Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Malawi)

Malawi

by William Kamkwamba

What if you had to go to bed when the sun went down because you didn’t have electricity? What if you had to spend two hours a day walking to a deep well to get drinking water for your family? What if you had to pay to go to school, even elementary school?

Famine and hardship didn’t stop young William from thinking that he could improve his family’s situation…and with the help of a two-shelf library in his village, he did. First, William built a windmill that generated electricity so his family could visit, play games, and study in the evenings. Next, he built a deep bore well so they could have clean drinking water, a well he generously shared with the whole village.

Map of MalawiWhat Happened After That?

An American NGO heard about William and he was invited to speak at TED. Before long, he could afford to buy mosquito netting for his family and friends. (You can imagine how having malaria and intestinal parasites cuts down on a person’s ambition and ability to create in their own life.)

Of course this book is exciting and inspirational. It’s also sad. I was infuriated to read how the village chief was brutally beaten for trying to force the President of Malawi to do something about the awful famine which he continually denied was even happening.

The friendship between William and a few of the village boys was touching. He was so grateful to Gilbert, the son of the chief, for buying him parts for his windmill when he couldn’t have afforded it. I think Africans in general have something we Americans have lost–a sense of community and the knowledge that if one of us starves, all of us are starving.

Rating: Five bushels of corn meal = Excellent

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4 thoughts on “Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Malawi)

  1. Very beautiful, thanks Holly. The sense of community, the shared poverty, the close family ties are actually specific to all poor countries, like mine was in the time of Ceasusescu. Instead these values are deeply missed by the rich countries, not only the US but also the Wesern Europe countries, or all the ones which forgot on the way what to be poor means. My country not a rich country yet but not a very poor country either starts to experience the dismantling of humanity, of human relations,

    1. Pat, that’s really interesting. And deeply disturbing. I have seen what you’re talking about and I am aghast at the consumerism of rich societies like the U.S. I think we have a lot to learn from poorer countries. When I was in Fang, Thailand, they had a tradition that on your birthday, you got up early and made a huge breakfast, and then took it to the nearest temple and fed all the monks. You give, instead of expecting to receive. I loved that.

    2. It must be interesting to be in a place that is changing so quickly. I would have liked to have been able to visit with your grandmother about what she had seen in her lifetime. But, she is in a better place.

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