Brighton Kaoma is an award-winning environmentalist and social entrepreneur based in Zambia. Brighton started his activism at the age of 14 when he co-hosted a radio program to raise awareness of people on environmental issues. In 2014, he co-founded the Agents of Change Foundation Zambia, a nonprofit that gives young people training in radio journalism, leadership skills, and environmental and ethical issues. Brighton has worked with UNICEF as a Climate Ambassador and is a Global Youth Ambassador at Children’s Radio Foundation. He was honored with the Queen’s Young Leader Award by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015. In the following year, he received the WWF International President’s Awards.
[Below are some highlights from the interview that are edited for clarity.]
Motivation to start radio journalist in Zambia
Brighton: I was raised in one of the smallest towns in Zambia, called Kitwe. I experienced a lot of challenges from an environmental standpoint. Rivers were polluted, and a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. At a very young age, I became very aware of my environment, which led me to start the radio program at the age of 14 to educate my community. I was looking at multiple dimensions of climate change, environmental health, and economic well-being of people.
Start small with your passion
Brighton: I used to listen to the radio a lot. Radio in Zambia is an accessible and inexpensive medium of communication. Radio was perceived as a realizable source of information. Anything that the radio announced was considered as the cause of truth. If we already have this powerful medium, which allows us to speak with confidence and provide work the opportunity to access information, why don’t I use it to educate my community?
It was a very interesting day. I started it in my bedroom. I got a piece of paper from my book. I wrote a letter to the radio station nearest to where I live. I expressed in the letter that I am very interested in running a weekly radio show at your radio station. I don’t have any buck of money. I have only passion. Would you give me an opportunity to do that?’ I dropped the letter at the radio station. After a week, the radio manager wrote back to me that ‘the idea like yours could help the community to understand how the environment operates.’ Then, they gave me half-hour for free. I was thrown into the deep end. I didn’t have any prior training [before running the radio show]. Then, I was required to put together a half-hour radio program on a weekly basis. It was focusing on climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, and so on.
Constrain comes with innovation
Brighton: Young people need to realize that constraints build innovation. If you want to create something long-lasting, you should think about those constraints and innovative solutions. You don’t need to be great to start, but you need to start to be great.