Updated: Apr 6
Did you know over one billion people across the globe have either little or no access to electricity? Growing up in a small village in Njoro, Kenya, this was a daily part of life for two young students until two years ago. Only juniors in high school at the time, Teresia Mwema and Hannah Wambui researched and developed ways to bring an alternative, sustainable form of electricity to their community. With support from mentors, including Morris Thuku and Peter Mokaya Tabichi, Mwema and Wambui used organic materials and dead radio batteries to create power for light bulbs and cell phone charge.
The conversation to visit Chattanooga initially began this past spring when the PEF Innovation Hub started to coordinate with Morris, Mwema, and Wambui about speaking to students in Hamilton County's VW eLabs about their story. Earlier this week, Mwema and Wambiu had the opportunity to share their experience with students at STEM School Chattanooga. Both women, who met in school, shared their personal stories of struggles, challenges, and achievements while growing up in Njoro. As children, walking barefoot for seven miles through hills and rocks to fetch five gallons of water was a normal routine for these ladies. “Many times, we went to school on an empty stomach,” shared Wambui, “making it difficult to concentrate in class.” The young women also walked several miles to school each day, causing them to leave as early as 3AM to make it to school on time.
On the way to final exams, Wambui even recalls navigating around wildlife, including a leopard, to get to class. “It was the only route to school,” she said, “and I couldn’t miss final exams.”
They did not let these hardships deter them from making a positive impact in their community, and they continued to further their knowledge and studies in school. After joining Keriko Secondary School’s science club in eleventh grade, Mwema and Wambui created a green power project. “We had no electricity in our village,” shared Mwema, “and experienced challenges trying to study in darkness. We wanted to help find an affordable solution that cost nothing.”
Throughout their long journey of iterations, research, and three months of trial & error experiments with organic resources, they discovered a viable solution. Their research led them to combine various plant juices, as well as cow urine due to its acidic component, to create a green powered alternative form of energy. They also collected dead, unwanted radio batteries to incorporate into their project. Mwema and Wambui demonstrated their invention using these resources and produced volts to light a bulb and charge a cell phone.
After entering the 2017 Kenya International Science & Engineering Fair with their project, Mwema and Wambui won first place in the chemistry category for green energy technology. Through the help of their teachers, mentors, and their accomplishments, they were able to receive passports, as well as a free IT education. Mwema and Wambui have shown their green power invention to fellow students at school, all while perfecting their research methods in the meantime. They have goals of assisting other areas of Africa, as well as India and other third world countries. “We want to help kids who grew up the same way we did,” shared Mwema. “Success is not to share for one person – it is a ‘we’ effort.” Holding titles, such as school captain and 2018 Valedictorian, combined with all her other responsibilities, Mwema is proud of her incredible achievements and her and Wambui’s successful green power invention.
Thanks to Mwema and Wambui's hard work ethic and dedication, their community will have access to affordable green power. We look forward to watching their global success continue to grow. Best of luck, ladies! The positive impact you're making in the world is inspiring, and we cannot wait to see what you accomplish next.
*Documentary & Additional Information:
*How can I help?
If you would like to help support Mwema, Wambui, and Thuku in their continued research & development endeavors, please visit http://www.tiitkenya.org/. Thanks to a letter of invitation from PEF's Michael Stone, the team was able to receive travel visas. They will be in the Chattanooga area for one more month, and are open to additional innovative ideas from fellow students, teachers, and community members. If you would like to setup a time to meet with them, please reach out to Morris Thuku at firstname.lastname@example.org.