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Stephen Wamukota, a nine-year-old from Mukwa village in Western Kenya, is making headlines worldwide for his ingenious hand washing machine. The young boy came up with the idea after watching village residents, who do not have easy access to running water, struggle to find an effective way to wash their hands to avoid spreading and contracting COVID-19.
Using the few resources at his disposal — wood scraps, nails, and a bucket — Stephen designed and built a simple, but functional, cleansing station. The clever creation, which comprises two pedals — one to release soap and the other to release water — enables villagers to wash their hands contact-free, thereby reducing the likelihood of catching the dreaded infectious disease.
"I had bought some pieces of wood to make a window frame, but when I came back home after work one day, I found that Stephen had made the machine," his father, James, told the BBC. "The concept was his, and I helped tighten the machine. I'm very proud." James credits Stephen's building prowess to the village school's curriculum, which teaches children to assemble and construct items from a very young age.
The invention, which went viral after James posted a photo on Facebook, has made Stephen an instant celebrity in Kenya. In early June 2020, the country's leader, President Uhuru Kenyatta, bestowed the nine-year-old with the Uzalendo Award. The newly-created presidential honor is designed to acknowledge civilians who are making significant contributions towards the nation's fight against COVID-19.
Stephen has also been promised a full scholarship to a school that can nurture his creative talent, by Bungoma County Governor Wycliffe Wangamati. "We are waiting for school to open to contact him about his promise. He (the governor) told me that once school opens, he will give him a scholarship to a school that can match his talents," James told CNN.
Though thrilled at the unexpected fame and success, Stephen is not resting on his laurels. The young boy has already built another hand washing machine and plans on adding several more, so that the village, which has no reported cases of the infectious disease, can remain COVID-19 free!
Resources: goodnewsnetwork.org, BBC.com, Independent.co.UK,