Tag Archives: Malawi

A Boy, a Textbook, and his Drought-Stricken Country

Photo by Paul Schnaittacher
Photo by Paul Schnaittacher

Currently a senior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, William Kamkwamba, the co-author of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, took time between his final exams to speak at Williston Northampton as the fourth annual speaker in the Sara Wattles Perry ’77 lecture series.

Mr. Kamkwamba is a native of Malawi, a small African country bordered by Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, where electricity and running water are a luxury enjoyed by only two percent of the population. Mr. Kamkwamba’s family members make their living as farmers in a rural part of the country. As chronicled in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, in 2001, a record drought led Mr. Kamkwamba to drop out of school and, using textbooks as his guide, build an electricity-generating windmill out of scrap metal.

Watch Mr. Kamkwamba’s TEDTalk about building the windmill.

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William Kamkwamba to Speak at Fourth Annual Wattles Perry ’77 Lecture

Mr. Kamkwamba with his windmill in the background (Photo courtesy of HarperCollins)

Malawi is a country struggling to overcome the effects of famine, poverty, and AIDS. The country has limited electricity, their main source of light in rural regions is kerosene lamps; these areas also have little access to running water. However, thanks to the ingenuity of William Kamkwamba, a boy from a farming community, one village was able to overcome these limitations. Mr. Kamkwamba will address the Williston Northampton School in the fourth annual Sara Wattles Perry ’77 lecture, on December 5 at 8:30 a.m. in the Athletic Center.

Forced to leave school when his parents could no longer afford the $80 fee, Mr. Kamkwamba continued his studies by pouring over books in the local library. He developed a love for science and technology, and wanted to find a way to bring electricity and running water to his home.

Mr. Kamkwamba atop his windmill (Photo courtesy of HarperCollins)

After reading donated textbooks, Mr. Kamkwamba designed and built a windmill from scrap metal that continues to supply his village with electricity and running water today. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, which he co-authored with journalist Bryan Mealer, chronicles the creation of this windmill. In an interview with publishing firm HarperCollins, Mr. Kamkwamba said, “All things are made possible when your dreams are powered by your heart.”

Currently a student at Dartmouth College, Mr. Kamkwamba travels across the country speaking to groups about his life since building the windmill and the publication of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.