Imagine living in a place where you are utterly dependent on rain to grow food or having a 7-kilometer walk to buy kerosene just to light your house after dark. That is the world of William Kamkwamba as well as most of the African country of Malawi. Yet despite these obstacles the resourceful young Kamkwamba built a windmill from salvaged material to generate electricity for his family.
In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Kamkwamba and co-author Bryan Mealer record the history of Malawi as well as its present conditions. Kamkwamba movingly describes the desperate drought and famine that gripped Malawi in the middle part of the last decade. (2005) But the most captivating part of Kamkwamba’s story describes his fascination with science and technology which led him to design and build a windmill to generate electricity. Despite a total lack of available materials, formal schooling, and the relentless mocking of the other boys in his village, Kamkwamba persevered to build his windmill. He was 14 years old. Soon journalists came to see the windmill and his news of his accomplishment spread leading to an invitation to speak at a TED conference which led to interviews with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. At the time of the publication of the book (2009) Kamkwamba was a student at Dartmouth College. All from a boy who couldn’t afford school fees of less than 8 US dollars.
And to what does Kamkwamba give credit to providing him with the knowledge and inspiration to build his windmill? The library, of course!
Enjoy these clips from The Daily Show and TED Talks.