Author of the Week - William Kamkwamba

I know some authors worry about their last names being too strange or hard to spell, but in the case of Mr. Kamkwamba, it was the reason I picked up his book. I mean, really, how often do run across a book by an author with such a great last name? And what an interesting fellow he is too.

William Kamkwamba was born in 1987 in Masitala Village, Wimbe, Malawi. William grew up in a family of seven kids, six of which are girls. Educated at Wimbe Primary School, William received the opportunity to attend secondary school, but was forced to drop out when a severe famine hit Malawi and his family could no longer pay the $80 in annual fees to support his education. Rather than accept his fate, he began borrowing books from a local library, borrowing everything from fiction to textbooks. Using one book about Energy, William built a windmill in 2002 (at the age of 15)to power a few electrical appliances in his family's home eliminating his family's need for kerosene. He used bicycle parts, blue gum trees, light bulbs, radio parts, and tractor blade fans among other things. With this prototype he then took it a step further creating a larger version and adding a car battery for storage as well as making his own light switches and circuit breakers. Since then, he has built a solar-powered water pump that supplies fresh drinking water into his village for the first time, a radio transmitter to broadcast popular music and spread HIV prevention messages, drip irrigation systems, and malaria prevention. William's work has drawn the attention of many people, including doctors, inventors, journalists, and legislators. He was even invited as a guest speager to TEDGlobal, a prestigious gathering of thinkers and innovators.

In 2005, William wrote and performed an HIV prevention comedy with some friends entitled You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover. Thanks to his hard work and media attention, William was able to re-enroll in secondary school before transferring to the African Bible College
Christian Academy, a private prep school before going to Cambridge, UK to study. He hopes to be a teacher one day, to educate the next generation in academics, ethics, entrepreneurship, and ingenuity.

In 2009, William wrote an autobiography called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Current of Electricity and Hope, published by HarperCollins. The book is incredible, but more so because of William's extreme drive and determination and complete understanding of how important reading and education are. It thrilled me to see someone, despite all the odds, become someone so affluent in his community and the world.