One starving family. One windmill. One boy. But not just any boy. “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind”.
For my eminent person project in grade 9, I have selected to go in depth about William Kamkwamba.
I first learned about William when I was watching a film/documentary with my family on Netflix called “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind”. At this time, I really didn’t think much of him, only that he had done some good things for his family. However, once I heard of the eminent project he quickly came back to my mind. I did some research and learned some of the things he had done to help people all over the world. I instantly decided I would be doing him for my eminent project.
I had a few struggles trying to connect with William Kamkwamba as we did not have much in common, besides the fact that we are both male and when he built his first windmill, he was 14 like me right now. We also both enjoy reading and using our hands. However, he was a financially unstable African living in a completely different environment than me, while I am a privileged financially stable Caucasian boy. His culture was much different than mine and he was living in much harsher conditions than me and could not even afford school. However, this is how his journey to eminence began.
At age 14, William Kamkwamba’s family was no longer able to pay the annual school fee of $80. Instead of letting this pull him down, William borrowed books from a community library. He also ran a small “business” where he fixed neighbors radios, but this was just a desperate attempt to earn some money and it did not work well. Eventually he took a risk and used the knowledge he had been learning from the books he was reading, particularly one called “using energy” by Mary Atwater to create something that could help his family and village. This thing was a windmill. William was a very hands on person and he wanted to help people. He even said, “I want to be an engineer, so I can make different things that make the world a better place, starting with my village.” The first windmill he built powered 4 lights and 2 radios. It was built out of spare scraps like a bike, PVC pipes, wooden poles, old shoes, copper wires, etc. People heard of what William Kamkwamba did, for example Dr. Hartford Mchazime. He took interest of Williams work and spread the word and mentored William. William built more windmills doing various different tasks, for example powering a water irrigation system for crops. Eventually the TedGlobal group heard about William Kamkwamba and they tracked him down. This is when his life began to change drastically.
William did a few Ted Talks and than the donations started pouring in. These donations allowed him to continue his education, go to University in America, and to follow his dreams. William wants to be educated so he can make a difference, but he fears failure. When he was younger, he always wanted to be treated as an adult, and he feared that his family would not be able to afford food, education, and other necessities. Williams determination is a strength and weakness. William has been sent around the world and worked on projects like improving sanitation in India and helping gender-based violence prevention in Kenya. He is currently working on developing an appropriate technology curriculum with WilderNet that will allow people to bridge the gap between knowing and doing.
By overcoming his obstacles, like the tough situations he had been in, the limited resources he had, and the lack of support from his father, he managed to fulfill his dreams of becoming an inventor and helping people all over the world.
I look up to William Kamkwamba’s courage, ambitions and high level of thinking. He wants to improve his speaking, likewise I would like to improve my public speaking in TALONS. By going in depth about William Kamkwamba, I hope to find more ways I can connect with him and perhaps start to develop some of the traits that I look up to him for. I look forward to learning more about William Kamkwamba.
This is a Ted Talk that William did when he first went to America when he was 19.