William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba. Image Credit: movingwindmills.org

In the last blog post, we talked about the clever toys made by children in Africa from scrap materials and the effectiveness of toys from trash as teaching tools in India.
One 14 year old boy in Malawi went much further than making a galimoto or homemade toy vehicle. When his family’s poverty forced him to drop out of school, William Kamkwamba taught himself how to construct a working windmill out of scrap metal and spare parts, successfully producing enough energy from his invention to generate electricity and running water in his village.
The story of William’s “electric wind” eventually spread around the world, making him a famous young African innovator who finally achieved his dream of studying science – in some of the best schools in Africa and the United States.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba's story. Photo Credit: William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba has told his story in a bestselling biography co-authored with Bryan Mealer, titled The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.  You can read about his life, the Moving Windmills Project he started to support education and development in Malawi, and the film documentary which is being made about him.  His work has been exhibited in science museums, and he speaks to audiences in many countries.

William will challenge everything you have thought about Africa, about young people, and about the power of one person to transform a community. This beautifully written book will open your heart and mind. I was moved by William and his story and believe you all will [sic]. Essential, powerful and compelling.”
Chris Abani, Nigerian author

William Kamkwamba at Maker Faire in Accra, Ghana

William Kamkwamba at Maker Faire in Accra, Ghana. Photo credit: ict4d.at

Our blogger met William when he was invited to attend and speak at Maker Faire Africa in Accra, Ghana. The conference took place August 14th to 16th.
“There were about 100 people there and so many of them shared my interest in inventing low-cost solutions to African engineering problems.”
– William Kamkwamba

What you can do

Put The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer on your wishlist in case it can be acquired by your school, a donor, your neighborhood library or a bookstore in your community.
Learn how William made his windmill by following the drawings.



Toy inventor Arvind Gupta
Photo credit: Outlook India

Arvind Gupta has been a toymaker for 30 years.  As a young engineer,  he spent time in rural India and learned how to invent simple toys out of everyday materials to illustrate principles of science.
Mr. Gupta’s website Toys from Trash has hundreds of ideas for the creative recycling of easily available items such as used plastic water bottles, caps,  match sticks and straws.
This reminds us of some very creative toys we’ve seen in Ghana.  Children all over the country – in fact, all over Africa – have a great tradition of inventing toys from scraps.
The photographs, directions and very short free films on the website are easy to follow.  For teachers of maths and science, we highly recommend this article as well as the talk and demonstration Mr. Gupta gives here.

We have lots of trash in Ghana and we are already very good at recycling!  Whether you live in a city, a town or a village, there are materials around you waiting for you to apply your own imagination as well as the lessons of Arvind Gupta and his team.

What you can do

Form a group of friends and make things from everyday items.  Remember to keep a record of your inventions, with pictures if possible.
Tell your maths and science teachers about Toys from Trash, and offer to help collect materials to make some of the models.
Click here for instructions on how to make an Ananse the spider.  Remember to add two extra legs!
Arvind Gupta's spider toy made from trash
Read Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Catherine Stock (or put it on your wish list of books for your school library).  A little boy from Malawi makes his own galimoto toy car from scrap wire which he collects from all around his village.

Galimoto by Karen Williams

Photo credit: HarperCollins

Children of the StreetCover Art for Children of the Street

Author: Dr. Kwei Quartey

Recommended age: 16 and up.
Not recommended for younger readers.
We are very curious about the continuing adventures of D.I. Darko Dawson, the crime-solving policeman who is gaining an international following as the main character of Dr. Kwei Quartey’s Ghanaian murder mysteries. After being introduced to the world in Wife of the Gods, the Inspector reappears this week in the new novel Children of the Street.

About the Book

From the publisher:
In the slums of Accra, Ghana’s fast-moving, cosmopolitan capital, teenagers are turning up dead. Inspector Darko Dawson has seen many crimes, but this latest string of murders …is the most unsettling of his career.  With time running out, Dawson embarks on a harrowing journey through the city’s underbelly and confronts the brutal world of the urban poor, where street children are forced to fight for their very survival—and a cunning killer seems just out of reach. – Random House, Inc.

About the Author

Dr. Kwei Quartey grew up in Ghana.  He is a medical doctor and a writer of detective fiction. You can learn much more about him and his novel-writing process on his website.

Why we’re interested

We liked Dr. Quartey’s uncomplicated, direct style in the first book of the series, Wife of the Gods.  From his website (which wins high marks from us!), we learned that he is very careful to include accurate details about past and present-day Ghana, many of which Ghanaian students would recognize.  He takes the trouble to visit the real locations that feature in his novels, and to talk to people in those communities. He doesn’t shy away from raising difficult social issues, but provides a context so that the reader can understand how those issues are being confronted.  Dr. Quartey’s books are not just thrillers; they are a helpful window on life in contemporary Ghana.
In Children of the Street, Dr. Quartey shines a light on one of the most important problems affecting young people in Ghana today: trying to work and survive in urban areas without family support.  In addition to telling us the story behind the book, he has also taken a personal interest in supporting organizations like Street Academy, which helps street children to complete their education.

Kwei Quartey and sponsored student's family

Kwei Quartey with Ernestina, his sponsored student from Street Academy, and her family. photo credit: Kwei Quartey


What You Can Do

Ask your schools and communities to bring Children of the Street to their libraries!
Learn more about volunteering with organizations like Street Academy.
Form a book group to discuss Children of the Street with your friends!

One of our Mmofra Foundation bloggers attended a July 9 celebration of the new African country of South Sudan!

Four South Sudanese and Sudanese children celebrating independenceSouth Sudanese and Sudanese children celebrating the new independence day.


Two South Sudanese girls celebrating independenceHappy birthday, South Sudan!

To learn more about the formation of this newest African country, visit the South Sudan official website.
Photo credit: Mmofra Foundation

Nana Abena Asabea Ametepe and Nil Carreras Del Peso, Doodle4Google 2011 Winners

Nana Abena Asabea Ametepe and Nil Carreras Del Peso, Doodle4Google "My Ghana" competition winners. Photo credit: myjoyonline.com

Congratulations, Doodle4Google Ghana 2011 winners!
For the second year running, Google Ghana is encouraging children to redesign its famously ever-changing company logo through the Doodle4Google competition. The idea seems to be catching on, with about 1,000 participants this year, up from 300 in 2010.
The Google Ghana team has a child-friendly approach and, we think, great instincts about grounding technology in the children’s own culture and experience. They thoughtfully organized a drawing clinic before the competition at Morning Star School, which produced last year’s winning candidate.
Nil Carreras Del Peso and Nana Abena Asabea Ametepe were this year’s top artists, in the 9-11 and 12-14 age groups respectively. We are very impressed by their Ghanaian renditions of the Google logo! If you missed these wonderful doodles on google.com.gh , don’t worry – you can still see Nil and Nana Abena’s winning artworks in the Google logos June archive.
Doodle4Google Ghana winner, 9-11
Doodle4Google Ghana winner, 12-14
One of the prizes, a Kindle e-reader, was pre-loaded with books by two of Ghana’s best known writers, Ama Ata Aidoo and Efua T. Sutherland, including our own product Voice in the Forest! The winners also received USD 2,000 technology grants for their schools.
To Nil, Nana Abena, and Google Ghana, we say a big Ayekoo (well done)!

Paintings by Mmofra Language Club participants
The Mmofra Foundation website and blog are newly launched, and as with every site in its early stages, there’s some tidying up to be done.  We try to be careful, but we’re not perfect, so be sure to let us know in the comments if you notice anything that could be done better.  Thank you for your patience!

Young girl with "Akwaaba means welcome" speech bubble


Welcome to Mmofra Foundation’s brand new blog! We hope you will join us in making this a child-friendly online “marketplace” where everyone comes to exchange ideas, news, resources, and accomplishments worth celebrating.

In addition to writing about our own activities, our bloggers will be searching throughout Ghana, Africa and around the world for information to share with you!
We will have content for children, teenagers, and young adults and the grown-ups who live, play and work with them.  We hope you will keep visiting this blog to get a “global Ghanaian” perspective on books, play, art, inventions, design, and other great work geared towards children.  Once we get going, look for icons which will serve as guides to blog posts for different age groups.
Your contributions are important to the success of the Mmofra Foundation Blog! Our team will soon be looking for some young correspondents to help us showcase children’s creative work. If you are interested in joining us as a guest youth blogger, please contact rachel@mmofraghana.org.
We look forward to the growth of our new online community!