Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
HarperCollins, 2009

I read this book on the recommendation of my friend, Faith. You can read her review of the book here.

William Kamkwamba was born into a poor farming family in Malawi. He is very matter-of-fact about the conditions of life for himself and his countrymen, and invites no pity, even when describing the effects of famine that ravaged the country, killing many of its people, early in the new millennium. Death by starvation was a daily threat for his own family, where just a handful of food had to feed several mouths and was available only once daily.

Given the lack of income during the famine period, William's parents were unable to continue paying his secondary school fees, and he had to stop attending. Always curious from a young age about how things worked, forever taking things apart and putting them back together, William was determined to continue learning on his own. Taking full advantage of the local library, which was stocked with books from America and elsewhere, he read up on subjects of a scientific nature, including physics and electricity. Discovering instructions for building a windmill and recognizing how its addition would help his family, he spent hours scouring the scrapyard for pieces he could use in its construction. With the assistance of a cousin and very good friend, he was able to assemble a working windmill that provided light to the family home and powered a small radio.

While initially ridiculed by former classmates and fellow villagers, William's efforts came to the attention of news reporters and important people in the scientific community. As a result, he was able to participate in a scientific conference and gain sponsorship to continue his education.

William remains passionate about helping the people of Malawi and Africa use their intelligence, skills, and drive to better their country and continent. He has already been involved in the addition of several more windmills to his own village and been able to send relatives and friends to school to further their own educations. Now in his early twenties, William maintains a website worth looking at. His rags to "riches" story is inspirational and proof that if you set your mind to something, you can accomplish much, no matter what obstacles may stand in your way.

1 comment:

Faith said...

So glad you had a chance to read & absorb this book! What an amazing story, I still find myself affected by it sometimes.