For most people (myself included), the idea of helping the developing countries of the world is extremely admirable, and yet I find that the aid I send tends to come in the form of donations to various charities, and occasionally buying Fairtrade chocolate bars. However, fourth year Civil Engineering student Amy Wright, decided to be a little bit more proactive than that, and during the summer began a project which has the potential to change the lives of an entire village in Malawi.

“Writing my dissertation on rural electrification, I had a growing desire to try and create a project of my own. For developing countries the benefits of electrification offer a whole new quality of life. ”

The project began in September 2011, when despite the country’s growing civil unrest, fuel shortages and rabies outbreaks, Amy travelled to Malawi in order to begin research on the suitability of an area in a rural village to install a hydropower scheme, in order to create electricity.

Upon returning to the UK, Amy continued to research and develop the project (no easy feat when coupled with the stress of dissertation deadlines), and formed a team of engineering students from a variety of disciplines. Together, this team are assisting her in designing the hydropower scheme for use in Malawi, sourcing materials and fundraising, all of whom will travel with Amy to install the system in summer 2012.

Hydropower uses the power of falling water and gravity to turn a turbine producing electricity, a technology that is already successfully used in many rural areas in developing countries.

The project is being carried out in conjunction with Phunzira, a charity in Ruarwe, a small fishing village on the shores of Lake Malawi, which was selected for the installation of the scheme. Ruarwe is only accessible from mainland Malawi, by a steam-powered ferry that runs on a weekly basis and the community is extremely poor with no infrastructure, plumbing, gas or electricity. However, it was only once she had arrived in the village, that Amy truly began to realise what the success of her project would mean for the daily life of the villagers:

“Electricity would mean that an education in the area, both for adults and children would be possible due to light-bulbs allowing learning after dark. It would also mean that the villagers could receive government broadcasts on health and news, so the community would be less isolated from the mainland. Having electricity would also mean that the village’s health centre could have a vaccination fridge and sterilisation unit.”

By Hannah Layford and Amy Wright

If you are interested in the project or wish to become involved in any way, then please do not hesitate to contact Amy: [email protected]
More details are also available through the website: http://nustream.org/

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