This is part two of a three part series. Read part one here.
As a young boy I often had persecutory nightmares. Someone would be chasing me or trying to kill me. A few times I got to a point in the dream where I was stretched to my limit of stress and frustration. I was tired of running. A simple, small thought would come to me: This is just a dream and it is YOUR dream. Change it.
So I would. I fought back. I took control.
I remembered these nightmares as I contemplated William Kamkwamba’s story, because there is some parallel. I don’t think he had the same thoughts as me, but much in his life was like living a waking nightmare. Instead of running, he took control of a small piece of his life that eventually made a huge difference.
Two things I love most about William’s story is first he did not see life as a victim and second his journey illustrates many of the principles that I love and learned from Oliver DeMille’s works – primarily A Thomas Jefferson Education. I love teaching my kids this philosophy. I love teaching them that they are meant to be great – to make a difference.
William is from Malawi. A serious drought plagued his country, and many people starved to death. The family farm was unable to produce a profit, and William was pulled from school, because his family could no longer afford the tuition. William loved to learn and soon found the library. His command of English was poor, so he preferred technical books with diagrams that he could understand. He found a book about windmills which opened a whole new world to him.
William scoured the scrap yards for usable materials. His former classmates made fun of him. The people in his village thought he was crazy. Even his mother told him to stop, but William kept learning and experimenting. Eventually he built a working windmill that brought power to his home.
Soon the reporters came, and the poor, uneducated boy from Malawi was brought to an international stage. William spoke at a TED event to share his story. You can find the video here. A year or so later he spoke again at a different TED event to explain more. You can watch that video here.
I love that Williams dedication to a dream led him to further opportunities to learn. He attended college in the US and applied his education to expand his dreams and put them in place. Already additional windmills and solar panels were brought to his village and William dreams of a day where all the fields are irrigated from wells instead of relying on the rain. His dream will be powered by alternative, sustainable energy.
William’s story is an inspiration to me. I highly recommend reading it in his book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.