Generating Hope with William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

I recently sat down with William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer to discuss their powerful book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Few titles have moved me as much this one, as William's story is not just a memoir - it is the embodiment of Rudyard Kipling's classic poem, If.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

Few believed that a fourteen-year-old drop-out could lift his village up from the clutches of famine. Even fewer believed the solution could be found in the local junkyard. William was called misala ("crazy") by many in his village and even his own mother wondered if her son had lost his mind. Yet he remained undaunted as he pursued a dream of creating a machine that could turn wind into life-changing electricity.

Read an excerpt from the interview below and be sure to catch William and Bryan tonight (10/7) on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

--Dave What do you both hope readers will learn from The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind?

Bryan Mealer: That there are these people in Africa [like William] and they exist. If one guy is in Malawi like William Kamkwamba, I wonder how many guys are across that continent. As I've been saying on this book tour, we talk about saving Africa and we know what's happened so far. We can throw all the money we can at this continent; we can throw all the grain and food aid we can at this continent. All these top-down approaches are always going to fail.

What we need to do is go to these little villages and find guys like William Kamkwamba. We don't need to give them money - we just need to support them and their projects to give small slivers of opportunity and allow them to save themselves. I think that's the only way you're going to deliver this continent from peril and war and starvation.

People in Africa are hard workers. They have a lot of dignity and they always want to go work. That's been my experience in every country I've been to in Africa. To show those people that [William] exists, I think it gives hope to every single African whoever had a dream to do something and it's going to make them proud. And it also gives a ray of hope to the rest of the world that this continent is not lost.

William Kamkwamba: I think that people who are trying to do different things will know that whenever they want to start [something new], there will be resistance. But the only way to progress in that particular project [is] to believe in yourself and trust yourself. When you work hard, even though people might say different things, if you know what you want to do, you will do it.

For more from William and Bryan, click below to listen to the entire interview.

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