Mwalimu means teacher in Swahili. With a fantastic smile, Mwalimu Mdee speaks confidently to sharing the gifts he’s received. He’s head of Usa River Primary School, with 1,265 children under his care. In 2011, Save the Rain built a rainwater harvesting tank at his school. A system was also built in 2008 at the school he was head of previously. He has long inspired the team with his resilience, innovation, and shining light.


At Mdee’s school, the garden is truly the gift that keeps giving. It’s a living classroom for the children who tend it, imparting the permaculture principles that nurture the soil and produce a diversity of food crops throughout the year that pack their lunch with the extra nutrition that young minds need.


He saw that there was a need for a night watchman to provide security for the school’s new resources. But parents had their own ends to make meet, and he couldn’t raise funds from this quarter. Instead, he sells the extra vegetables from the garden to the teachers and uses the takings to pay the watchman’s salary.


The school’s tanks hold 150,000 liters, and the rainwater they harvest covers their needs throughout the dry season. Students take 3-5 liters home every day. The school additionally provides water to neighbors in need. After all, before they harvested rain, it was not uncommon for the school to ask water of neighbors, and one good turn deserves another.


For Mwalimu Mdee, the effects of rainwater are clear: for one, attendance is up. With clean drinking water and hand-washing, noticeably fewer students are missing school from water-borne illnesses. Exam results have improved: the children are better nourished, healthier, and more consistently in class – and not sleeping through lessons due to getting up pre-dawn to fetch water before school.


He’s proud that 587 of his students are girls, and he should be. It’s often the case that a daughter’s education will be sacrificed as early as the second grade so that she can support the family’s need to fetch faraway water. As Mwalimu Mdee speaks, you can’t help but think of what a beacon he is for his community – and ‘community’ is a word that comes up often in his vocabulary. He is conscious of his own potential as a change-maker. He is clear that he is a spark that ignites the flames of the future. He is an example that individuals have the power to inspire change through inspiration and individual initiative. Under his care, his students will undoubtedly follow his lead.

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