trackfield-outdoor-women-d3 flag

Rick Houston | | May 23, 2014

RPI’s Muchuma looks to improve conditions in native Kenya

  This was Ivy Muchuma's first outdoor national championship meet.
DELAWARE, Ohio -- Ivy Muchuma is a young woman with a plan.
The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hammer thrower was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, and the conditions in which she grew up weren't always the best. The city's water infrastructure was outdated and sometimes -- often times -- couldn't keep up with demand, forcing her family to seek backup from ponds and such.
Electricity rationing was also a fact of life, so it was not unusual for her to do homework by the light of an oil lamp. An outdated road system meant terrible snarls of traffic, so it was often easier to just walk.
Muchuma's mother was first to make the move to the United States because of an opportunity to attend Salem State in New Hampshire. Muchuma, her father and brother followed not long afterward. While she says that her childhood in Kenya "wasn't too bad," there's a reason for that.
"I didn't have anything to compare it to," said Muchuma, who finished 18th in the hammer throw during Thursday's first day of competition in the NCAA Division III Women's Outdoor Track and Field National Championships. "When I came here at nine years old is when I saw what a first-world country could look like.
"That's when I started to desire for my country to get up to those standards. There are very nice people in Kenya. People are smart. If we had the same standard of living, it would just be an awesome place."
Muchuma's plan began to take shape early on, and at RPI she majored in environmental engineering. She's also been accepted to grad school at Northeastern University in Boston, where she'll work toward a master's degree in sustainable building systems.
Things are beginning to fall into place. Muchuma is considering purchasing land in her home country, and that's where it would all start. She's meeting people, making contacts, networking and "gathering more data in order to make accurate decisions."
A source capable of supplying water for years was recently discovered in the northern part of Kenya, and that's got Muchuma's attention. The possibilities are endless. She hopes to someday soon be part of a team -- or maybe even leading a team -- that will redesign the whole water infrastructure in Kenya.
"That would complement our new-found resource to provide water to every single person in the country whenever they need it in a sustainable manner," she began. "If you teach people what sustainability is and how to not be wasteful, even though the country's people are not that wasteful, it's still good to have that education."
She's not just talking water, either. From the sound of it, she's ready to take on the world.
Bring it on.
"I would love to be able to provide the basic needs that everyone has and basically just eradicate poverty so that people don't have to worry about food, shelter, clothing and transportation … things like that. They can have other worries in their lives, but not things that can be taken care of."
Recent violence in the country is heartbreaking for Muchuma, yet she remains undeterred.
"I do feel very sad that things like that have to happen," she admitted. "It doesn't really affect my wanting to help the country. It doesn't affect my desire to still go back and make a difference."
The bottom line is this. It's all part of Muchuma's "Love thy neighbor" outlook on life, and if she can help in some small -- or very, very large way -- so can her peers.
"I would encourage other young people to see that they can use their skills to do good," said Muchuma. "They don't just have to work for big companies. That shouldn't be the goal. The goal should be to make a difference in the world, and really make that a reality and not just think about it. Use their skills and their expertise that they've learned from college to try and help other people."