Here begins the inspirational tale about a boy who had hope.
A boy who believed that he could bring relief from drought and hunger to his people.
William Kamkwamba, born in Malawi, knew what it was like to see life slipping away. He was born into a loving village where he would go to school, work the fields with his father, and enjoy the company of his extended family and community. But William watched it all go away as the sun’s heat burned bright and the rains would not come.
Before the drought years arrived, William was always fascinated with electricity and how it worked. It was his dream to study science in Malawi’s top boarding school. As 2002 approached and the droughts left his families farm barren and destitute, William was forced to drop out of school because he couldn’t pay the $80 a year for the school tuition. His days were spent helping his family search for food, and as it was, many people were starving and dying.
In a book called Using Energy, William had read about windmills. He dreamed about building a windmill that would bring electricity and water to his village. He knew this could be the solution to end the misery of his people. But instead of applauding this great idea, his neighbors made fun of him and even called him misala (crazy).
This didn’t deter William, however. He was determined to show all of them what a little focus and ingenuity could do.
Despite all of the roadblocks in his way, William didn’t let go of his dreams.
He had access to a library which held old textbooks and he would spend hours reading and reviewing old science books. Armed with this knowledge, he set about and formed a plan that would bring not only his family the luxury of electricity and running water, but the satisfaction of knowing he could help save his village. And a luxury it would be since only 2 percent of Malawians can afford to have water and electricity.
Even though his village continued to look at him as a bit “off his rocker,” William made a crude but working windmill using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves. This strange contraption, holding a circuit breakers and switches held together by nails and wire, actually powered 4 lights. Another small machine turned a water wheel which brought water to the farmers fields. Together, all the pieces worked in harmony and William achieved the result he had dreamed and hoped for for years.
Soon news of Williams “electric wind” spread beyond the borders of his home village and inspired people around the world.
I first read this story when it came out as a non-fiction adult book and it struck a cord with me. Soon I found myself telling my family about this incredible young man who saved his village using sheer inventiveness during breakfast one morning.
When the children’s book came out, I was so thrilled that I could now share this story with many young friends.
Illustrated in rich colors and beautiful collage technique by Elizabeth Zunon, The Boy Who Harvested the Wind will inspire all who read it that they too can make a difference.
To date, William Kamkwamba is a student at African Leadership Academy, a pan-African high school in Johannesburg, South Africa. A 2007 TED Global Fellow, Kamkwamba has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and his inventions displayed at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. He’s often invited to tell his story, and in 2008, he delivered an address at the World Economic Forum on Africa.
This is an incredible first hand look into William’s dream and what inspired him.
Photos of William are taken from his website.
Something To Do:
At the Budayr house, we decided we couldn’t let William have all this fun by himself!
After many readings from both books and several discussions later, the question that kept coming up most was; can we make a windmill out of recycled items?
We opted out of the large life size windmill immediately and after reading this inspiring article about creating electricity from a plastic soda bottle windmill to create light in Kenyan homes, we decided to give the soda bottle windmill a go.
We explored many ideas and options, but finally we settled on a kit from Green Science called Windmill Generator. Everything is included in the kit except the screw-driver. We easily put it together and have had countless hours of fun with our LED light being lit by our windmill.
“Now I have something in common with the kids in Kenya!” shared my very enthusiastic son. This same lovely son is looking into the practicality of having our own windmill for our own use. Who knows? Someday soon we may soon have one more thing in common with William Kamkwamba.
In conclusion, if you want to be inspired, this is a book that just keeps on giving incredibly good feelings. It forces us to stop and think, count our blessings, and ask the question….