Tell us about your new children’s book, The Magical Wooden Bicycle.
The book highlights a unique upbringing, loving community, and the pure joy embodied within a young Ugandan boy who does whatever it takes to reach his goal. No matter the obstacles a child may be facing, this uplifting story aims to inspire its young readers to look for creative solutions and never doubt the power and magic within themselves.
The story follows Kwezi, a curious young boy from Uganda, who wants nothing more in the world than a bicycle. He dreams of using his new yellow bicycle to take his mother to the market and finish his chores faster. When no one will help him achieve his goal, he must take matters into his own hands. With the companionship of his friend Salema, the two attempt to build a bicycle from bamboo and reeds. Inspired by my own childhood in Uganda, this thoughtful story offers a new narrative about children growing up in rural Uganda.
What made you want to author a children’s book, and how will it help support your nonprofit Cycle Connect?
I wrote this children’s book for many reasons—but most importantly, to share the story of my childhood in rural Uganda. Growing up in a struggling economy is a powerful life experience but not always the negative perspective assumed by many or perpetuated by the media. This book serves as a reminder that children do not think of themselves as inferior, powerless, uncreative, or poor until the world starts to tell them so. It also provides a unique opportunity to shed light on the purpose and mission of Cycle Connect, formerly Bicycles Against Poverty, which I founded in 2008 at Bucknell University along with a small group of students thirsty for global change.
Proceeds from The Magical Wooden Bicycle support Cycle Connect’s (formerly Bicycles Against Poverty) mission of financing productive assets such as bicycles, oxen & plow, and more for rural Ugandan farmers.
You’re also an Associate Investment Officer at the International Finance Corporation. How do you find time to also focus on these mission-focused projects?
Truth be told, I wrote this book before business school and wanted to publish it while at Tuck. But as they say, man plans and God laughs. In short, life got in the way and I never completed it. I did the rest of the work to get it over the finish line right before joining IFC. I firmly believe that we all find time for what we care about. So, I do my best within the confines of my day job. That could mean longer days or longer weekends.
What motivated you to start Cycle Connect and build a career and life around helping others?
There is one moment and story that stands out to me in particular. It was probably 6:00 a.m. or earlier because I remember it was still dark and I was walking through Kampala heading to my school on the other side of the city. All of a sudden I saw something move underneath a bunch of cardboard boxes. I thought it was a snake so I jumped a little bit, but it turned out it was a street kid sleeping. I can remember the emotional toll that took on me. From feeling helpless to saying to myself, that if a chance presented itself, I would make a difference. In fact, my first attempts at building something in high school were focused on helping street kids.
What do you hope young readers will take away from the story?
I hope young readers get inspired to be creative. Go out into the world and make something with their hands. In the process, you might discover a new passion or brush off an old one.
The book targets two diverse groups of children: What we label as the Global South and the Global North. For so long and even up to now, the Global North tends to drive most trends and conversations. I hope this book inspires and reinforces the understanding that the Global South has a lot to offer to the Global North.
What do you miss about Tuck?
The people and atmosphere. I absolutely enjoyed my time at Tuck from learning in and outside of the classroom to constantly feeling like you are improving and growing every day. Beyond the education, I miss the outdoors especially skiing and cycling in the upper valley.
How can I share about this book with others?
This is the perfect gift for a young reader and a great quarantine activity to share with your kids—who might be curious about the world and looking for ways to understand the unique experiences of children from other parts of the globe. It might even move your family to start biking and see what the joy of being on two wheels is all about.
Muyambi is the founder of Cycle Connect. He is a native of Uganda and holds a dual degree in Civil Engineering (B.S.E.) and Economics (B.A.). from Bucknell University. Muyambi successfully secured seed funding for Cycle Connect from Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) and presented the organization on stage at CGI in 2008. Muyambi continues to share his passion for development on numerous stages including conferences, institutions, high schools, universities.