The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the story of William Kamkwamba, a boy who grew up in Malawi, Africa. K-State First chose this true story as the university common read for 2020.
At age 9, William takes an interest in science. He looks forward to taking science classes in secondary school and sets a goal to eventually do something with his life beyond farming, the profession of most Malawi citizens and his father.
At that same time, a famine hits his country. The famine deeply affects his family to the point where they are no longer able to afford his school fees. Although William is forced to drop out, he eventually finds his way back to science when he discovers a physics book in the library.
The book he found is extremely enlightening and William decides to make a windmill, which his village could use to generate electricity. He gathers materials with the help of his friend and successfully creates the windmill.
I loved reading this book and following along in the tragic and triumphant moments of William’s extremely eventful childhood and young adult years.
As I read, I was taken aback by the natural aptitude William had for science at such a young age. His ability to use experimentation and library books to generate electricity for a struggling town was truly a gift.
William didn’t just have a natural ability. He also had a strikingly strong spirit and an ability to work hard amid tragedy.
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I took three lessons away from William and this book.
The first is science and technology is mind-blowingly powerful. When used properly, there is the ability to drastically change lives positively.
The second lesson is feeling bad for yourself will never serve you well.
William had a notably difficult life; one that is worthy of sympathy or a simple break from working. What I loved about him, however, was that he resisted the urge to wallow in his hardships, and he made himself strong enough to handle them.
The third lesson is if you’re passionate about something, lean into it.
Despite being taken out of school, William still pursued science. I think that all of us have something we’re passionate about in the way William was with science. He proved that with enough persistence and dedication, we all can do well in life and achieve the things we hope to.
Williams’s story is not just incredible, it is nearly unbelievable. A young boy who had not completed his education used metal scraps and information from library books to build a windmill that would generate electricity for a village, all while watching his family and friends struggle throughout a famine.
This book was a reminder for me that while life right now is challenging and unpredictable, so has it been for many people for many years around the world.
I would of course recommend reading this book and going on William’s journey with him. It will leave you inspired, motivated to do your part where the world needs you and simply in awe.
Anna Schmidt is the Collegian community editor and a junior in mass communications. She is also a student senator for the College of Arts and Sciences in the Student Governing Association. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.