The plane lands in Arusha, and Soyapi helps William get through customs and onto the correct shuttle for William’s hotel. The next morning, William heads to the Ngurtdoto Mountain Lodge outside of Arusha for the TEDGlobal conference, noticing the similarities between Tanzanian and Malawian countryside, as well as the huge difference of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Seeing this amazing mountain fills William with confidence, but he quickly becomes overwhelmed at the sight of so many white and black people speaking a host of different languages into cell phones.
Kamkwamba notes the things that bring African countries together, without ignoring the things that distinguish African countries from each other. William is lifted up by the incredible sight of the Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, using the mountain as a symbol for the height he has reached by coming to such a forward-thinking conference.
Tom Rielly, an American organizer at TEDGlobal, greets William and realizes that this is the boy with the windmill. Tom shows William a laptop, the first portable computer that William has ever seen, and copies William’s windmill pictures from William’s flash drive to a PowerPoint. Tom then amazes William with all the information available on the internet, googling windmills, solar power, and Malawi. William sees more new technology in the next two days than he dreamed was possible.
William’s travel to the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania physically opens up his world, but the increased exposure to new forms of technology also widens William’s horizons as an inventor. Seeing what other people have accomplished inspires William to keep reaching towards new goals for himself and better ways to help his village – such as adding solar power to his windmill project.
Yet the most amazing thing about the TEDGlobal is not the technology, but the amazing African people who present their ideas about how to improve life in all of Africa. William is awed by botanists, doctors, inventors, and scientists who have an incredible vision of ways to help their fellow people survive and thrive despite the harsh realities of life in many African countries. William is struck by the idea that Africans constantly and creatively use what other people consider junk to create new life.
William feels kinship with the other African inventors and innovators, drawing from shared backgrounds in hardship yet continually struggling to make improvements. Kamkwamba picks out the principle of recycling as a specifically African trait, using whatever is available to accomplish their goals.
William’s turn to present approaches, and the curator of the conference, Chris Anderson, calls William to the stage. William pushes through his nerves and stage fright to answer Chris’s questions about the journey to making a windmill in Wimbe. Though William is ashamed that his English is not perfect, the crowd erupts in thunderous applause at all that William has accomplished. William is flattered and feels that all the years of struggling through famine, poverty, disease, and teasing have finally paid off.
As amazing as William felt when he realized that his windmill actually generated electricity, he is even more awed by the feeling of acceptance and accomplishment he receives from the audience at TEDGlobal. Making new inventions satisfies William’s intellect, but sharing those inventions with others satisfies him more completely.
Tom Rielly is especially moved by William’s story and wants to help William raise funds to send back to his family, build a better windmill to power an irrigation pump, and cover William’s school fees. Several American investors agree to sponsor William, allowing him to buy materials for a new windmill, enroll in a better school in Lilongwe, and buy mobile phones for himself and his family to stay in touch. Tom returns with William to William’s village and is even more amazed to see the extent of the electric wiring and other inventions that William created.
As William has already seen, there is only so much he can do to make improvements without funding and materials. The sponsorship of American investors gives William the capital he needs to enact changes he sees as necessary. While the money is a useful tool, it is truly William’s vision for how his village could be more fully developed that does the most good in the community. Rielly rightfully gives the credit to William for the incredible things he has achieved.
Back in Lilongwe, William tours the Baobab Health center and learns about Gerry Douglas, a British-Canadian computer scientist who came up with a way for patients to use small computers to easily check in to Malawian clinics and store their medical records for better treatment in the future. Mike McKay and Soyapi give William a tour, even showing William their own plans for electricity-generating windmills and teaching William about deep-cycle batteries. William uses these ideas to improve his own windmill back home. With the assistance of solar panels, every home in William’s village soon has lights.
The opportunities provided to William through the connections he made at the TEDGlobal conference plug William into an even larger network of people who are working to improve conditions in Africa through innovative technology. William is able to adapt the ideas he discovers with these other investors to bring the benefits back to his village. William constantly adds to his windmill so that it is as beneficial as possible to his entire community.
William is finally accepted to the African Bible College Christian Academy to continue his secondary education in Lilongwe. Gerry Douglas gives William a place to stay in the city and helps William practice his English. William also gets a tutor, Blessings Chikakula, who helps him perfect his English and catch up in class. Blessings had also grown up in a poor village and had his own struggles during the famine before succeeding in going to college at 30 years old. Blessings tells William to never give up.
As part of his education, William has the added burden of learning English so that he can more fully participate in classes that are conducted in this language. Though this adds another obstacle for William to study what he loves, the story of Blessings’ journey to becoming a college professor inspires William to keep working. Kamkwamba expresses a hope that his own story will inspire other students as well.
William is able to use the money from his donors to improve his village in many practical ways and give his family better medical care. He also repays Gilbert for all the help that Gilbert offered with the windmill, paying Gilbert’s school tuition as well as the school fees for his own sisters. William drills a better well for his family and installs a solar powered pump so that the village women do not have to work so hard for clean water. He also finally realizes his dream of making a windmill that powers an irrigation pump for his mother’s garden. The people in his village begin calling William “Noah” – the man who saved his family from the destruction of God’s flood.
Once William becomes successful, he does not leave behind those who helped him during the times when he had nothing. The things he focuses on most are health care and education, as those things can ripple through an entire community and improve life over many years ahead. He also adds in small practical developments that have an immediate benefit. By calling him “Noah,” the other villagers seem to have accepted William’s idea that science can overcome the “magical” or “divine” devastation that famine and poverty bring to their lives.
In December of 2007, William visits Tom Rielly in America. He starts in New York City, and appreciates the help of many of Tom’s friends who give William clothing when his luggage is lost and show him around the city. William is overwhelmed at all the material things that Americans have, and struggles to see a way for Africans to catch up to that comfortable lifestyle.
William is grateful for the kindness that Rielly’s American friends show him, and sees the similarities between Americans and Africans. Yet the trip also reminds him of the gaps in material wealth that separate African and American lives—the result of many factors, one of them a long history of colonialism and exploitation.
Tom and William go to Connecticut to see Jay Walker, another TED speaker and a friend of Tom’s. William admires Jay’s vast library and all the stories of invention it holds, thinking back to the small library in Wimbe that started everything. Tom and William spend Christmas in Los Angeles, ironically seeing African safari animals for the first time at the San Diego Zoo, and then they go to Las Vegas. Overwhelmed by the lights and bustle of Vegas, William drifts back to the peace of his home in Malawi and the feeling of standing on top of his windmill achieving his dream.
As William’s world continues to get larger through travel, his intellectual world also widens as he sees the vast collections of knowledge that are now available to him. Though the trip to America seemingly opens up infinite possibilities for William, he does not forget his roots and the hard work that started everything. Tying his own windmill to the incredible array of lights in Las Vegas shows how William continues to dream of new ways that he can improve his village.
William often thinks of home when traveling in America, especially when faced with the huge windmill farms in Palm Springs, California. These hundred-foot-tall turbines are controlled by computers to maximize the energy created by the blades. This farm alone creates enough energy to power all of Malawi. Seeing these giant creations gives William hope for everything he can do in the future, including helping other Africans gain an education and invent things to improve their lives without government involvement. William follows the motto: If you want to make it, all you have to do is try.
As when William moved from his small prototype to the larger windmill that now powers his house, he also sees the steps between his windmill and the giant windmills in America. William is not dismayed by the gap between what he has and the windmills of America, but rather inspired to see how far he can take his project. William’s motto comes from his first TED presentation, as he continues to put his dreams into action no matter the obstacles or difficulties in his path.