Necessity is the mother of invention, or so goes the famous quote from the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato.
Yet, while necessity might be the mother, sometimes, it takes a child’s dream, determination and fortitude to bring that invention to life.
William Kamkwamba was one such boy.
When a severe famine hit is country, Malawi, William defied the odds and found a way to produce a windmill that could produce enough power to pump water for crop irrigation.
Working off of an old textbook, written in English, a language William didn’t know well, William was able to use the diagrams to deduce how to construct a windmill. He found materials at the scrap yard, and with a little ingenuity, was able to build what would be the first of several windmills in his community, Dowa.
William did all this at just 14, and with only the help of the local library, as he was forced to drop out of school due to his family’s inability to pay the fees.
But, William wasn’t done there.
In 2008, William founded the Moving Windmills Project to encourage and support the economic and educational development of Malawi by working with local leaders to find solutions that meet the needs of the community. This method, eschews the typical “agendas” of outsiders looking to impose their ways, and empowers Malawians and other African communities to resolve their own issues in ways that work best for them.
“African solutions to African problems,” as the project would say.
The Moving Windmills Innovation Center, the project’s latest initiative, hopes to build off of the programs history of empowering local innovators by providing promising youth with a place to hone their ideas and produce items and services that can support the needs of Malawi.
If you’d like to hear William share his story in his own words, I highly recommend checking out his TED talks.
Following in the legacy of William, today’s young people are taking action and working to find solutions to the climate crisis, gun violence and other important issues. As a mom of two young boys, I am inspired by the youth of the world, and hope my kids will feel encouraged to tackle local and global challenges.
Far too often, our kids are told they are too young, or nobody will take them seriously, or their ideas are too bold or too stupid. William Kamkwamba could have listened to the doubters and naysayers. He could have given up. But, he didn’t. He persevered and came through for his community and country.