William and the Windmill

William and the Windmill

William Kamkwamba, 14, used scraps from a local junkyard in Malawi to provide electricity to his parents' home. Now he's celebrated internationally. (Toronto Star)

This Toronto Star video tells the inspiring success story of how a poor African boy — who could take anything apart, and put it back together again — came to be a local and international hero. Fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba was intelligent, but due to his family’s circumstances, unable to attend school in famine-plagued Malawi, a nation of subsistence farmers.

When he stumbled across a book titled Using Energy in the local library, he was able to copy the pictures to construct primitive windmills from scavenged parts to power lights for his home, and eventually a pump for much-needed well water. Although ridiculed at first (“They thought I was going crazy!”), his village, and later the world, grew to appreciate his innovations and the improvement they made to the quality of life in rural Africa.

We are given glimpse into the life and personality of William in the video, which is told in his own words, and enhanced by spot-on editing to the beat of African music. The production design is a great example of how judiciously used special effects, and typography for emphasis, can be enhancements rather than an affectations. A mix of video and beautiful still photography moves along briskly, with lovely sequences, such as William climbing his windmills against a sky that dissolves into the starry African night.

William was subsequently discovered by international organizations that have supported his efforts to equip his village with energy produced from wind, solar and hydroelectric devices. He became an eco-celebrity after his appearance at the TED Global (Technology, Entertainment and Design) 2007 conference, which draws scientists, inventors and innovators. A circuit breaker Kamkwamba constructed from found objects is now on display in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Technology.

CHANNEL: Toronto Star

Length: 3:10

By Lucas Oleniuk and Randy Risling

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