Moving Windmills…The Power of an Individual.

Photo Credit: Kaitlin Houlditch-Fair
I have written several times about William Kamkwamba, the acclaimed “Boy who harnessed the wind.” On June 24th, myself and a few other friends were graciously invited to see the unveiling of William’s newly renovated primary school now powered with solar energy, one of the first and landmark accomplishments of his NGO Moving Windmills. I have read “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” (which YOU should read), but to actually stare at these massive windmills a fourteen year old with an imagination and an incredible will to change his situation built, is….humbling. It’s inspiring. It’s empowering. This guy saw a picture of a windmill in a book and read such a thing could be used to pump water. He could barely read the English describing what this machine did. Fast forward eight years later….there are now three windmills soaring over William’s property with plans for more. Solar panels, halogen light bulbs…this is the greenest house in Malawi.

The Windmills
Staring at William’s windmills in his backyard, I try to imagine myself shimmying up those rickety branches and fixing a windmill as its blades whiz by just fast enough to slice my hand off. This is exactly the kind of thing William had to do all of the time but his tenacity paid off. William talks about his windmills as matter-of-factly as ever. There was a problem…he came up with a solution. He is no genius or savior, just a guy who wanted to help his family out right? But to so many he is which is evident from the international movement William has started. I think William built much more than a windmill. As William was showing us his old primary school one of our Malawian friends who came with us looked him straight in the face, grabbed his hand and said “You are an inspiration.” As we left his village, my friend Chikabachi and I talked on and on about how cool William is. How inspiring. How important. On our way to William’s homestead I was flanked by an accompanying posse of children. I couldn’t help but think of what a role model these kids are blessed with. Obviously William is cool, obviously he is smart, and his ideas have tangible benefits to the community…who wouldn’t want to be like William? I hope some of these kids get fired up to do something similarly ambitious and progressive.
William begins his freshman year of college next year in the States where I am sure his creative ideas will only become more ambitious and have greater benefits for his community. The few teachers and villagers we exchanged greetings with were incredibly gracious and warm to us. No doubt they are proud. I have spent the last 24 hours mulling over my own 23 years (I am the same age as William) and to what degree I have helped my community. It took 23 years to get to where he is today and I am confident that I have at least that many left to make my own dent. All the same, William has left me fired up and I intend to take that fire and do something with it. I think “Stories of AIDS Through Music” could stand to benefit from William’s kind of boldness.

One thought on “Moving Windmills…The Power of an Individual.

  1. Andrew,
    Thank you for sharing this story about William and how he is using his imagination and intelligence for good – and for doing the same yourself. You are both an inspiration to me.


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