At 14 years old, William Kamkwamba wanted to do something to help his family, his parents and six sisters, survive the famine that was spreading across Malawi. The drought had already meant his father, a farmer, didn’t have enough money to send William to school. So William improvised. He went to a local library, and with limited English skills began reading books about science. He then began making several trips to the local junkyard and before too long he’d had the requisite parts to build a windmill. He knew if he could proved electricity to his home his mother’s life would be easier, and if the windmill could pump water from the earth, his father wouldn’t have to depend on the rain from the skies.
William tells this story in “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” along with former Associated Press journalist Bryan Mealer. William and Bryan kicked off a three week book tour last night at a party at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Tower. The party, sponsored by The Harnisch Foundation was attended by several TED fellows, including TED curator Chris Anderson. William told his story at TEDGlobal in 2007.
Last night, we talked with the authors and began by asking Bryan how he first learned of William’s story: