William Kamkwamba: Early Reader Edition

by Naomi Gledhill from MY HERO Staff

"I want to be an engineer, so I can make different things that make the world a better place, starting with my village."

152593William Kamkwamba at a TED talk in 2007Wikimedia Commons

William Kamkwamba was born on August 5th, 1987, in Malawi, East Africa. He is an inventor, engineer and writer.

William’s family were very poor when he was a child, and they worked on farms to get enough money to live. He had six sisters, and five of them were younger than him. William’s family had to use candles to heat and light their home, and the candles burning made his little sisters sick. Because they could not afford toys, William and his friends played with recycled rubbish when they were children.

Though William liked going to school, his mum and dad were not able to pay for William to go to school for very long, so he went to the local library to read and teach himself instead. It was there that he read about electronics and decided that that is what he wanted to do for work.

William decided to use his skills to help his family. He decided to try and build a wind turbine, to give his family’s house electricity. A wind turbine is a tall structure with a big fan-like part at the top. The wind turns the fan, and the movement of the fan can be used to make electricity. He built the turbine out of old rubbish, like metal poles, old shoes and his dad’s old bike. He was only 14 years old when he finished the first turbine, and it could power all of the lights in his house.

152594William's Wind TurbineWikimedia Commons

When he made the turbine, lots of newspapers were impressed with his work. They wrote articles about him in the papers, and he quickly became famous. He became a special guest speaker at TED. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and they help to spread news of amazing ideas and people. Lots of people were impressed by William’s work, and news of his creation spread fast.

After so many people heard about William’s invention, he was finally able to go back to school. He started school at the African Bible College Christian Academy in Lilongwe. He then got a scholarship to the African Leadership Academy, which meant he did not have to pay to go to school there. In 2014, he graduated from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

In 2009, William wrote a book called The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind with Bryan Mealer, which tells the story of his life and work. In 2019, the book was made into a film. He has also won lots of awards for his work to help his community. 

152595A picture of William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer at a book-signing for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind at Georgetown University.Wikimedia Commons

Even though he could not go to school when he was young, William Kamkwamba tried his very best, and used his skills to help his family and the people in his village. He is an inspiration to young students across the globe. 

Read a more advanced-level story about William Kamkwamba here. 

Page created on 9/11/2023 1:54:00 PM

Last edited 1/8/2024 6:52:58 PM

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