As a distance runner, Benard Kibet ’18 knows that it takes hard work, patience, and persistence to be successful on the trail and track. He’s applied those same lessons to solve what many thought an intractable problem—his hometown in rural Kenya had no running water.

Growing up, Kibet and other children in his village hauled water by hand from a distant river. Early on he vowed to find a way to eliminate this arduous task, so he and others could spend more time in school, and his village’s hospital could have water available from pipes rather than plastic jugs.

Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships

At Colby, the economics major found a way to make his dream come true. He devised a plan to install a water-powered pump in the river and to pipe the water to the town. His plan was endorsed by the Davis Foundation, which awarded the sophomore a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant, his second. (A previous grant allowed for construction of a kindergarten building in the town.)

Just as he had for the school project, Kibet went to work. He called upon his relatives back home and other key stakeholders in the local government to begin making arrangements so he’d be able to make the most of his time and those dollars when he arrived in Kenya. On the ground, challenges arose.

Heavy rains led to muddy terrain, a swelling river along the construction site, and a lack of shelter for weather-sensitive materials such as pre-mixed cement. Kibet worked through those obstacles, and when it became clear that the costs for materials would exceed his budget, he improvised. Unable to afford the cement water tank that was planned, he located cheaper drum tanks.

Throughout the process, Kibet used his analytical skills to overcome challenges and keep the project moving forward. The water system was constructed. Water was pumped from the river to the village. A longtime problem was solved. Life is better for hundreds of villagers. Students can now focus on their studies rather than walking miles daily carrying water jugs. Doctors and nurses can provide water when and where it is needed most.

Back at Colby, Kibet has turned his attention to another problem afflicting many developing countries—lack of resources for people with disabilities. He sees the disabled, not as burdens, but as untapped contributors to their communities and economies. It’s a sprawling and complex problem, but Kibet—like other Colby students—dares to look for a solution. And dares others to think that this is a race he can’t win.