Last week I went to New Jersey for a reunion of the first two classes to graduate from the African Leadership Academy. The school sponsored a conference on leadership and economic development of our continent. They wanted those of us in the first class to share our experiences at college in America with the class that just graduated in order to help them prepare. The purpose of the conference was to keep us focused on our mission: playing a leadership role in the transformation of Africa.
It was great to see my friend and hear what they up to these days. They are all doing well, and they are happy to have finished their first year of college. Several friends are working as interns at investment banks. Their experience will help prepare them for the task of economic development in their own countries. One of my other friends was working with a team that is developing a phone program for education use. The program that he was working could be used for online learning in areas that don’t have access to schools, teachers, and books. When he was telling me about his work, one of my former teachers overheard, and he mentioned a recent article he had read about online learning. My teacher was interested to hear from us if phone-based technology can be applied to Africa. We talked for an hour to find the way to incorporate online learning into the existing educational system. I told them that I am working in a machine shop and learning computer aided design. When I explained that I am also preparing for my upcoming fall classes, they laughed, but they appreciate how difficult college can be, especially for people who are far away from home. I told them I was also having some fun and learning how to swim.
Apart from seeing friends, it was great to participate in the leadership conference. We did some activities together that encouraged confidence, leadership and teamwork. I had to walk across a rope that was five meters off the ground with a partner, hanging on to his hand and using my other hand to hang on to another rope. It was scary to look down, but I felt safe and secured holding on to my partner. This activity was to develop trust and teamwork. One of the other activities we did was called “Cross the Swamp.” It was fun, but also full of leadership education. The game was to make the group of people to cross “the swamp” with limited resources. The swamp was ground. The resources were 3 long boards and concrete blocks for risers. You weren’t allowed to touch the ground while you built a bridge. At the end of the game I learned the importance of teamwork. We needed to work together as a team in order to cross. Going forward I will be using these skills back at school, but more importantly, when I return to Malawi.
The message from each of the speakers at the conference was that we are agents of positive change. They emphasized the need for us to return to Africa with our new knowledge and skills and work to improve the lives of our people. The conference was amazing. Listening to the speaker made me to feel that I’m part of the people who are responsible for developing Africa. I felt that any small contribution I can make to Malawi would be better than just watching. Often when people are in trouble they just sit and complain when they really need to wake up and start doing.
It is like my windmill, “I just tried, and I made it happen.” After the conference I was “pumped” to come back to Dartmouth and learn more, gain more skills, and prepare myself to go back and play a leadership role in transforming my village, Malawi, and the whole continent.
After finishing exams at the end of my first year at Dartmouth, I went back to Malawi for one month. It was good to see my family and friends. Although I went home, I didn’t get to enjoy it as long as I wished, because I had to come back to the USA in order to start the preparations for the upcoming academic year. My visit was too short. When some of my friends started coming back from their schools, I had to start packing my favorite clothes. It was tough to say bye to my buddies who just came home two days before my flight back to the US. In fact my friends were looking forward to catching up with me. They wanted to know how is it to live abroad, especially in America. They have watched many Hollywood movies, and they wanted to know if what they see is real. However, I didn’t get a chance to explain how life is in America. I was also looking forward to hearing from them what had happened since I left a year ago. I barely had enough time to say goodbye; I watched tears come from their eyes as I walked to the car. As I was closing the car’s door, I shouted loudly, “Don’t worry guys. I’m going for the better cause, and I promise next time we will catch up. In fact, we’ll have two years worth of stories to share with each other.
After eighteen hours of flying, I finally landed in New York. Memories of home started flashing in my head. Within an hour I started feeling homesick, but this didn’t last long. I remembered all the fun stuff I use to do at Dartmouth. When I got back to Hanover, I first meet with my tutor Christopher Schmidt. We made a timetable of what I’m going to do for the rest of the summer. For the next ten weeks, I’m working on four areas: math, writing, working at Thayer’s machine shop, and taking swimming lessons. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday I start the day by working at the machine shop from 8 am up to 11 am. From 11am up to 1pm I work on math. The rest of the day until after 5pm, I work to improve my English. Every Friday, I take a swim lesson at a nearby pool. In the machine shop, I’m building a Sterling engine. It feels great to play with all the tools in the shop. In math, I’m currently working on logarithms. To improve my English, I work on reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary. Currently I’m writing descriptive essays, like this one. As part of my writing assignments, I’m updating my blog weekly. Keep an eye out for future posts.
Summer isn’t all about studying. On the weekends I am off from academics; instead I do some fun things like going hiking and swimming. Recently we drove two hours to Lovell Lake in Sanbornville NH for the weekend. While I was there, I practiced my swimming, I met many new people, ate delicious food, and I enjoyed my time away from academics. It was a nice sunny day, so I decided to go swimming. Before I jumped in the lake, I stuck my foot in to see how warm the water was. The thermometer by the dock read 80 degrees. The water was so clear that I could see the rocks and gravel at the bottom. The surface was calm with some small waves. Because I am not yet a strong swimmer, I put on a life jacket and then jumped in. I started swimming by the dock, and then some young kids and their parents joined me. I swam shallow water for a while before I gained my confidence to swim towards the flooding dock 15 meters away. While I was still swimming, the kids began swinging on a rope swing and jump off into the Lake. I watched them smiling and laughing, and I envied them. I wanted to try. I got out of the water and went straight to the swing. I held the rope with my hands, and everyone was looking at me. I felt the pressure on me to do it. I swung off and flew out over the water. When I was about let it go, I looked down. The water was so far way. I could see the rocks at the bottom of the lake and I was scared. I was worried that I would get water up my nose. I froze. I swung back to the shore and put my feet down. I didn’t do it. But then I heard a voice, “You can do it!” With this encouragement I felt confidence build inside me. I knew I could do it. I swung out again, and this time, I let go and splashed into the water. Some water did go up my nose, but I was too happy to care. I did it.
I finished swimming right before dinner. We had our supper outside under big tall trees. It was a prefect time to be outside, nice cool wind was coming from the lake. For dinner that night, I had grilled chicken, marinated steak tips, and salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other tasty vegetables. I also had nsima and corn on the cob, which reminded of home. The following morning I slept in and missed breakfast. This might have been the best part of the weekend.
Nsima is basic food in Malawi; everyone eats it regardless of what they do: politicians, teachers, soccer plays, pastors, and doctors are all getting fat from it. Although there are many ways of preparing nsima, there is one that is commonly used. You need the following tools and ingredients: medium-sized cooking pot, corn flour, water, cooking stick, and firewood if you don’t have stove. To make enough nsima for five people you need: one liter of water, and four cups of flour. The first thing you need to do is to make a hot fire. Fill the pot with the water. The water should get hot before you start pouring the flour into it. When you feel that the water is hot enough, pour half the flour into the water while you are staring it. Make sure that the flour is well mixed with the water. Cover the pot with a lid for a few minutes until the porridge starts bubbling. Cook for five minutes. Then add more flour and stir until it gets medium hard and smooth. After that, take the pot off the fire and start scooping the nsima onto a serving plate using the wooden spoon. Now your nsima is ready; it tastes best with mustard greens and chicken stew.
We ordered business cards today for the Maize Mill. Some people are visiting Hanover from Malawi this week, and I will send the cards back with them. I hope these cards will increase business.
Front of Card:
Last August, I decided to build a maize mill for my parents to run as a business. I negotiated with the chief of Chamama to buy a small parcel of land at the Chamama Trading Center, 15 kilometers from my home. After the deal was concluded, I hired workers to construct a small building out of bricks, cement, timbers, and iron sheets. When the construction was complete, I bought an electric maize milling machine and assembled it inside. Unfortunately, this machine required more power than a windmill could generate. Therefore, I needed to wire the building for electricity from ESCOM, the local power company. It took almost 10 month for ESCOM to hook up the power, but finally, I was able to get the mill running when I was home in June 2011. Now my parents have a business to run; I hope they will be successful!
Maize mills these days are different from old ones. Modern mills use 30-horsepower electric motors that plug into the wall. A five-inch diameter pulley connects to the motor and turns a belt to drive a horizontal shaft that goes inside the grinding chamber. Above the chamber, there is funnel to pour in the maize, or what you might call corn. At the bottom of the funnel, there is a slide stopper to control the flow of the corn into the grinding chamber. Inside the chamber, the shaft goes from one end to the other. Large washers that are attached to the central shaft divide the chamber into several narrow compartments. In each compartment, a metal blade rotates on a swivel. When the motor turns the shaft, centripetal force spins these blades to grind the maize. The fine particles of flour fall through a screen, and a fan blows them up through a tube and into a collection chamber. This chamber is a large cylinder that stands on a tripod. Air escapes out an exhaust hole. The flour drops to the bottom of this chamber, where another funnel directs the flour into a sack. Typically, the same sacks that were used to bring in the maize are used to collect and transport the finished flour. The mill can grind a large sack of corn in less than five minutes.
With this new mill, my parents will grind corn flour for all the villagers in the area surrounding Chamama. Some people might travel up to ten kilometers or more carrying the sacks of corn on their heads. One person can carry up to 40 kilos of corn in one sack, or some people bring in several sacks on an ox cart. After just one month of operation, the mill receives as many as twenty customers per day, who all pay cash at the time of service. The only expenses for the business are the quarterly merchant tax, electricity, and wages for two employees. If my parents and their employees provide good customer service, treat people with respect and courtesy, and charge a fair price, the mill should make enough money to support my family.
In the spring and summer of 2010, in partnership with buildOn.org, we built new classrooms for my primary school in Wimbe. When we were finished, I was happy to see kids learning in good classes. Here are some photos of the students using the new block of two classrooms. The expressions of excitement on the kids’ faces were astonishing and made me feel so proud! Thanks to all the parents and community members who worked on the project, and a special thanks to the generous donors who made it possible.
Over that summer I spent my time teaching children how to harness wind power. After finishing construction of the classrooms, kids from Wimbe Primary helped me install wind and solar power at the school. I was happy to share my skills with children from the Wimbe area. I was so excited to install the power system at Wimbe Primary School. Now children can read at night. The most interesting thing is that children are now using one laptop per child through the power from wind and solar. (Thanks to the generous donation of the laptops.) I know that the electricity and new block of classrooms will help students to succeed with their studies.
The installation of the power wouldn’t be successful without the help of my friends Benn and Gilbert and my cousin Geoffrey. My friend Benn Salala did a wonderful job of installing solar panels. Gilbert and Geoffrey helped with excavation of the windmill. Special thanks should go to Go Campaign and Moving Windmills for funding me to build the windmill and purchase the solar panels to power the school. Without your support I wouldn’t have been able to build the system.
Also on behalf of the Wimbe community, I would like to express our sincerest gratitude to everyone who supported us with physical strength, financial means, planning and moral support for this valuable community project. People at Wimbe are very thankful for you generosity. Without your support we couldn’t have done it.
Dear friends, I hope you will consider joining me to help rebuild my primary school!
1480 students of William Kamkwamba's primary school to get new home over the next two years
Wimbe, Malawi and New York City, December 23, 2009: Moving Windmills Project, the U.S. 501(c)3 c0-founded by The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind author William Kamkwamba announced today that it will partner with buildOn.org, an NGO based in Stamford, CT and Kasungu, Malawi which builds primary schools in the developing world, coincidentally and fortuitously including William Kamkwamba's home province.
Wimbe public primary school William Kamkwamba attended through standard 8 (U.S. 8th grade) was constructed by the Catholic Church in 1950 to educate 450 students. It encompasses three buildings with two classrooms each. Unfortunately, the currently student population is 1480 students and was even higher during William's time. There are no desks for the children or teachers and they must sit on the floor. There is also no power, light, or clean water. The roof leaks through many holes and the cement floor, which is frigid during the winter and scalding during the summer, is pockmarked with holes. The Malawian government provides teachers' salaries and textbooks.
The new building project encompasses a master plan for approximately seven new structures over the course of two to three years. Each new school building will sturdy construction, fully equipped classroom, boys' and girls' latrines, and, thanks to William Kamkwamba's design additions, carbon-free hybrid solar/wind power, battery storage systems, lights, ventilation fans and A/C electricity. The plan also provides for a much larger library than the one that inspired William to build his windmill. Books will be furnished in partnership with American NGOs. Each building can be used to educate 150 students during the day, and for adult classes at night. The buildings can also be used as community meeting spaces. Community members will break ground in March, 2010 after the rainy season ends, with the first building projected to be completed by June, 2010, and additional buildings during 2010-2011. Click here to donate now.
In the buildOn process, community stakeholders sign a covenant to participate in the buildings' construction, by making the bricks and providing the manual labor. The community also warrants equal education access and attendance for girls and boys through out every grade. Orphans must also be educated free, with uniforms provided. buildOn works with the community over three years, providing adult literacy programs and school support. buildOn has already built several schools in the Kasungu province.
"buildOn is please to partner with Moving Windmills Project to rebuild Wimbe Primary School, which "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind," William Kamkwamba attended. We look forward to working closely with the community to build a modern school that serves their 1480 girls and boys," said Marc Friedman, COO of buildOn.
"Moving Windmills is about clean power, water, sanitation and education, but we don't have experience building schools. buildOn's expertise and methods are exactly what we need to help my village educate its next generation of children in a better environment than I had," said William Kamkwamba. "In addition to the soccer and water projects already completed, I want to give back to my community through the gifts of education and books."
"Moving Windmills will raise the money, and with their precise expertise, experience and proven community methodology, buildOn will build the schools. Then we will add green power, water, and books." said Tom Rielly, MWP executive director.
Each building costs $33,000 fully equipped. Supporters are invited to contribute at http://www.movingwindmills.org. Donations are accepted in any amount and all donors will be listed on a plaque at the school. Donors of $500 or more will receive a personally autographed copy of "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" and be invited to the dedication ceremony (travel expenses not included). Donations will be acknowledged with a dated letter, facilitating end-of-year contributions.. Holiday gift donation letters will be sent upon request. Moving Windmills Project is a registered New York State 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The IRS determination letter is available for download on its website. Click here to donate now. Larger donors may inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About William Kamkwamba
William Kamkwamba is a student at African Leadership Academy, a pan-African high school in Johannesburg, South Africa. A 2007 and 2009 TEDGlobal Fellow, Kamkwamba has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and his inventions displayed at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. His memoir "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind," has spent five weeks on New York Times bestseller list. Amazon.com choose as one of their top 10 books of 2009, and was also chosen one of the year's best by Publisher's Weekly and the Christian Science Monitor. A documentary feature, Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story, is projected to debut in early 2011. In Fall, 2010, William will attend college in the United States. For more information: http://williamkamkwamba.com. To buy the book, visithttp://bit.ly/8qZQ4v.
About Moving Windmills Project
Inspired by the work of William Kamkwamba, Moving Windmills Project was founded in 2008 to pursue rural economic development and education projects in Malawi, Africa. Its motto is, “African Solutions to African Problems.” Rather than invest in top-down, externally imposed agendas, Moving Windmills works with local leaders to determine, organize and implement the appropriate solutions. Areas of focus include: food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, health, education, clean water and community building. Moving Windmills Project works primarily in the Kasungu district in Malawi, Africa. For more information, visit movingwindmills.org.
buildOn is a not-for-profit organization that empowers people and transforms lives by partnering afterschool service programs in the U.S. with communities in developing countries to build schools. In U.S. urban environments, as well as in some of the most remote and impoverished communities around the world, buildOn programs are designed to build confidence and develop capabilities in youth to foster individual growth. Over the last 12 months, students in the U.S. contributed over 129, 213 hours of service and have touched the lives of more than 276,500 seniors, homeless, disabled, young children and others through buildOn. buildOn motivates students in 118 schools in New York, Connecticut, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California. 97% of the American high school students buildOn has worked with during the last six years arenow in college. Since the organization began in 1991, buildOn has helped local communities build more that 320 schools, providing 136,259 children and adults in nine developing countries with better access to education. For more information, visit buildon.org.
Yesterday I left school and traveled to the BBC studios in Johannesburg for an interview with PRI's Marco Werman, who interviewed me from the United States. He loved the story about Geoffrey and I taking the dynamo and hooking it to the radio. Geoffrey started dancing to the good music while I had to pedal and power the radio. "Eh, let me dance!" I said, but he refused. "This is my favorite song," he said.
Anyway, here's the interview. Afterward, I returned to school and studied for SAT's.