Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind - William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind: Creating Currents of Hope and Electricity by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer is now available at bookstores everywhere. Last night, William and Bryan were at the Barnes & Noble Tribeca to speak and sign books.

I'd been excited about this chance to meet William Kamkwamba ever since I first read his book and learned that he'd be in the U.S. for his book tour. If you'd read my early review, you'd know that I loved the book because the story is told so well, because of the story itself, and because it actually happened. The sympathetic fourteen-year old with the deep curiosity about the world and a strong sense of humor taught himself physics and built a working windmill using a few science books with diagrams (written in a language that he had never learned) after barely surviving the deadly famine in Malawi is now at school and preparing for college.

William's story is just beginning. Meeting him and seeing his intelligence, humor and promise, you can't help but get excited about the different things that he'll accomplish in the coming years.


(William Kamkwamba, Gaby Lapus, Bryan Mealer at B&N Tribeca on Sept. 29, 2009)

On my way home from Barnes & Noble last night, I was thinking of how I'd met three presidents of the Philippines and I'd never been as impressed by them as I was by twenty-year old William.

If you have a chance to meet and hear William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer speak, I recommend that you do. It's a real treat!

Here's the schedule for their 2009 US trip:

Oct 2, 2009 - Chicago
Barbara's Bookstore UIC Campus 7 pm

Oct 4, 2009 - Seattle
Seattle Public Library, Microsoft Auditorium 2 pm

Oct. 5, 2009 - Forest Park, WA
Third Place Books 7 pm

Oct. 7, 2009 - San Fransisco
Commonwealth Club 6:30 pm

Oct. 8, 2009 - Danville, CA
Rakestraw Books 9:15 am

Oct. 10, 2009 - Dallas, TX
TED x SMU, Hughes - Trigg Student Center

Although William is still at school, he has been with projects to improve the quality of life in his village. Here are a few of the projects that he's completed:
  • Wind and solar power for village homes
  • Re-roofing village homes: protection from rain and fire
  • Water sanitation and hygiene education: disease prevention
  • Anti-malarial bed-net distribution: disease prevention
  • Bed, pillow, sheet and blanket distribution: provided warmth and pest protection
  • A water well and solar-powered water pump: eliminated two-kilometer walks and lines at the pumps to gather fresh water
  • Drip irrigation: improved the food supply with multiple maize crops and vegetable gardens
  • Running water taps free-of-charge for all villagers: improved sanitation and productivity
  • Distribution of fertilizer, urea and seed: improved crop yields threefold per hectare
  • Uniforms, shoes and equipment for the village football (soccer) team: lead to third place in the district and generated village pride, literally putting the village on the map
  • Children’s and young adult books distribution: improved reading skills and increased literacy in children aged 5-18
  • Educational scholarships: allowed rural, poor students to attend secondary school; improved self-esteem, career prospects and life choices
There is plenty more to do. You can read about his current projects on the Moving Windmills website which William and his mentor Tom Reilly have put together. Some of the current projects include:

  • Collecting books for the local school, and collecting money for school fees for the other children in the village. The village library has mainly textbooks, agricultural and HIV prevention materials. They are working with Books for Africa and Better World Books to provide children's picture books, grade school fiction and non fiction books for the village library. (Estimated cost: $3,000 to $5,000; Priority: high)
  • William had to withdraw from school because his family couldn't afford the school fees, without the chance to go to school, a person is forced to work as a farmer for most of his/her life. So when they collect $75 per child for public school and $125 for boarding school, they are making a huge difference in these children's lives. (Cost: $2,000 for 20 students. 10 in public school, 10 in boarding school. Priority: high)
  • Wimbe Primary School children lack proper soccer balls and mesh practice jerseys. Moving Windmills would like to provide the primary school, comprised of 1,400 students, with 80 practice jerseys and 12 children’s-size soccer balls. (Cost: $700, including shipping: Priority: high)
  • William also mentioned that they'd like to encourage soccer teams for the out-of-school youth in his village. To give these kids something to occupy their time and to motivate them to participate in activities that can help to improve their lives. They plan to rebuild the soccer goal posts with new equipment (Cost: $3,000; Priority: medium)
  • The biggest project is to rebuild the primary school that William attended. The school has 1,400 students and the current nine classrooms in three buildings are inadequate to accommodate class sizes. At present, students meet outside, under trees or in one of three village churches. (Cost: $50,000; Priority: medium)
If you'd like to learn more about the projects or are interested in helping out, please visit the Moving Windmills website at

Tom Rielly, William Kamkwamba's mentor produced an award winning short film entitled Moving Windmills and is currently working on a feature length documentary called Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story.

About the production:

Directed by Tom Rielly and produced by Ben Nabors, Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story is currently in active production. Shot in HD, the film documents William Kamkwamba’s journey beginning with the TEDGlobal conference in Arusha, Tanzania. Principal photography in Malawi runs from July to mid-August, 2009, with projected completion of the film to occur in late 2010.

About the Feature Film, courtesy of Moving Windmills:

The original documentary short, Moving Windmills, directed by Scott Thrift, produced by Ben Nabors and Executive Produced by Tom Rielly, debuted at the worldwide live film festival Pangea Day in May, 2008. There, the short received the North American Filmmaker’s Award from Participant Media, producers of An Inconvenient Truth, Good Night and Good Luck, Food, Inc., Charlie Wilson’s War and North Country. In addition, the film won recognition from the Cinema Prosperit√© competition, sponsored by the Seven Fund.

I hope I've piqued your interest in The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind and William Kamkwamba. Do check it out! I'd love to hear what you guys think of the book!

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