Wind Power, Education Power

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

“This windmill I see in the book, someone did this.  It didn’t just fall from the sky.”  In other words, if someone else can do it, I can do this as well. This is the story of William Kamkwamba, a young man from Malawi, who at the age of 14 built a windmill out of scrap metals and spare parts he found in his village.  While this began as an endeavor to use wind power to provide electricity for his family, it also shows the true power of education.

His adventure began after he was forced to drop out of school, as his family could no longer afford to pay the school fees.  A famine was crushing the people of Malawi, and his village suffered. One of his friends was still in school though, which fortunately provided  William access to a school library.  One day he came across a book about physics. Although he couldn’t read very well at the time, he saw pictures of how a windmill was put together, and how it could provide electricity.  Immediately he was struck by inspiration: he could build his own windmill to help ease his family’s suffering.

He scrapped together a variety of parts from around the village – scrap metal, bicycle parts, car parts, wood – and set out to build his windmill. Despite his neighbors believing him to be crazy, he succeeded, and his windmill gave his family electricity in their home for the first time.

Like modern day Don Quixote, except instead of fighting windmills, he’s building them.

His crazy dreams paid off, and soon everyone saw that it could work, so they helped him to build another.  Soon, his projects were helping his family to irrigate their garden, and a solar project helped give power to more people in his village.

Not long after, a journalist from the capital caught wind of the project (pardon the pun), and soon young William was launched into the spotlight.

He’s now seeking a college education, so that he can start a company to build large scale windmills, to help give power to the rest of his country.

It all began with a book.  We can easily take for granted our access to education, to the limitless sea of information we have literally at our fingertips. But education changes lives.  If we can support the spread of knowledge, we can support more young people like William to help change their lives.  And to change the world.

Some Links

Be sure to check out his website and books:
http://williamkamkwamba.typepad.com/
And here’s a video to a talk he gave with TED:
http://www.ted.com/talks/william_kamkwamba_how_i_harnessed_the_wind.html