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By Sam Alcorn
LEWISBURG, Pa. — A group of Bucknell University students working to alleviate poverty in a war-torn region of Uganda will return this summer to expand a bicycle program the students launched last year.
The Bucknell group, Bicycles Against Poverty, distributes sturdy bikes in poor villages in the northern part of Uganda to be used to transport goods, produce and water and provide basic transportation.
The group's plan to launch a similar initiative in Haiti this summer has been delayed and the Clinton Global Initiative, which has provided the group with a $6,000 grant, has agreed to extend the grant by up to a year, according to Muyambi Muyambi '11, the Bucknell civil and environmental engineering student who founded the group.
"After the (January) earthquake, conditions on the ground are very difficult. Haiti is more complicated now," said Muyambi, who had been in Haiti just days prior to the earthquake to lay groundwork for the bicycle program. Muyambi said he hopes he can return to the Caribbean island nation in December to assess conditions for the project in coordination with the Neges Foundation, which is working there to expand community development.
In the meantime, a group of about 10 Bucknell students will return to Uganda in late July and stay until mid-August to expand the bicycle program in two new villages, bringing to five the number of villages in which Bicycles Against Poverty has distributed bikes. || Read more about last year's trip.
"We are still working out the details with the flights and times and everything," said Muyambi, adding that several of the students will be repeat participants. "We want to begin in two new villages. There are so many of them, we have yet to decide. With our fundraising activities this past year, we should be able to distribute around 100 to 120 bicycles."
In addition to campus fundraisers, the group has raised money through the sale of bags and necklaces they brought back from Uganda last year. They have also visited churches to make presentations about the program and how it works. "That has helped a lot," said Muyambi.
Each potential bike recipient is required to complete an application that the group uses to assess need. Those who receive the bikes make small monthly payments of about $2, which Bicycles Against Poverty uses to buy more bikes.
Muyambi said that part of this summer's task will be evaluating last summer's program, which helped 178 people. He said a preliminary review has shown good results.
"I am excited," he said. "Everything looks good. People are saying, 'We are doing much better being able to transport stuff.'"
Others students have pitched in to lend a hand to the program as well.
Two groups of Bucknell engineers have been working on two projects intended for Uganda. One group is working on a trailer constructed entirely from locally available materials that could be attached to a bicycle to improve cargo-handling efficiency while another group is designing a grinder using local materials that could be attached to bike via a pulley mechanism to grind sorghum and millet into flour.
The Bicycles Against Poverty initiative is expanding to other campuses. Already, a chapter has been formed at Cornell University, and Muyambi said he is working with another university and a Connecticut high school to establish chapters there.
Contact: Division of Communications