When we read Benard Kibet’s application for a Davis Projects for Peace grant, we were struck by both its simplicity and its ambition. With the clear-eyed view of an economics major, Kibet had devised a way to bring water to his community in Kenya, potentially changing the lives of thousands of people for generations to come.
Map shows the location of Tinet, in Kenya’s
Rift Valley, the site of Kibet’s water project.
And the then-rising Colby junior would do this for $10,000.
In our offices on Mayflower Hill, we considered the best way to recount this story for our readers. We would have to go to Kenya, that was certain. But with a notebook and pen? An audio recorder? Or would we capture this momentous change and pivotal moment on film?
We pictured the moment when water would run up the pipe from the river and spurt into the newly installed tank in the village. We wanted to show that moment, the water sparkling, splashing, and gurgling as the tank slowly filled. And we wanted to show the reaction of Benard’s community. Film it would be.
This diagram shows a hydraulic ram pump, which uses gravity and hydraulic power to pump water without requiring electricity.
After considerable planning, we dispatched our staff filmmaker, Milton Guillén ’15, to Kenya. Guillén and his associate, Nicaraguan-French filmmaker Nicolas Abaunza, would have a week to document this historic time in Tinet, in Kenya’s Rift Valley. In the end, they also captured the vision of a single Colby student and his determination to make the world a better place.
Kibet did just that, as the wonderful film Maji demonstrates. We can’t think of a better argument for the value of what happens at Colby and the impact of a Colby education far from Mayflower Hill.
We hope Maji is the first of many films to be produced by Colby Magazine. We hope you find them informative, inspiring, and motivating. After all, Kibet is just one Colby student. As Colbians, we all have the potential to have a positive impact on the lives of those around us. Let’s take that message from Kibet and Maji and go forth with determination and a plan, whether it be to help a friend, a family, a village, a country, a generation. As the film so beautifully demonstrates, it can be done.
About the Makers
left to right: Nicolas Abaunza, Benard Kibet, Milton Guillén
Benard Kibet ’18is an economics and mathematics double major, with a concentration in financial markets. A member of the varsity cross country team, he came to Colby from Moi High School-Kabarak in Kenya.
Nicolas Abaunzais a French-Nicaraguan cinematographer with experience in commercials, documentaries, web series, and music videos. Abaunza studied cinema in Paris and quickly realized his passion for cinematography and moved back to Nicaragua in 2014. Abaunza’s precious photography draws inspiration from masters of cinematography such as Chivo Lubezki.
Milton Guillén ’15,from Nicaragua, interned at the Office of Communications for most of his Colby career while he majored in anthropology and minored in cinema studies. Upon graduation, Guillén went on to finish an interactive film he codirected with Associate Professor of Global Studies Maple Razsa. After much traveling back and forth between Portland, Maine, and New York City, Guillén joined the Communications staff as photo and video journalist in January 2016.
A short film was an ideal way to illustrate this project because the film affects viewers in ways words simply would not. Films have the power to transcend the recognition of an issue and create a deeper sense of empathy. However, empathy for its own sake is not what we intended here. Kibet’s story is both urgent and inspiring. His project highlights the reality for millions of people in the world whose access to running water is limited. With gentle camera movements and a powerful score, this film is intended to touch your heart and make you reflect on the importance of philanthropy, resilience, and hard work. What’s possible when a whole community joins its strengths to come forward? What kind of leader does it take to accomplish such a feat? What is my role—as the viewer, as a person—in all of this? With this in mind, the true protagonists of Maji are Kibet and his community. We hope you see through our eyes what an incredible place Tinet is. —Milton Guillén