A simple hand pump is getting international attention for its potential to save lives.
“Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.” – Rosalind Franklin
“I knew I needed to come up with a project that would make a difference in the everyday lives of my people.” – Sofia, Form 4
Daraja’s mission is to educate and empower girls to become community leaders. Leaders who aren’t afraid to confront difficult problems. Sofia, from Daraja’s form 4 class, proves that you don’t have to wait until graduation to start making a difference in your community.
Sofia grew up in Makindu with her mother and six siblings. Every day, the children walked over a mile each way to fetch water from a public tap. It was difficult to carry enough water for Sofia’s family of eight, so it often took multiple trips. Frequently, the tap would run out of water causing them to travel even farther.
It was the struggle to fetch enough water that inspired Sofia’s homemade lift pump design:
“My design, at first, was to make a simple pump to wash your hands. But I realized that the pump would not solve any serious problems, so I used my original design and figured out how to scale it to a larger size that could pump more water. I needed to save people back in my village. Most people cannot afford technical pumps. Even when the government says that they are going to build boreholes for villages, those technical pumps get mechanical problems. No one ever comes to fix it. My pump does not require any technical knowledge. If a part of it stops working, anybody—even if they are not educated—can fix it by themselves.”
Sofia grew up hearing horror stories of terrible accidents—and even deaths—of people in her village as they tried to fetch water:
“Another reason that I came up with this pump was for people that fetch water from steep rivers. Some of those rivers have hippopotamus and crocodiles lurking in them. In order to get water, you have to stand on the edge of the cliff and lower down buckets with a rope. Those buckets get heavy once they are filled with water, and sometimes people fall over the cliff and get attacked by the animals down below. With this pump, you can lower the inlet hose into a river and pump water from up to 33 feet away.”
Sofia prides herself on the ease and simplicity of her design: “I used recycled lumber leftover from a construction project at Daraja. My pump has one inlet pipe and one outlet pipe made from a garden hose cut in half. The valves are made out of rubber gloves with scrap metal on the inside, so that the gloves don’t get sucked into the pipe while you are pumping water. Anyone will be able to construct it by themselves. Even young children will be able to pump water by themselves”
After a stellar performance at the national science fair, Sofia was invited by The Young Scientists of Kenya to compete in an international science and engineering fair next month. She will be competing against secondary school students from all over East Africa. Her teacher, Madam Mercy, is very excited for Sofia saying, “I am incredibly proud of her! I have watched Sofia grow in self-belief and confidence that has allowed her to compete favorably in this competition. We are all very excited about this opportunity and look forward to competing in more international competitions.”