Muyambi Muyambi '12
Photo: Rob Strong
Molly Burke '10

7+8/Forward Momentum

Muyambi Muyambi ’12 and Molly Burke ’10 transformed a student club into a powerful force against poverty

Muyambi Muyambi ’12’s obsession with bicycles began as a child in Uganda, where he remembers trying to build a wooden bike using found parts. The end product looked nice, but lacked one crucial element: It couldn’t roll.

Muyambi’s passion for pedal-powered vehicles grew as he did: “I saw bicycles saving people’s lives – from a man taking his pregnant wife to the hospital on a bicycle, to seeing my mother taken to the hospital on a bike multiple times.”

At Bucknell, the civil engineering and economics double major paired his life experience with resources accessible through a liberal arts education to start Bicycles Against Poverty, a student club raising awareness about the lack of access to bicycles in Uganda.

Molly Burke ’10, an environmental studies and political science double major, joined the club, and after visiting Uganda her junior year, fell in love with the country and its people. She graduated and continued supporting Bicycles Against Poverty, but she wanted to do more.

In 2014, she did, moving to Uganda to take a full-time job building the organization. Since then, the nonprofit, now called Cycle Connect, has partnered with 6,000 Ugandan farmers who had no way to transport their products to customers.

Burke says farmers with bicycles can carry five times more crops, travel four times farther and increase their income by 35%. But Cycle Connect’s impact is most evident in the lives of people like Lamaro, who lives 20 miles from the nearest city. To trade goods and get her children to school, Lamaro had to walk, borrow a bike or hire a taxi costing a week’s wages.

A 2014 Cycle Connect bicycle loan unlocked Lamaro’s potential. Over the next three years, Cycle Connect loaned Lamaro a second bicycle, an ox and a plow.

“These have enabled her to increase her income, invest in better education for her children and have a stronger livelihood overall,” says Burke, Cycle Connect’s CEO.

Muyambi, an associate investment officer at the International Finance Corporation in Washington, D.C., still sits on Cycle Connect’s governing board. He says stories like Lamaro’s reflect on Burke’s leadership.

“I might have started it, but she is the reason our operations have blossomed so much,” he says. “Very few people can turn passion into action, and Molly has done that every day since we met.”
— Bryan Wendell