Archive for October 8th, 2009

William Kamkwamba 2009Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed a young man from Malawi in Africa by the name of William Kamkwamba, who has recently published a book.  The book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, tells his story of how as a 14 year old boy in famine devastated malawi, with more adversity than anyone should face at such an age, decided to build a windmill so that his family might have electricity to run lights and give then running water.

Kamkwamba had went to school for a while until the famine fully hit his family’s meager farm, at which point his parents could no longer afford the 80 dollar annual tuition.  Left with only a few textbooks and a small library funded by the US government, he set to work building the windmill after having seen a picture of one in a book.

With absolutely no resources, he scavenged bits of tractor parts, pieces of wood and metal and eventually built a working windmill.  He designed and built switches and circuit breakers for his system that , while crudely built from found common objects in a way that Jon Stewart equated as being MacGyver-like, were testaments to the power of desire and human creativity.

He has subsequently built other windmills for his village and  word of the young man’s drive and intelligence spread.  With financial assistance,  he is currently here in the US studying for his SATs and hopes to use his education to further help his countrymen.

How can you not be touched by a story like that?  It makes me realize how important desire and drive is in the creative process especially when the circumstances are dire.  I think many of us have lost that inventive, manically forward driving spirit and I have no idea how we can regain it.  But William Kamkwamba’s story gives me hope and let’s me know that the human spirit to overcome is definitely alive.

Check out his book and story at his blog by clicking on the book cover above.

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