“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”

Williams Home on Movingwindmills.org
William's Home on Movingwindmills.org

by Anis Salvesen

Imagine you are one of 9 people in a family of subsistence farmers.  You don’t have water or electricity.  It’s all you can do to get by.

Then things get worse.  Yes.  The worst famine in 50 years strikes your country.  You’re 14 years old.  You don’t speak English very well.  You live in a country that is largely ignored by the rest of the world.  What would you do?

If your answer is, “check out some Physics books written in English from the local library, find a diagram of a windmill then decide to build one with random parts” while everyone around you said you were crazy, then your name must be William Kamkwamba.

This kid, with no support from his community and no money for parts, managed to learn enough physics (from English text) to start his windmill project.  I’m not sure that even after multiple semesters of physics in my own language and access to proper building materials, I would be able to construct a good windmill.    Yet William, using random parts like a tractor fan, flip-flops and a bicycle frame, managed to do just that.

What is perhaps more impressive than his resourcefulness is William’s vision.  That he had the foresight to act on the idea that water and electricity were of more benefit to the community than his single contribution to farming is incredible.    Either a sense of hopelessness, of resignation or an obsession with eking out every last bit of food from the farm would seem far more likely to me.

To go from being a kid who was forced to drop out of school, to a young man speaking at such events as the Africa Economic Forum at Columbia University, TED Global and the World Economic Forum is just jaw-dropping.  And he’s not just speaking, he continues to take action.   Through his Moving Windmills Project, William has accomplished the following and much more:  providing running water taps free-of-charge for all villagers, offering secondary school scholarships for rural students, and harnessing both wind and solar power for homes in his village.

William Kamkwamba is just such an inspiration!  If you are feeling inspired and want to help,  you can (in addition to supporting the Moving Windmills Project), help provide water for other communities.  We even have a gift package for just $19.  Or you can choose from over 250 other gift packages, ranging from a simple but life-saving mosquito net to helping fund more elaborate projects.  It’s really easy.

Thanks for reading this blog post and for sharing it with your family and friends.   If you’re curious about your knowledge of African geography, take the quiz below.

Malawi is surrounded by which of the 3 following countries?

1)      Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Tanzania

2)      Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania

3)      DR Congo, Zimbabwe and Zambia

We will also post the answer on our Twitter account tomorrow.


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