April 19, 2011


By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Two Bucknell University student groups each have received a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant from the Davis Foundation.

The grants will support expansion of a bicycle project in Uganda and the launch of a campaign to improve prenatal care and combat high infant mortality rates in Sierra Leone.

Bicycles Against Poverty
Bicycles Against Poverty (BAP), which provides microloans to Ugandan farmers to purchase bicycles, was launched in 2008 by Bucknell senior civil engineering and economics major Muyambi Muyambi, a Uganda native. Since 2009, BAP has distributed 290 bicycles in the village of Gulu.

Building on the increased availability of bicycles, Bucknell engineering students designed three projects to improve the daily efficiency of Ugandan farmers and provide opportunities for a supplemental income.

The projects are a bicycle cart, a bicycle taxi trailer and a bicycle-powered grain grinder. All three devices were designed to be manufactured at low cost with locally available materials.

Easily attached to the back of most standard bicycles, the cart is designed to carry up to a 200-pound load, increasing the quantity of goods that can be transported to market. The estimated cost of manufacturing each cart is $44.

A variation on the cart is a taxi trailer, designed to increase the number of people that a bicycle can transport. Built at an estimated cost of $63, the cart could ferry children to and from school or passengers in Gulu-town.

The grain grinder would shorten the amount of time women in the remote villages of northern Uganda spend pounding and grinding sorghum and millet for their daily bread. This more efficient grain-grinding method would reduce the work burden on children and allow them to attend school. The estimated cost of manufacturing is $43, with an estimated time savings of 45 to 67 minutes per day.

Bucknell students responsible for the project are senior mechanical engineers Kevin Matthews and Brian Chiu, and first-year students Thomas Apruzzese, a mechanical engineering major, and Tom Bollinger, a chemical engineering major.

This is the second Davis Projects for Peace grant received by the BAP program. A group of 10 Bucknell students traveled to Uganda in the summer of 2009 where they distributed 100 bicycles and repair tool kits. While in the country, the students held community-building activities and workshops to teach bicycle maintenance and repair.

'Hear our Cry'
The second project aims to improve birth rates in Sierra Leone by raising awareness of a recent government-funded healthcare program for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers as well as children under 5 years old.

Nadia Sasso, a Bucknell senior majoring in English and sociology, will travel to West Africa this summer to deliver 1,000 maternal kits and incentive packages to the Bo Government Hospital.

Accompanying Sasso will be fellow Bucknellian Sowande Parkinson, a five-year student majoring in civil engineering and economics who is a native of Sierra Leone; Marie Mansaray, the current Miss Sierra Leone-USA; and a certified nurse and a translator.

According to UNICEF, Sierra Leone has the worst record for prenatal care, with one in eight women dying during pregnancy or childbirth. The country's high infant and maternal mortality rate can be traced to irregular immunizations, lack of vitamin A supplements, lack of hydration and unsanitary equipment.

During a two-week visit this summer, the team will meet with local authorities, deliver maternal/childbirth kits, help trained professionals facilitate hospital staff training in kit usage, and deliver incentive packages to women who attend simple maternal care workshops facilitated by hospital staff. The incentive kits will include baby lotion, baby wash, ointment and teething cream, all viewed as luxuries in Sierra Leone.

Five-year participant
"This is the fifth year that Projects for Peace has run and Bucknell has participated each year," said Paula Myers, assistant dean of students at Bucknell and director of International Student Services.

"Our students have worked on providing clean drinking water in Tumaipa, South America; establishing a sewing co-op in Guatemala; designing a water pumping station in El Porvenir, Nicaragua; making a documentary video on the plight of the banana workers in Nicaragua; and establishing a bicycle co-op for two villages in northern Uganda, a project that has become Bicycles Against Poverty," she said.

Building peace throughout the world
In its fifth year, the Projects for Peace program honors philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who launched the initiative on her 100th birthday in 2007. Each of the 100 projects selected are designed to encourage and support motivated youth to create and implement their ideas for building peace throughout the world in the 21st century.

University students from more than 90 campuses will collectively receive more than $1 million in funding during the summer of 2011 for projects in all regions of the world.

"The competition was keen and we congratulate the students who proposed the winning projects," said Executive Director of the Davis UWC Scholars Program Philip O. Geier. "Kathryn Davis was motivated to establish Davis Projects for Peace because she felt a great sense of urgency about an elusive goal: peace in the world. She felt frustrated that older generations had failed in that great quest. Kathryn's vision has motivated young people, and they have drawn inspiration from her."

"I want to use my birthday to once again help young people launch some initiatives that will bring new energy and ideas to the prospects of peace in the world," said Davis. "My many years have taught me that there will always be conflict. It's part of human nature. But love, kindness, and support are also part of human nature, and my challenge to these young people is to bring about a mindset of preparing for peace instead of preparing for war."

A complete list of the participating schools and projects, as well as a summary of all previous projects and a video interview with Davis from 2006, is available on the program's website.

Bucknell projects

Read about other Projects for Peace efforts initiated by Bucknellians:

  • Guatemala sewing co-op;
  • "Missing Seeds" documentary about the plight of banana workers in Nicaragua.

Contact: Division of Communications

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