Where I come from, creativity is a requirement for survival. The standard stereotype of a Brazilian is one of extreme creative resourcefulness. Creativity in this case unfortunately does not mean - in the traditional sense of the word - the ability to express oneself in a work of art. Instead it means the art of imaginatively harnessing the resources around oneself in order to survive yet another day.
Survival in itself isn't enough. We are human beings with higher aspirations and simply surviving another day is just too little for us. Take the amazing example of William Kamkwamba. Born in the poor rural outskirts of Malawi, Kamkwamba was forced to drop out of school when he was 14, due to severe famine, which left his family without the annual tuition fee of USD80. He then started helping at the dying crops, while sharing the one single meal per day provided by the government with his 9 family members. Under normal African circumstances that would have been his life story. Maybe he would have survived to perpetuate the same barely maintainable cycle to a new generation.
However, Kamkwamba had that small spark of creativity that we all have. All of us have this desire deep down within us to achieve more, to change things, to invent and explore something unknown.
Kamkwamba kindled that spark by starting to study totally by himself. He would go to the badly maintained village library every day and read old and scarcely available engineering books. The difficulties to read, mainly in English - a language mostly unknown to him, were nothing compared to his eagerness.
By using the very rudimentary knowledge he gathered and all sorts of junks he could find in local junkyards, Kamkwamba built his first windmill to generate electricity and replace the expensive and inefficient kerosene generator used by his family. It was the hope of renewable electricity coming to an often-neglected part of the world.
Kamkwamba’s subsequent projects have included clean water, malaria prevention, solar power and lighting for the six homes in his family compound, a deep water well with a solar powered pump for clean water, a drip irrigation system, and the outfitting of the village team Wimbe United with their first ever uniforms and shoes. Since receiving their sun- and wind- themed uniforms, the team has been on a winning streak that has brought the village together with pride.
Through his creativity and hard work, Kamkwamba started a change process in his community. One that is difficult to ignore.
Most of us are surrounded by much better resources than those initially available to Kamkwamba. Therefore what is our excuse for not working hard towards the betterment of our community at large?
To know more about Mr. Kamkwamba's story, check his book out: "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind". He can also be seen on a TED talk or on Tom Reilly's short documentary film called Moving Windmills.