Growing up in the African country of Malawi, William Kamkwamba witnessed poverty’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 didn’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 neighbors’ 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. From there, William set to work building another larger windmill, making improvements to the electrical output.
Word soon spread about the boy’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. What’s his next move? “My dream is to finish my education and to start my own company making windmills,” 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.
William’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