Growing up in the African country of Malawi, William Kamkwamba witnessed povertyâ€™s devastating effects. When a fierce famine hit in 2002, William was forced to leave school due to financial strains. Armed with curiosity and a vision of a better life for himself and his family, he did not let his absence from the classroom affect his desire to learn. William stumbled across a textbook on agricultural practices in the library. On its cover was a picture of a windmill. Knowing Malawi had plenty of wind, William soon had the vision of a windmill providing energy for his family. Unfortunately the book didnâ€™t offer detailed instructions on how to construct a windmill, so he figured it out himself.
William was fourteen when he built his first windmill using discarded items from neighborsâ€™ trash and scraping up money to buy a few essential pieces: a rubber belt, a bike chain ring, a bicycle frame, some bamboo poles, flattened PVC pipes, and a tractor fan. His small, crude windmill, generated enough electricity to power a few light bulbs, an old radio, and a cell phone.Â From there, William set to work building another larger windmill, making improvements to the electrical output.
Word soon spread about the boyâ€™s genius, and his windmills became a popular subject within his community and beyond. As a result of his efforts, he was accepted as one of the first ninety-seven students to attend the African Leadership Academy. Whatâ€™s his next move? â€œMy dream is to finish my education and to start my own company making windmills,â€ William says. His vision now involves providing affordable electricity to his community, giving them access to knowledge via the internet, and powering indoor lights to study in the evenings.
Williamâ€™s vision was born from saying no to a lack of education, to hopelessness, and to poverty. What are you willing to say no to? Share your comments below.
- William Kamkwamba’s story is featured in the chapter “How can you create a vision?” from Leadership for Teenagers.
- Original Source: http://web.mit.edu/tac/docs/kamkwamba-bio.pdf