Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

ACT 1: WILLIAM KAMKWAMBA - THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND

This should come as no surprise to many after reading my first blog post, that I have chosen William Kamkwamba, whom I also refer to as W.K as my personal hero to shadow. I find that I have long been shadowing him in ways suggested in this mission such as being a facebook fan, following him on Twitter and subscribing to his blog posts. However inspired by act1, I would definitely be taking that bold step of sending him an email and telling him all about EVOKE and this particular mission, in the hope that he would write back soon and/or get involved.

William Kamkwamba, born August 5 1987, is from Masitala village in the Kasungu district of Malawi. The famine-stricken landlocked nation in Southern Africa is bothered by Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia; a country smaller than Pennsylvania, with few natural resources, is known as a land of farmers. He states in one of his talks that before he discovered the wonders of science, he was just a simple farmer in a country of farmers and like everyone else he and his family grew Nsima (maize), depending on subsistence farming as their only source of livelihood. A dreadful famine in 2001, which left many Malawians (including his family) without food or water began the journey of this young inventor and entrepreneur.

Due to severe famine, young William, age 14 at the time, was forced to drop out of his first year in high school because his family could not afford to pay $80 annual tuition fees. Several months into the famine, with little hope of ever returning to school, W.K taking a good look at his helpless father and another quick glance at the dried fields made a promise to self that he wasn't going to accept what he saw as his future and was determined more than ever to change things for his family, his village and his nation. In 2002, he embarked on the route of self-education and began to borrow books from a small community library in his village. He soon came across an American Fifth Grade textbook called Using Energy, which showed a picture of a windmill, he was able to grasp the concept of the windmill of being able to pump water and generate electricity and this meant irrigation, a defense against hunger which the people of Malawi were faced with due to famine. At this point, William decided to build a windmill for his family out of whatever scraps he could find and successfully built his first windmill the same year out of harvested blue gumtrees, which served as limbs, cooling fan from a tractor, a shock absorber, a bicycle dynamo, the rear half of a bike, PVC pipes, wire, rusty nails and old headlight bulbs.


No one outside William's village knew about the windmill until 2006, when officials from the Malawi Teaching Training activity, on an inspection visit to his village discovered the windmill. Press coverage followed, bloggers picked up the story and he was soon invited to the TED Conference in Tazania as a featured TED fellow in 2007, where he met a large number of TED conference attendees who supported his return back to school. and was invited a second time at the TED conference in Oxford, UK in 2009 .He is presently enrolled as a full time student at the African Leadership Academy School in Johannesburg, South Africa, where students from thirty seven other African countries are accepted based on merit and educated to become ethical leaders for Africa. W.K is also the co-founder of Moving Windmill Project, a non-profit organization that supports Malawian-run rural economic development and education projects in Malawi, with the goals of community economic independence and self-sustainability; food, water and health security; and educational success. William's non-profit organization recently partnered with buildon.org, another NGO based in Stamford, CT and Kasungu Malawi, which builds primary schools in the developing world, coincindentally including his home province and are currenty working on rebuilding Wimbe Public Primary School, where W.K attended through standard 8 (US 8th Grade).

William's future plans involve starting a renewable energy company. He is already developing a steam engine powered by a solar oven, which he says would help people in Africa save trees because many areas in Africa are destroyed by deforestation caused by people cutting trees for firewood. He believes that the problem of deforestation can be solved if we work together to come up with non-wood alternatives for cooking fuel. To serve as a good example, he says his family now cooks by burning corn cobs instead of wood. Ultimately he wants to find cooking solutions that are one-hundred percent emissions-free. William's goal is to provide everyday people with the means to improve their own lives without having to wait for government or outside help; to use what is at hand to succeed in living a rich life.

William is scheduled to attend a college in the US this Fall and words on the street has it that he may be attending Harvey Mudd College, the Engineering arm of The Claremont Colleges (which also happens to be my Alma Mater). I am ever so excited to be shadowing this young, inspiring hero, who has come such a long way from where he started. I am also looking forward to reading his memoir: "The Boy who Harnessed the Wind", which has spent several weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, chosen as Amazon.com top 10 books of 2009, year's best by Publisher Weekly and the Christian Science Monitor. I can hardly wait to recommend it to every one as a great read as soon as I am done.


"For me, I feel like living a rich life is to have food, to have a chance to access clean water, have access to medicine, and have access to education. The thing that makes me happy is when I'm seeing people everywhere living in a happy life, having enough to eat, kids are going to school. When I'm seeing people are happy, it also makes me happy." - William Kamkwamba

Views: 646

Comment by Samuel Lee on March 4, 2010 at 3:10pm
William's storying is inspiring. Even with all the barriers that exist for him, it only inspired him to become more inventive, and his grand vision of creating emission-less fuel is so lofty that you would hardly guess his humble origins. It goes to show our common humanity extends beyond blood and bones and that innovation, resourcefulness, and courage aren't specifically restricted to the developed world. People like William are the last nail in the coffin for arguments against local involvement in interventions. Its obvious that, given what he had, William did just as well, if not far better than any foreign intervention to improve his and his family's lives. Great pick Yemisi
Comment by Nick Heyming on March 4, 2010 at 3:25pm
I love that guy's story, I'm giving you a resourcefulness because thats what his life is all about.
Comment by Bruce Haynes on March 4, 2010 at 3:33pm
Thanks Yemisi for the time you have invested in telling this story! it is truly INSPIRATIONAL , im giving you a SPARK because you are one of those setting the standard for the rest of us in terms of how to engage with the priviledge of being part of this game, you are PIONEERING ground Yemisi and i LIKE IT!!
Comment by Bruce Haynes on March 4, 2010 at 3:33pm
Thanks Yemisi for the time you have invested in telling this story! it is truly INSPIRATIONAL , im giving you a SPARK because you are one of those setting the standard for the rest of us in terms of how to engage with the priviledge of being part of this game, you are PIONEERING ground Yemisi and i LIKE IT!!
Comment by Karen Rustad on March 4, 2010 at 3:41pm
I'd heard of W.K. before. I hadn't heard he might be going to be going to Harvey Mudd, though! That's completely awesome! (I went to school at Scripps next door; most of my college friends were Mudders)
Comment by Yemisi Ajumobi on March 5, 2010 at 6:46am
Thanks for the great response and PV everyone, I'm so glad you find his story very inspirational and really engaging for the EVOKE network. @David, be sure to look out for him, I am personally rooting that he decides to go with HMC, it'd be so cool to have him at the consortium.
@ Samuel yes you've touched on major areas of W.K's story that is so mind-blowing. It shows how much importance we should give to the fact that to do something great to impact a lot of lives, those barriers are undoubtedly gonna be present but a major belief in self and a great vision for impacting our world regardless of what part of the world we're from is the key to getting around those barriers and bringing our visions to reality.
@Nick indeed his life is all about resourcefulness. A quick comparison of W.K's lack of resources during his humble beginnings as a village farmer to the amount of resources available to him today just goes to show that we should really try to refrain from using our lack of resources as a good excuse for not being able to make the kind of difference we hope to make in the field of social innovation and global development.
@Bruce thanks, you are really doing a great job on the network with your level of collaboration with EVOKE agents and active contributions..glad to know I helped contribute to the level of involvement you're putting out there.
@ Karen,oh very nice, another member of CUC, hopefully W.K becomes a member too. I'd be sure to keep everyone posted when he eventually does reply that email. Off to check out everyone's entries. Remember guys active involvement and contribution is the key to getting the best out of the EVOKE adventure.
Comment by Starling on March 7, 2010 at 4:04pm
Awesome - thanks for sharing this.
Comment by Deborah Cazden on March 10, 2010 at 9:40am
What an amazing story, and what a gifted individual. Thanks for posting this!
Comment by Paul Holze on March 14, 2010 at 1:55pm
What resourcefulness! Thanks for sharing about him
Comment by Patricio Buenrostro-Gilhuys on March 16, 2010 at 11:41pm
A great invention with the materials available around. LOVE IT!!!!

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