Those whose interests including super high-end exotic automobiles may know the name Alain Clenet and the eponymous retro-designed “drivable art” he built in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the meeting I had with him at his home this morning, I was taken by the keenness of his mind, as well as the breadth of his heart and spirit. Though he still builds cars as a hobby, he’s turned most of his efforts to helping the poorest of the poor, mostly in undeveloped places in Africa.
I thought I’d relate a quick story that blends Alain’s compassion with his skill for building things – and even a bit of clean energy.
When Alain and his people go to an area, they always ask what the people lack, but they also ask, “What do you have too much of?” In the case of the people of Uganda – in particular, in the rural areas around Uganda’s capital and largest city Kampala, the answer to BOTH questions is “food.”
“What do you mean?” he asked. “You have too much food? How can that be?” “That’s right,” they explained. ”Sometimes it all comes at once. We can’t keep it from rotting.”
“Ah, you need a way to dry it and then store it,” Alain replied. “Let me see what I can do.”
Soon he and his team, working with local people, had fabricated a large tent with solar powered fans and ovens to dry the food, and huge metal cylinders, with cones on top, flipped upside down – makeshift grain hoppers. A little ingenuity, a dash of mechanical engineering, and a ton of heart.