The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

[NOTE: This has been drastically edited from the original post. I left to go to a wedding and instead of hitting save I hit Publish. Doh!  But as an antidote to all the distressing, depressing political news, here - have a positive, inspiring story about a kid who is doing something remarkable.]

I’ve posted a couple of times about “Windmill Guy” William Kamkwamba.  His new children’s book is out!  The book looks great – nice art, and of course Kamkwamba’s story is incredible for readers at any age. From his blog:

After my primary education, I was accepted at and began secondary education in Malawi. I began first form (equivalent to a high school freshman in America) and took two trimesters out of three. After the second trimester, I was forced to drop out of school because my family and I did not have enough money to pay the school fees.

I was out of school for five years.

Our family is poor like many families in Malawi and Africa, and as a result, we have no electricity in our village or my home. For many years we had only paraffin candles to light my home at night. They are expensive, smoky, smelly and have to be purchased about 8 km from home.

During that time I decided to try to get as much education as possible by reading as many books as I could find. An organization called the Malawian Teacher Training Activity (MTTA), a project of USAID contributed a large quantity of books to the primary school library near my home. I read many of them.  One of the books I read was called Using Energy, a primary school textbook about how energy is made. Inside the book there were plans for a windmill. I decided to build a windmill to provide power for my family.

(Here’s his book for adults.)  So at 15 years old, he built a windmill out of scrap parts, including a bicycle frame. Then another, larger one.  People started talking, journalists came out and did a story on him, and funds were raised so he was eventually able to go back and finish high school.  These days Kamkwamba is here in the United States. He is a sophomore at Dartmouth and has an NGO called Moving Windmills which is improving the lives of many people in Malawi.  Here’s a short film, which is being expanded into a full documentary, about William.


I just love his story – how he overcame adversity, worked hard and creatively and made something that is generating wealth for himself, his family, and his town… it just keeps spreading.

(And for more positive info on Africa, don’t forget the documentary, Africa – Open for Business, which powerfully illustrates that the continent houses, in addition to thatched huts and starving babies with distended bellies, modern cities with high rise buildings and thriving stock exchanges.)