Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: The William Kamkwamba Story

One of the most inspiring books I read back in 2009 was The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. This is the moving story about a young African man from Malawi who refused to give up his dream of providing a better life for his family and fulfilling his dream of pursuing an education in science.

William gained fame in his country when, in 2002, he built a windmill to power a few electrical appliances in his family's house in Masitala using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard. Since then, he has built a solar-powered water pump that supplies the first drinking water in his village and two other windmills (the tallest standing at 39 feet) and is planning two more, including one in Lilongwe, the political capital of Malawi.

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him. His neighbours may have mocked him and called him misala—crazy—but William was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.

Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi's top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.

William Kamkwamba with his Windmill

Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity—electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.

Soon, news of William's magetsi a mphepo—his "electric wind"—spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world.

Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.

William Kamkwamba at TED in 2007

Today on Far Future Horizons we present four inspiring feature videos that present William Kamkwamba’s life story.

When The Daily Times in Blantyre, the commercial capital, wrote a story on Kamkwamba's windmills in November 2006, the story circulated through the blogosphere, and TED conference director Emeka Okafor invited Kamkwamba to speak at TEDGlobal 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania as a guest. His speech moved the audience, and several venture capitalists at the conference pledged to help finance his secondary education. His story was covered by Sarah Childress for The Wall Street Journal. He became a student at African Bible College Christian Academy in Lilongwe. He then went on to receive a scholarship to the African Leadership Academy and now attends Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Among other appearances, Kamkwamba was interviewed on The Daily Show on 7 October 2009 (during which he was playfully compared to the fictional hero Angus MacGyver for his impressive scientific ingenuity)and by social news website Reddit.

William Kamkwamba;s First Windmill

In addition, he was invited to and attended the 2011 Google Science Fair introductory meeting, where he was a guest speaker.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer is available from Amazon booksellers in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind for younger readers by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer and illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon also available from Amazon booksellers in the United States and the United Kingdom

William Kamkwamba's TED Talk: How I built a windmill

Building Windmills, Transforming Communities: An Evening With William Kamkwamba

Google Science Fair 2011 - Opening Event

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind The Boy who Harnessed the Wind, by authors William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. 

In this video  authors William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer present William's story to a student audience at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth.
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