Tuesday, July 8, 2008


How many times have you heard an adult look at a busy, busy child and say "wouldn't you like to harness that energy?" Somebody did! Trevor Field from PlayPumps invented a merry-go-round that pumps water from a well. Now it's used in South Africa to provide water where there was none. Kids spin, water gets pumped. No more walking for hours just to carry a bucket or two of polluted water from a river or shallow well. Then there's Dr. Raj Pandian. He invented a seesaw and swing that generate electricity. Every minute a child swings provides one minute of power on a computer. I wonder what could they do with all that energy the dog uses up licking herself. And licking me. And licking the floor. Can they harness that?

Then there's Plumpy'nut, a high protein, high energy peanut based food product. It has had unbelievable success in famine areas, pulling children dying of malnutrition back from the brink of starvation. Who thinks of this stuff! Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) has saved thousands, according to Project Peanut Butter. So those kids that only want to eat PB&Js for every lunch, every day, aren't far off the mark.

What about the so called hole-in-the-wall experiment where computers with internet access were put in openings in brick walls in public places in villages and slums in India. Children who had never seen or used a computer taught themselves and each other to use it and were surfing the internet in just a few days.

What I get from all that is to think like a child! Do great ideas come from a clear, uncluttered mind? Do we try too hard to figure out the problems of the world when the answers are right there in front of us on the playground? Seems that way. I've spent more days than I care to remember in the largest slum in Africa, where children could have made use of all of these inventions. I hope the wealth spreads.

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