The next time you spawn an excuse for not achieving your goals and overcoming the obstacles in your path, remember poor, young and illiterate William Kamkwamba of Malawi. This amazing African youth built a windmill to power a few electrical appliances in his family home in Masitala at the age of 16! Yes, 16! Lacking in formal education due to penury, he educated himself via library books. There, he stumbled upon the book “Using Energy” and following its instructions, constructed a windmill in 2002 from blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and other scrap materials. He has since built a solar-powered water pump that has supplied his village with drinking water, and two more windmills.
His story is told in “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope,” written with journalist Bryan Mealer and published in 2009. Kamkwamba took part in the first event celebrating his particular type of ingenuity called Maker Faire Africa, in Ghana in August 2009.
Kamkwamba is also one of four recipients of the 2010 GO Ingenuity Award, a prize awarded by the Santa Monica–based non-profit GO Campaign to inventors, artists, and makers to promote the sharing of their innovations and skills with marginalized youth in developing nations. With the grant, Kamkwamba will hold workshops for youth in his home village, teaching them how to make windmills and repair water pumps. He is currently studying at Darthmouth College, Class of 2014.
The Moving Windmills Project is inspired by the story of this phenomenal young man, and is geared to provide support for Malawian rural economic development and educational projects. These run the gamut from providing books for the village library to practise jerseys and soccer balls for the primary school, to providing Secondary school scholarships and building a new Primary school. Some completed projects include:
- Wind and solar power for village homes;
- Re-roofing village homes: protection from rain and fire;
- Water sanitation and hygiene education;
- Anti-malarial bed-net distribution;
- Bed, pillow, sheet and blanket distribution;
- A water well and solar-powered water pump have eliminated two-kilometre walks and lines at the pumps to gather fresh water;
- Drip irrigation which improved the food supply with multiple maize crops and vegetable gardens;
- Running water taps free-of-charge for all villagers;
- Distribution of fertilizer, urea and seed to improve crop yields threefold per hectare;
- Uniforms, shoes and equipment for the village football (soccer) team, led to third place in the district and generated village pride, literally putting the village on the map;
- Children’s and young adult books distribution to improve the reading skills and literacy in children aged 5-18;
- Educational scholarships which allowed rural, poor students to attend secondary school; improved self-esteem, career prospects and life choices;
This revolution was started by one teenage boy who dared to do. Be challenged today, dare to do. What do you have in your hands? Use it!