How can you change the world with a eucalyptus tree, bicycle parts and scrap metal?

This week at The Chazuka Project, we reflect on the incredible success of Malawi’s, William Kamkwamba.

Turning on the lights

In rural Wimbe, Malawi, the Kamkwamba family’s farm was struck down by the country’s worst drought for fifty years. Relying on crops for income, the Kamkwamba family could no longer afford for their son, William, to attend school. 

Even though William went on to miss five years of his education, he visited the library regularly. There he developed a thirst for learning, and hungrily devoured books about electricity, energy and forces. 

In 2002, at the tender age of 14, William built a windmill to power the family’s four lights and two radios, using only the blue gum tree, an old plastic pipe, used bicycle parts and scrapyard metal. 

One of William’s first windmills – This was shot by Tom Rielly after TEDGlobal sourced from flickr.

Thanks to his diligence and ingenuity, William’s technological success continued. He went on to build more turbines and solar-powered water pumps for his local community. His work attracted interest from all over the world. William Kamkwamba’s global popularity placed him at the forefront of many human rights projects, including sanitation in India and gender-based violence prevention in Kenya. 

A personal highlight

After travelling the world and continuing his own education, William returned to Wimbe with a very important mission: to ensure that all of the children in his village had access to an education. Upon addressing the town’s people, he said:

‘I have discovered that there are schools that look much better than the school I studied in.’

William and the community began work on the foundations for Wimbe’s new school. Women collected and carried water; children carried bricks and men dug out trench lines.

Once the building was complete, electricity was installed, powering thirteen, brand-new computers. William told the eager and excited children:

‘It will be up to you to take care of these things.’ 

World-wide recognition

William Kamkwamba’s life and work has now been dramatised on the big screen. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, now available on Netflix, is a stunning reimagining of William’s book of the same name. William’s TED talks are equally as popular, racking up over a million hits. 

Despite his fame, William remains a gentle, quiet and humble soul. Reflecting upon his notoriety, he stated:

‘I don’t like it when people are mentioning me all the time.’ 

The power of education

The Chazuka Project, like William Kamkwamba, believes in the invaluable power of education.

It transcends class.

It opens innumerable doors.

It empowers.

It transforms lives.

Education can truly change the world. 

We aim to nurture William’s sense of curiosity and wonder in each of the children at the Chazuka school.

You can change a child’s world by clicking here to donate to our Back 2 School fund. School starts again on the 16th September.

Just £15 supplies everything a child needs to stay in school for one month.

Thank you. 

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