- Scott Phillips
William Kamkwamba first encountered the magic that ruled Malawi when he was six. Herd boys found a sack in the road; it was filled with bubblegum! What a treasure! "Should we give any to this little boy with leaves in his hair?", they asked. Of course they did, a double handful of gumballs: so many colors. William ate them all.
The next day, a man on a bicycle stopped to talk to William's father. He was a trader, and while on his way to the market, he dropped one of his bags. When he discovered his loss, the trader circled back and look for his bag of gumballs for two days.People told him of the herd boys, passing out gum in the villages. He told William's father:" I have gone to see the sing'gana , and whoever ate that gum will soon be sorry!" William, though young, already knew what happened when the witch doctor was after you. Bad things. He felt the wizard's eyes on him even now, and knew that night the witches would come for him. He told his father what had happened. "It was you, eh?" Chuckling, he told his son not to worry: he would work something out with the trader. The next day, William's father walked 8 kilometers to the trader's village with a bag of cash, a week's pay. William's father did not fear magic: another reason why he was his hero.
The land was dry, so dry it withered. Magic was failing across the land. William read a book, Using Energy. He was fascinated by the windmill pictures. "Crazy boy", the villagers called him, for dreaming of building one to bring electricity and water to his village. In 2002, a famine came, and William's parents could not afford the $80.00 per year to send him to school, and he was needed to help forage for food. William knew now was the time to build his windmill. This book is the story of William Kamkwamba's scrounging materials, scrap metal and bicycle parts, and bringing electricity and water to his village. A tale of an ingenious boy, one of the new generation of "Cheetahs" of Africa, who do not wait for corrupt or incompetent governments to do things for their villages.
If you enjoy William's inspiring story, you might also enjoy Caroline Kettlewell's Electric Dreams. It is the story of a hard scrabble North Carolina high school's team building of an electric car, and how they competed against better financed teams, culminating in the finals in Richmond.