The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba is the true story of how William grew up in Malawi and was forced to drop out of school because of a famine that occurred in 2002. During this period William starts visiting a local library in an effort to continue his education on his own.
This library has a total of three rows of books that have been donated from all over the world. His visits to the library lead him to a book called Explaining Physics. He slowly starts making his way through this book, digesting the diagrams and looking up the English words in a dictionary. He is so enthralled by the book that he decides to build his own small windmill.
The local villagers call him a madman because all they see is a boy who is collecting trash and building a structure that is inconceivable to them. In the end William builds a functioning windmill and has a dream to build a structure that light up his entire village and another that can pump water and prevent starvation during any future droughts.
Through chance, William is discovered and helped by a group of people that see his potential. He is even given an opportunity to tell his story at a TED conference which opens up a whole new world for him.
I found the entire book to be fascinating, though parts of it went into a bit too much detail on the mechanics of building a windmill. It also made me aware of how little I pay attention to what is happening in the rest of the world.
Excerpts from the book:
…we did many of the same things children do all over the world, only with slightly different materials… Children everywhere have similar ways of entertaining themselves. If you look at it this way, the world isn’t so big.The dynamo had given me a small taste of electricity, and that made me want to figure out how to create my own… Once the sun goes down, and if there’s no moon, everyone stops what they’re doing, brushes their teeth, and just goes to sleep… Who goes to bed at seven in the evening? Well, I can tell you, most of Africa.It’s funny to me now – at this conference in East Africa, with some of the world’s greatest minds in science and technology just outside the door, there I was in this room seeing the Internet for the first time. They could have put a blinking sign over my head and charged admission.“Africans bend what little they have to their will every day. Using creativity, they overcome Africa’s challenges. Where the world sees trash, Africa recycles. Where the world sees junk, Africa sees rebirth.”“After I drop out from school, I went to library… and I get information about windmill… And I try, and I made it.“One of the things I noticed in New York is that people don’t have time for anything, not even to sit down for coffee – instead, they drink it from paper cups while they walk and send e-mails.