In 2001, William Kamkwamba dropped out of school due to a devastating famine. Through self-education, he saw a windmill in a textbook. Using found materials, he built a windmill that powered his village and changed his life, using imagination and ingenuity to inspire a family, a village, and a nation.
William Kamkwamba is a remarkable young man from Wimbe, a small rural village in Malawi, Africa. In late 2001, while his family was battling life-threatening famine, 14-year-old William was forced to drop out of high school for a lack of school fees ($75 USD per year). Rather than accept this fate, William educated himself by borrowing books from a small community library. It was in Using Energy, a discarded 5th grade American text book, that William first saw a picture of a windmill. A tiny caption, translated into broken English, informed him that "windmills generate electricity and pump water." Though William lacked any formal engineering experience or education, he had the confidence and attitude of a true innovator and decided to build a windmill to power his family's home. Without any instructions and under the watchful eye of a confused and often critical community, William began his daunting mission. Using found materials and scrapyard parts such as a broken bicycle, a tractor fan, melted plastic pipes, bamboo stalks and scavenged copper wires, William built a series of windmills that would change his life and the life of his family forever. After the publication of an article in a Malawian newspaper detailing William's accomplishment, the active African innovation blogging community carried William's story across the Internet. In a short time his actions came to the attention of the curators of the prestigious TED Conference, who invited William to share his story at the 2007 TEDGlobal conference in Arusha, Tanzania. The laughter, tears, and standing ovation his four-minute talk received catapulted William on to the world stage. And that was just the beginning. Our film follows William as he travels abroad to learn from other renewable energy pioneers, joins the first pan-African high school in pursuit of a better education, publishes a book detailing his extraordinary accomplishments, departs on a media tour where he sees firsthand the overwhelming impact his story has on others, and manages the construction of a new school in his village, effectively ending the educational famine suffered by his community. This is a documentary about struggle and success. It is about imagination and innovation. It is about daunting circumstances and awe-inspiring accomplishments. This is a documentary about the power a single person has to change his community and inspire people to improve their lives. William's incredible accomplishments make him unique, but his character and attitude make his achievements accessible to all. It is William's goal to motivate others to do as he has done --- to build windmills, dig wells, educate their families --- in short, to change their lives by whatever means possible. This is also a film about the challenges one must face in realizing their dreams. William’s initial victory did not come easy. While building his windmill he was teased for being crazy because his community didn’t recognize his efforts. After leaving his village and confronting other cultures, William has struggled to understand the behaviors of the developed world, such as the abundance of resources when his village lacks so much. William has also struggled to educate himself, being a talented applied scientist but not a well-trained student. Furthermore, the new role of family breadwinner doesn’t come lightly to a young man of 22. His accomplishments have introduced new challenges, pressures and responsibilities that he has been forced to handle. William's extreme humility, natural confidence, spirit of ingenuity, and quest to improve and empower the lives of those around him has inspired an audience of international fans and supporters. Because of William, an award-winning short film and popular novel have toured the world, providing many with a new understanding of African innovation. Because of William, a small group of US-based philanthropists are changing the way humanitarian aid reaches developing countries. Because of William, an inspired village is changing the way it sees itself. Because of William, many Malawians are building windmills, digging wells, and harnessing their imagination. As with all great stories, William's is quickly growing beyond him as more and more people become engaged and involved.