The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

William Kamkwamba Character Analysis

The protagonist and narrator of the book, a young Malawian man who grew up in the rural village of Wimbe during the 2000 famines in Malawi. William has an incredible aptitude for science and engineering, though he is unable to stay in school due to a lack of funds. Self-motivated and resourceful, he finds books in his local library that allow him to learn about physics, electricity, and labor-saving inventions on his own. With the help of his friends Gilbert and Geoffrey, William then builds a windmill so that his family can have free electricity that is not controlled by government blackouts. The windmill earns William the support of a Malawian professor, who helps William gain scholarships to school and a fellowship with TEDGlobal that puts William in contact with other innovators and entrepreneurs across the African continent and the world. William embodies the values of hard-work, education, and helping others, maintaining an optimistic outlook on everything despite the many troubles described in the book.

William Kamkwamba Quotes in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind quotes below are all either spoken by William Kamkwamba or refer to William Kamkwamba. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the William Morrow edition of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind published in 2010.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Before I discovered the miracles of science, magic ruled the world.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

Although Geoffrey, Gilbert, and I grew up in this small place in Africa, we did many of the same things children do all over the world, only with slightly different materials. And talking with friends I’ve met from America and Europe, I now know this is true. Children everywhere have similar ways of entertaining themselves. If you look at it this way, the world isn’t so big.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), Gilbert, Geoffrey
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 2 Quotes

We traveled four hours north to the Wimbe trading center, where my relatives were waiting to greet us. They helped us move down the road to Masitala village and into a one-room house near Uncle John.
This is where my father became a farmer and my childhood began.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), Trywell Kamkwamba, Uncle John
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

My first and only experience with magic had left me with a sore eye and hands that throbbed from bad medicine. With my luck, I thought, they'll probably become infected and fall off.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), Shabani
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 4 Quotes

Since we learned everything through experimenting, a great many radios were sacrificed for our knowledge. I think we had one radio from each aunt and uncle and neighbor, all in a giant tangle of wires we kept in a box in Geoffrey’s room. But after we learned from our mistakes, people began bringing us their broken radios and asking us to fix them.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), Geoffrey
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Nsima isn't just an important part of our diet—our bodies depend on it the same way fish need water. If a foreigner invites a Malawian to supper and serves him plates of steak and pasta and chocolate cake for dessert, but no nsima, he'll go home and tell his brothers and sisters, “there was no food there…”

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Page Number: 72-73
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

We call this period “the hungry season.” In the countryside, people are working the hardest they work all year to prepare their fields, but doing so with the least amount of food. Understandably, they grow thin, slow and weak.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 5 Quotes

But bringing electricity to my home would take more than a simple bicycle dynamo, and my family couldn't even afford one of those. After a while I kind of stopped thinking about it altogether and focused on more important things. One of them, for instance, was graduating from primary school.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

One pail equaled twelve meals for my family, meaning six pails equaled seventy-two meals for twenty-four days. I then counted how many days before the next harvest: more than two hundred and ten…

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“I’m ashamed to see this school broken in such fashion. We should tear the whole place down and start from scratch, build it again strong and proud! Teachers’ houses also need to be shipshape, and students need new desks and books!”

Of course, the crowds cheered and applauded at this. But instead of buying us new desks, he sent men into our blue gum grove to chop down our trees to build them. Even then, there weren't enough.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), President Bakili Muluzi (speaker)
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 6 Quotes

Several large pieces of skin remained in the pot, and I thought about my sisters and parents who were at home, probably hungry and dreaming of meat on this Christmas Day. But I didn't dare ask Charity to allow me to share. It was a well-known rule that whatever happened in mphala stayed in mphala.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), Charity
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 7 Quotes

My parents never scolded Rose for taking more than her share. But Doris soon reached her breaking point. Over the past weeks she'd become paranoid, fearing she wouldn't get any food at supper and my parents wouldn't help her.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), Trywell Kamkwamba, Agnes Kamkwamba, Doris, Rose
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

My own problems didn't seem so important; the hunger belonged to the entire country. I decided to put faith in my father's word, that once we made it through the hunger, everything would be okay.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), Trywell Kamkwamba (speaker)
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 8 Quotes

No magic could save us now. Starving was a cruel kind of science.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 9 Quotes

And through them, I was able to grasp principles like magnetism and induction and the differences between AC and DC. It was as if my brain had long ago made a place for these symbols, and once I discovered them in these books, they snapped right into place.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

What is this? I thought. Pulling it out, I saw it was an American textbook called Using Energy, and this book has since changed my life.

The cover featured a long row of windmills - though at the time I had no idea what a windmill was.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Windmill
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Within a few meters, I entered the scrapyard and stopped. Behold! Now that I had an actual purpose and a plan, I realized how much bounty lay before me. There were so many things: old water pumps, tractor rims half the size of my body, filters, hoses, pipes, and plows.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Windmill
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 10 Quotes

At least with daughters, like my sister Annie, a father can hope they'll marry a husband who can provide a home and food, even help them continue their schooling. But with a boy it's different. My education meant everything to my father.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), Trywell Kamkwamba, Annie
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 11 Quotes

Just then a gust of wind slammed against my body, and the blades kicked up like mad. The tower rocked once, knocking me off balance. I wrapped my elbow around the wooden rung as the blades spun like furious propellers behind my head. I held the bulb before me, waiting for my miracle. It flickered once. Just a flash at first, then a surge of bright, magnificent light. My heart nearly burst.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Windmill
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 13 Quotes

In Malawi, we say these people are “grooving” through life, just living off small ganyu and having no real plan. I started worrying that I would become like them, that one day the windmill project would lose its excitement or become too difficult to maintain, and all my ambitions would fade into the maize rows. Forgetting dreams is easy. To fight that kind of darkness, I kept returning to the library every week.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Windmill
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

But Geoffrey was scared we would be arrested by the authorities for messing with their frequencies. People were also saying this nonsense about my windmill: “You better be careful or ESCOM power will come arrest you.”

If the first people to experiment with great inventions such as radios, generators, or airplanes had been afraid of being arrested, we'd never be enjoying those things today.

“Let them come arrest me,” I'd say. “It would be an honor.”

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), Geoffrey
Related Symbols: The Windmill
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 15 Quotes

But the most amazing thing about TED wasn’t the Internet, the gadgets, or even the breakfast buffets with three kinds of meat, plus eggs and pastries and fruits that I dreamed about each night. It was the other Africans who stood onstage each day and shared their stories and vision of how to make our continent a better place for our people.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Erik wasn’t a biological African (he was raised in Kenya and Sudan), but what he said summed up our crowd perfectly:

“Africans bend what little they have to their will every day. Using creativity, they overcome Africa's challenges. Where the world sees trash, Africa recycles. Where the world sees junk, Africa sees rebirth.”

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Windmill
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

I took a deep breath and gave it my best. “After I drop out from school, I went to library… and I get information about windmill…” Keep going keep going. . . “And I try and I made it.”

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker), Chris Anderson
Related Symbols: The Windmill
Page Number: 268
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Epilogue Quotes

My fellow students and I talk about creating a new kind of Africa, a place of leaders instead of victims, a home of innovation rather than charity. I hope this story finds its way to our brothers and sisters out there who are trying to elevate themselves and their communities, but who may feel discouraged by their poor situation.

Related Characters: William Kamkwamba (speaker)
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind LitChart as a printable PDF.
The boy who harnessed the wind.pdf.medium

William Kamkwamba Character Timeline in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The timeline below shows where the character William Kamkwamba appears in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
William Kamkwamba describes climbing the tower of a machine that he has just built, as people... (full context)
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
William removes the bent wire that keeps the machine’s blades from spinning. He holds his breath,... (full context)
Chapter 1
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
Before William discovered science, he says, he was terrified of magic. His earliest memory is of a... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
William goes to the forest and tries to force himself to vomit up the bubble gum... (full context)
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
Trywell, William’s father, is a strong man who does not fear magic even though he still tells... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
...try to invade the Chewa mountain. The mountain was renamed to commemorate this battle, and William explains that the mountain looms just past his village and the town of Kasungu. (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
As a boy, William did not worry about animals, but he was afraid of the Gule Wamkulu (a secret... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
After the incident with the bubblegum, William is even more wary of witchcraft. William tries to protect himself by posting money (as... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
Trywell tells William a story about how he stopped believing in magic. In 1979, Trywell was riding in... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
William respects his father’s disdain for magic, but can’t quite accept how a world without magic... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
William’s best friends are his cousin Geoffrey and Gilbert, the son of the chief of the... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
On this particular day, William and Geoffrey find Gilbert singing along to the radio in his room. They use their... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
William and his friends find many ways to improve their trucks and personalize them or scratch... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...the fields. Sometimes farmers from nearby villages stop by in the evening to barter with William’s father for produce or maize. (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...gather inside while Trywell lights a kerosene lamp and prepares to tell folktales. One of William’s favorite stories is about the Leopard and the Lion. In the story, two little girls... (full context)
Chapter 2
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Trywell, William’s father, lived in Dowa during the 70s and 80s working as a traveling trader rather... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
...conflict. Livingstone helped end slavery and began an infrastructure of schools and missions in Malawi. William says that the Yao are now accepted in Malawi, and that his mother is Yao. (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...night. He became legendary for his strength. On July 6th, the Malawian independence day that William compares to America’s July 4th holiday, Trywell wanted to see his favorite reggae singer Robert... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Trywell begins to watch a particular girl who comes to the market each morning, who William reveals will become William’s mother, Agnes. Agnes notices Trywell staring and asks about his reputation.... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
...estate until he had enough money to start his own tobacco farm. In 1989, when William is one, John asks Trywell to come live in the village and work on the... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
...Trywell one acre of land to plant burley tobacco to sell and maize to eat. William explains that maize is white corn, and says that his book will teach plenty about... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...new buildings to their house so that the four Kamkwamba sisters can have a room. William, as the only boy, gets his own room, which becomes his fortress and day-dreaming hideaway. (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
...worker named James because James did not buy some items Phiri needed from the market. William hears the commotion and goes to watch. Phiri starts punching James, and William knows that... (full context)
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
...a nephew named Shabani who boasts that he is a sing’anga who can perform mangolomera. William and Gilbert don’t believe Shabani, but they cannot be sure. When William is nine, he... (full context)
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
One hour later, William meets Shabani at the tree. Shabani explains that he will start making cuts on the... (full context)
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
Suddenly, Shabani grabs William’s left hand and cuts the knuckles. When William flinches, Shabani tells William not to cry... (full context)
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
William spends the next three days at his grandparents’ house in Dowa, waiting for his mangolomera... (full context)
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
William’s uncle finds William after the fight and yells at William for picking a fight with... (full context)
Chapter 3
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
When William is nine, his family experiences the sad and unexpected loss of Uncle John. Uncle John... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Later that day, William’s uncles Musaiwale and Socrates arrive from Kasungu and arrange a wake for John. William cannot... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
William’s family continues to grow tobacco, but can no longer hire additional workers to help William... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Soon enough, William stops trying to get rid of Khamba and even enjoys his company. Khamba does his... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
...if it gets in one’s eyes. The wind blows the sap into Charity’s eyes and William and Geoffrey know that they must quickly get Charity to a mother who is producing... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Hunting with Geoffrey and Charity taught William how to best trap birds and patiently wait for the moment to kill, skills that... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
On a hunting trip, William and Khamba head down to the blue gum trees by Geoffrey’s house to take advantage... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
After setting his trap, William hides behind a tree as Khamba silently stays on alert. Half an hour later, four... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
William’s cousin Charity lives at the mphala, as does his friend Mizeck. The mphala is cluttered... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
This particular hunt has been a large enough kill that William can take his riches to the mphala. Mizeck allows William in, but forces Khamba to... (full context)
Chapter 4
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William turns 13 in 2000 and starts to grow up. He, Gilbert, and Geoffrey spend less... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
As William matures, he stops caring so much about the soccer team, the MTL Nomads, that had... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
...Though there were only two radio stations, both controlled by the government, for much of William’s childhood and adolescence, he still remembers the radio programs fondly. (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William wanted to know how radios play music and produce sound as soon as he saw... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Soon, Geoffrey and William run a radio-repair business out of Geoffrey’s bedroom. To find out the source of the... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William becomes very interested in finding out how things work, but is discouraged when no one... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Aside from studying, William spends the majority of his time working the farm. By far the most important crop... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...all the cooking, cleaning, and childcare while the men work in the fields. In July, William must clear the land from the previous harvest by burning the old corn stalks. From... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
William gets up at 4 am to take advantage of the cooler early morning for the... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...and then fell so strongly that the seeds were flooded out of the ground. At William’s farm, the seedlings were able to stay rooted, but the rain washed away the fertilizer... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
As William and Trywell survey the sad state of their maize, William asks Trywell what will happen... (full context)
Chapter 5
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William becomes interested in bicycle dynamos, small metal lamps that attach to bicycle wheels and light... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
After this small taste of electricity, William wants to create his own in a form where he does not have to continuously... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Gilbert and his family can afford electricity, and William is amazed that Gilbert can just touch the wall and get light. William wants to... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William stays up late each night with a kerosene lamp reviewing his old school books up... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
As William grows, he must help his father more in the fields during school holidays. Tobacco requires... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...have a surplus to sell during the hunger season have nothing this year. Trywell advises William not worry, as the government keeps a surplus for these times and will distribute it... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
William trusts his father, but overhears a troubling conversation one day between Trywell and Agnes. At... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
...October and people begin to search for other food such as mangos and pumpkin leaves. William’s neighbor gives out unripe mangos for ganyu. A few days later, William notices traders selling... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Agnes has been cooking meals as usual, and William has been eating as much as he wants with no thought for the poor harvest.... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
...their maize flour and Trywell sells off their goats before the price drops too low. William is sad to see their livestock go, as it is a sign of wealth to... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William complains to Geoffrey about the missed breakfast, but Geoffrey says he stopped getting breakfast weeks... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
...during this hunger season, suffering from old age as well as a lack of food. William tries to keep feeding the dog table scraps, but there are not as many leftovers... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
...power and holding rallies that feed the poor in exchange for their vote next election. William had seen Muluzi at a rally in 1999, when Muluzi promised to repair and refurbish... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
The people of William’s village ask Chief Wimbe to speak on their behalf at the next rally for Muluzi,... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...scared to even go to the doctor about his injuries for fear of Muluzi’s thugs. William is more scared than ever, wondering how a government that dares to beat a chief... (full context)
Chapter 6
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
December comes and William’s family manages to plant a small crop of maize and a half acre of tobacco,... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
...of a woman’s pregnancy, so that the mother-to-be will not become the target of witchcraft. William had noticed his mother getting rounder in the belly, but said nothing. When the daughter... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...market in the hopes that they will make enough profit each day to eat themselves. William stays in the kitchen, smelling the wonderful aroma of sweetcakes, though he doesn’t get to... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...a small dowry of a few hundred kwacha. Trywell becomes depressed after Annie leaves, though William is selfishly glad that they now have one less mouth to feed. (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
A week later, Agnes sends William to the ADMARC one town away to see if rumors of maize at a reduced... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...sell their place in line for outrageous prices, preying on those who look the hungriest. William is glad he has a hot cake from his mother to keep him going, but... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William has four hundred kwacha in his pocket, enough to buy 25 kilos of maize. However,... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Soon, people in the village begin selling their possessions for food. William watches the line of people lugging all their worldly belongings to the market, as Khamba,... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
...the high prices of imported maize brought in by traders, but it does no good. William even sees a man trying to sell his two young daughters in his desperation. Thieves... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Christmas was usually William’s favorite day of the year, with the fun of the Christmas pageant at church and... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
After an unsatisfactory Christmas lunch of a blob of nsima, William goes to visit Geoffrey. Geoffrey now looks for ganyu each day instead of working on... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
With Geoffrey and Gilbert busy with their own troubles on Christmas, William goes to see Charity at the mphala. William and Charity brainstorm ways to get a... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
William and Charity take the goat skin back to the mphala and start to burn the... (full context)
Chapter 7
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
The week after Christmas, William finds out that the scores of the Standard Eight exams are ready. He runs to... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...and the Kamkwambas’ profits shrink. The blob of nsima at dinner gets even smaller, and William’s seven-year-old sister Rose starts to take more than her fair share of the food. Doris... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Despite everything, William looks forward to school in January. He thinks that being hungry at Kachokolo will be... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William and Gilbert walk forty minutes to Kachokolo and gather in the yard with the other... (full context)
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Aside from uniform shoes, William’s family also cannot afford school books. Gilbert says that William can look on with him.... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
William sadly tells Gilbert the next morning that he has to drop out. With Gilbert at... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
...January, even the gaga of corn husks is gone and famine truly arrives in Malawi. William is reminded of the plagues of Egypt as he watches starvation make skeletons and zombies... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Men continue to pass through Wimbe looking for any work or food. Men stop at William’s house, thinking that their iron roof means they have money and food. One man even... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...Hearing this interview on the radio, Trywell shakes his head at the President’s willful blindness. William knows that it is up to them to make sure that they survive. (full context)
Chapter 8
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Soon after Muluzi denies the famine on the radio, William notices that Khamba truly is starving to death. After the treat of the goat skin... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
William takes ash to use as bait for his trap, then heads out into the rain.... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
That night, Khamba falls deeply asleep, waking only when William brings him a small pinch of nsima. Two days later, Khamba vomits up what food... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
The next day, Charity and William take Khamba out to the forest. The day is beautiful, for once, but William can... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Uncle Socrates comes to visit Trywell the next day, and asks William where Khamba is. William pretends he doesn’t know, and Socrates guesses that wild dogs got... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
...preventative measure for cholera, and the Kamkwambas closely monitor the cover on their latrine. Still, William can’t escape the sight of people stricken with cholera walking to the clinic and the... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
...from hunger by thinking of good things. Trywell begins excusing himself from meals and tells William in secret that “hunger only kills men.” William understands, having seen men take on the... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
In Mid-February, William and Geoffrey help Trywell prune the tobacco crop. The boys wish they could eat the... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the corn crop continues to ripen. William estimates twenty more days before the first green maize, called dowe, will be ready to... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
At the beginning of March, William begins checking the dowe to see if it is ready. Finally, the crop is ripe... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...dowe they can find. Some farmers exact horrible revenge on these thieves, but Trywell counsels William that all Malawians faced the same hunger, and they must learn to forgive. (full context)
Chapter 9
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
...of dowe and pumpkins means that the village has enough energy to resume classes. Sadly, William still cannot afford the school fees and spends his days playing games in the trading... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
The librarian, Mrs. Edith Sikelo, greets William at the library and explains the rules for borrowing books. William is pleasantly surprised to... (full context)
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
One Saturday, Gilbert and William meet at the library. William finds a science textbook with diagrams and pictures that he... (full context)
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William continues to read Explaining Physics, finding a chapter on magnets and electromagnets. William already knew... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
When the school term ends, Gilbert and William go back to the library looking for something fun to read. William stumbles across an... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William begins to dream of all the things a windmill could do for him and his... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William experiments with small prototypes before tackling a giant windmill. He starts to gather materials for... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Now William needs a dynamo, but he has no money to buy the shiny bicycle dynamo he... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William and Geoffrey extract the radio motor and attach it to William’s blade contraption. They hunt... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Moving on from this small success, William dreams bigger. Working from the same model of his prototype, William plans out the pieces... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
The first afternoon, William finds a tractor fan that will be perfect for the windmill’s rotor and a tractor... (full context)
Chapter 10
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
As the new school term approaches, Trywell buys William new school supplies and William washes his uniform in preparation for a return to classes.... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William is woefully behind in many subjects and struggles to keep up for the next two... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William attends school without paying for another two weeks before the teachers catch him without a... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Trywell is devastated that he doesn’t have the money to send William to school, and the school cannot continue to let William go for free for fear... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William has no time to mourn the loss of school, as the harvest comes and Trywell... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
When the harvest is over, William returns to his windmill project. He takes home tons of interesting pieces of machinery from... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William spends all his time on the windmill, much to the chagrin of his sisters, who... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
Though William is happy spending days learning about machinery in the scrap yard, the villagers begin to... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
After pounding flat more PVC pipe and shaping the plastic into blades, William now needs nuts and bolts to connect the blades to the rotor. Gilbert steps in... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William now has all the windmill pieces in place except a generator. With no money to... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
A month later, William still has nothing for a generator and complains to Gilbert that his windmill dream will... (full context)
Chapter 11
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
William starts to put his windmill together, arranging everything on the ground outside his kitchen where... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William then turns to attaching the bicycle and dynamo to the tractor fan, manipulating the heavy... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
At first light the next morning, William begins building a temporary tower to see if his windmill machinery will actually work. William... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William repairs the bicycle chain and hoists the windmill back up at an angle away from... (full context)
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
With the windmill test successful, William, Geoffrey, and Gilbert begin to build a real tower. Gathering wood from the same blue... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
At 7 the next morning, Geoffrey and Gilbert return to help William hoist the windmill on top of the tower. Using Agnes’ clothesline wire, the boys make... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
With the windmill finally steady on its tower, William collects a small contraption he has wired to the dynamo’s lightbulb to test the windmill’s... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
For the next month, people come to see William’s windmill every day. Some even travel from other districts to see this miracle with their... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William then starts to wire electricity into his room. Gilbert again helps William buy supplies, making... (full context)
Chapter 12
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
The windmill only works when the wind is blowing, so William begins searching for a battery to save up power. Meanwhile, he puts the windmill to... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William needs a step-up transformer to create more energy from the electricity his windmill creates, like... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
After two months, William finally buys a car battery from Charity, who says it “fell off a truck.” To... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
...in the house is definitely a benefit for the Kamkwambas, but it comes with risks. William was forced to use wire he found in the trash or the scrap yard, meaning... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William starts to build a proper wiring system using diagrams from Explaining Physics. He needs a... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Another problem with William’s windmill is the small bike chain that often snaps when the wind blows too hard.... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
...to work with Uncle Musaiwale in a maize mill the next town over. Geoffrey advises William to get a rubber belt like the ones used in the maize mill to replace... (full context)
Chapter 13
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William’s family still has no money to send him to school, and indeed are too poor... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
To keep his mind occupied without school, William returns to the library every week. Feeling pressured to come up with another project as... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Rewiring the radio and attaching a microphone, William and Geoffrey find out that William can broadcast his voice over the radio frequency up... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William is also anxious to get to work on a water pump. He digs up PVC... (full context)
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William also fails to create biogas (liquid fuel made of animal waste), which he hoped would... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William gathers goat droppings and dumps the feces in a clay pot in the kitchen while... (full context)
The Business of Survival Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
William is terrified of the hospital itself, and seeing his mother looking so sick in the... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
Soon after Agnes returns home from the hospital, Gilbert tells William that Chief Wimbe is very ill. After a few months, Chief Wimbe dies and the... (full context)
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
Knowing that this harvest will be terrible, the government promises to intervene. However, people in William’s village are scared and suspicious, turning to anything they can to blame for this bad... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
...witch, then beat the man accused by the young boy within inches of his life. William laments that the Malawian government has no provisions in the constitution for convicting wizards and... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
...horizon in Wimbe, but a strong wind blows them away. People in the village blame William’s windmill for calling witches and causing the drought. William attempts to explain, but knows that... (full context)
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
Magic is also blamed for the HIV/AIDS crisis in Malawi. William estimates that 20% of Malawians are infected and that the stigma of HIV and witches... (full context)
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
William joins a club started by health personnel from Wimbe clinic to help people learn the... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William’s success with the windmill and the HIV club earns him the attention of a teacher... (full context)
Chapter 14
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
...Malawi Teacher Training Activity come to inspect the library at Wimbe Primary School and notice William’s windmill. Mrs. Sikelo tells them that William built it, and the officials call back to... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
...Mchazime returns to Wimbe the next week with a famous Malawian radio journalist, who interviews William about his windmill and his dreams for the future of Malawi. More journalists from the... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
The Kamkwamba family excitedly gathers around the radio when William’s interview airs, and celebrates the publications of his newspaper articles. The whole village reassesses its... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Meanwhile, William’s story is spreading farther than he ever dreamed. A Malawian software engineer named Soyapi Mumba... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
In January, William hears that he has been chosen as a TEDGlobal 2007 fellow and will go present... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William’s new school, Madisi Secondary, is not a science-oriented school, but it will serve William well... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
...supplies in the chemistry lab, new books, and adequate rooms for all of the students. William shares a cramped room with another boy who never washes his feet, and he is... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Dr. Mchazime continues to plan the trip to Arusha for William, securing a passport, explaining the etiquette for staying in a hotel and the rules of... (full context)
Chapter 15
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Tom Rielly, an American organizer at TEDGlobal, greets William and realizes that this is the boy with the windmill. Tom shows William a laptop,... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William’s turn to present approaches, and the curator of the conference, Chris Anderson, calls William to... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Tom Rielly is especially moved by William’s story and wants to help William raise funds to send back to his family, build... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Back in Lilongwe, William tours the Baobab Health center and learns about Gerry Douglas, a British-Canadian computer scientist who... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William is finally accepted to the African Bible College Christian Academy to continue his secondary education... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
William is able to use the money from his donors to improve his village in many... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
In December of 2007, William visits Tom Rielly in America. He starts in New York City, and appreciates the help... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Tom and William go to Connecticut to see Jay Walker, another TED speaker and a friend of Tom’s.... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William often thinks of home when traveling in America, especially when faced with the huge windmill... (full context)
Epilogue
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
In June 2008, William travels to Cape Town, South Africa and speaks about technology in emerging countries at the... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William leaves Cape Town for Chicago, where he is part of an exhibit at the Museum... (full context)
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William then goes to a language class in Cambridge, England, working on his English in preparation... (full context)
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
At the African Leadership Academy, William enjoys being surrounded by committed students who share his same dream of improving Africa and... (full context)