Book Review: “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

William Kamkwamba endured a year-long famine and survived but dropped out of secondary school due to lack of money. Recovering from the famine and not being able to go school, he took advantage of the free time and a small library and educated himself about power generation. Through his scavenger around the dump site, he created a windmill to power a 12V light-bulbs so that he could study and catch up with the class mates. More importantly, he wanted to use the windmill to pump water and irrigate the farms so that they will never have another famine and be hungry.

This memoir gives me a pretty idea of what it’s like to be living as farmers in Africa. They’re constantly under the threat of cyclical weather and natural elements like pests, but mostly from the corruption and incompetence of the government, who allowed its citizens to die of hunger without recognizing and owning the problem and Malawi is a very small country of only 14M people and 46K sq miles.

The famine story was especially gut wrenching. Hopefully, no one will have to go through that again in this world of abundance. The author’s hunger for knowledge and the tenacity to reach his goal of building the windmill should be inspiring to anyone. And anyone who complains life is hard in the United States or other developed countries should walk in his shoes for a while to appreciate how good of lives we live.

William got his fame from his participation in TED. As a result, he got all the attentions, gifts and help from people all over the world. Is this a beginning of the recognition that Africans may have what it takes to take themselves out of poverty, or is it just another western news-craze way to get the top story of the day and then move on? I hope it’s the former and William took advantage of that to get himself on the right track to become a future leader of Malawi.

Also, William got a true friend in Gilbert, the chief’s son, who funded his project without hesitation and bought into his dream and supported him throughout. That’s true friendship. It’s good to know that William was able to repay him in return in Gilbert’s time of need.

This book is educational to all in the Western world that only heard and read about the Africans’ plight remotely. It drilled deep into the humanity in us to want to help and avoid the next famine for our fellow humans. It’s also hopeful to see there are Africans like William who take responsibility to make changes and refuse to be another victim. Good story!