaper quoted Bonnard as saying. "He said things are really bad there."

Some of Bonnard's relatives are in a hospital, he said, and the status of many of his friends is unknown. Bonnard was in York, Pa., during Bucknell's winter break and has been e-mailing relatives and friends, asking for their prayers.

Bicycles Against Poverty
Muyambi returned from Port-au-prince on Dec. 28. "I was there for exactly 10 days," Muyambi said in an e-mail. "My purpose of traveling there was to do some investigation in Port au prince as well as Leogane for implementation of a BAP project that is intended to provide a better means of transportation."

The bicycles can make a significant difference in the lives of those who have them, Muyambi said. They can be used to help to get goods and farm produce to market, ferry passengers or fetch potable water which can be some distance from where people live.

"I loved (Haiti) despite the poverty," Muyambi said of his first trip to the Caribbean country. "It can be clearly seen as you walk in the sewage in the major markets of the country."

Houses built on hills
"It's a rather beautiful country with a great number of hills, which I am sure contributed to the death toll," he said. "A lot of houses are built on hills. It's truly sad to hear the sad news."

While in Haiti, Muyambi took video of the Presidential Palace, which was flattened in Tuesday's quake, as well as a number of photographs.

"I did take some pictures, but not so many because people are really superstitious about using their pictures for Voodoo," he said.

Also, a Bucknell student group, the Caribbean Club, is planning a spring fundraiser to help the Haiti earthquake victims.  

The earthquake registered hundreds of miles away on Bucknell's seismic station in Carnegie Hall, according to Brad Jordan, director of the geology lab. The quake hit at about 4:53 p.m. Eastern Time Zone, and the signal was picked up five minutes later by the seismograph. || See seismograph image

Contact: Division of Communications


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