October 30, 2009
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, from Malawi
Posted by Christine Hurt

I have been back from Malawi for about a month, and that amazing country is still all I think about.  Because I am all-Malawi, all the time, I just finished The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkawamba.  William is from a village in Malawi, not too far from the village I visited in the Mulanje district.  He was a boy during the famine of 2002, which devastated his community.  Although his family survived, he was not able to pay the school fees to attend school (about 1000 kwacha a term, or a little more than $7).  Longing for education and distraction, he started reading old textbooks donated by the U.S. government, and found a diagram for a windmill.  The rest is an amazing story of how William built a windmill out of discarded rubbish (in a country where no one discards anything of value) and brought electric power into his family's home.  A few years later, Western visitors happened upon the windmill, a journalist wrote a story, and African bloggers took over from there.  The rest is history, and now William is 22 and finishing high school in South Africa.  He would like to attend college in the U.S.  William -- The University of Illinois is a great math and science university!!

Here is his blog.  Watch the Daily Show clip there.  Hilarious.  Jon Stewart reminds him that he may have built a windmill out of nothing, but he better study his SATs and get some extra-curriculars if he wants to go to college in the U.S.!

Here is his appearance at the TED conference.

If my kids had the same initiative, creativity and raw intelligence, but with their allowance and Google, they should have built a time machine in our back yard, or at least a particle accelerator.

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