Community Heroes

William Kamkwamba

by William from San Diego

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"I went to sleep dreaming of Malawi, and all the things made possible when your dreams are powered by your heart" -William Kamkwamba. William Kamkwamba says that if you believe in yourself, you can achieve it. Born August 5, 1987, in Malawi, Africa, William Kamkwamba lived in a country of poverty and hunger. At the age of only 14 he built his first of many windmills. At the same time he and his family were struggling with financial issues and a huge famine. With a miniscule amount of education and materials Kamkwamba set out to do great things for his community. In addition to building the amazing windmills he has been able to do many other projects and raise living standards for his family that once had nothing. "By trial and error he built his own windmill, rudimentary, but it worked" (Drakard, Martyn). William Kamkwamba's achievements, in his small African community and worldwide demonstrates an example of a true hero through his ingenuity, generosity, and perseverance.

Diagram of the parts of the windmill. ( ())
Diagram of the parts of the windmill. ( ())

William Kamkwamba is known for his great ingenuity that created a well sustained community for his people. Armed with curiosity of how things worked "...he managed to build a fully functioning windmill to provide his family with electricity, basing the construction on pictures found in books at the local library and using mainly scrap metal and wood" (Gallis, Helene). Kamkwamba's ingenuity provided himself with the knowledge to make a huge life changer for his family and community. He is a prime example of a person who makes something out of nothing because he created a windmill with spare parts. With the right mindset William was able to build things he never imagined he could build.  "If this windmill is in this book, if I can try then maybe I make one so that I can have electricity in my home" ("William Kamkwamba"). This innovation that William Kamkwamba amazingly created has greatly impacted not only his own life, but others around him. William's ingenuity should not be seen as a God-given gift, but an inspiration to everyone that it is possible to make a change.

            Known for giving back to his community, William Kamkwamba exhibits his generosity to the people. With the money he earned from his books and blogs: "He raised living standards for his extended family, bought mattresses and mosquito nets, paid school fees for relatives, and sunk a borehole for the community" (Drakard, Martyn). In addition to the windmill and electricity, William was generous enough to "raise living standards," showing that he wants to give back. At every opportunity Kamkwamba gets he is always lending a helping hand, whether it's a building project or helping to pay for education and necessities. William is also able to contribute in many more deeds that will benefit his village. "William's fame--his NGO, his blog, sales of his book, plus a documentary due later this year--has generated funds to provide his village with wind and solar power, irrigation equipment for agriculture, malaria nets, improved sanitation, and wells for drinking water, among other things" (Gallis, Helene). As soon as William made money from his fame, he exhibited his generosity by giving back to his village. A great mind like William's also has a great heart and it shows when you see him providing his family that was once in horrible living conditions. It is not only his ingenious innovations that make him a hero, but his acts of generosity towards others.

 ( ( Jill Fehrenbacher))
( ( Jill Fehrenbacher))

            Kamkwamba's perseverance assisted him through tough times such as the famine. If you thought being a regular teenager were hard, well think again. "Already living on the edge, the situation became dire when, in 2002, Malawi experienced the worst famine in 50 years. Struggling to survive, 14-year-old William was forced to drop out of school because his family could not afford the $80-a-year tuition" (Rielly, Tom). William represents perseverance because even with the situation of the famine and money crisis he was still able to do something that would help other people. Struggling to be fed and nourished, William fought through hardships until he was able to come up with the idea of a power generating windmill. Because of this astounding concept people were uncertain if they should support Kamkwamba or not. "They couldn't believe that I would make something to generate electricity. They all thought that maybe I'm going mad and that I am crazy" ("William Kamkwamba"). William Kamkwamba exhibits perseverance because when nobody had faith in him he persevered and didn't give up on himself. He understands that if you set your mind on your dream you can achieve it if you believe in yourself. William Kamkwamba illustrates that no matter how tough things get, always keep your head held high.

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            Not only did he affect his community with his accomplishments but, he changed the world by persevering, giving back, and innovation. Through Kamkwamba's determination he was able to raise funds from his popularity and give back to his family. His ingenious concepts of his windmills amazed many people to believe that anything was possible. With his various array of setbacks, Kamkwamba never had the option of sitting around and doing nothing. "Though he was not in a classroom, William continued to think, learn--and dream. Armed with curiosity, determination and a library book he discovered in a nearby library, he embarked on a daring plan--to build a windmill that could bring his family the electricity only two percent of Malawians could afford" (Rielly, Tom). No matter what life threw at William Kamkwamba he always knew he could get through it. This is why he is an inspiration to myself and others, he teaches us to always make the best of it and to strive for your dreams. William Kamkwamba will always be known for his great contributions to the world but he will also be known to be an inspiration, a true hero, and a man who knows that anything is possible when your dreams are powered by your heart.

Works Cited

Drakard, Martyn "Malawian School Dropout Who Changed the World." Africa News Service 11 Mar. 2010. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.

Gallis, Helene. "Sustainable entrepeneurship in Africa: Africa might just be positioned to cope best in a   resource-constrained world." World Watch July-Aug. 2010: 12+. Academic OneFile. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.

Rielly, Tom. "Story." Moving Windmills Project. Moving Windmills Project. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.

"William Kamkwamba." African Leadership Academy. African Leadership Academy. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.

Page created on 1/12/2012 8:01:33 PM

Last edited 1/12/2012 8:01:33 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Moving Windmills - William Kamkwamba expresses his generosity through this project.
William Kamkwamba - Check out his book, documentary, and photos and videos.
Amazon - If you want to read Kamkwamba's book you can order it here.
MY HERO story on William Kamkwamba - written by Wendy Jewell and David Kemker