Creating currents of electricity and hope

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’ is One Community, One Book choice for fall 2013

By Katelyn McBride for Iowa Now

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, co-authored by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, is the 2013 selection for the One Community, One Book annual reading program, sponsored by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights.

The book tells Kamkwamba’s inspiring story of human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a land withered by drought and hunger, where hope and opportunity were hard to find. He had read about windmills and dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village, thus changing his life and the lives of those around him.

But his goal to study science in one of Malawi’s top boarding schools came to a halt in 2002 when his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the 80-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, Kamkwamba was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved to death.

Yet Kamkwamba refused to let go of his dreams. He embarked on a plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford—electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, he created a windmill that eventually powered four lights, as well as a second machine that turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.


William Kamkwamba

Now in its 13th year, One Community, One Book encourages community members to read and come together to discuss the same book selection with a human rights or social justice theme.

This year, students in the Iowa City Community School District will also be participating in the program with book clubs at each school. The Iowa City A.M. Rotary will be purchasing copies of the book for use in the schools, including a young readers edition intended for ages 6-9.

Discussion forums will be held in a variety of locations this fall and more information will be posted at www.uichr.org when available.

The UI Center for Human Rights is currently part of International Programs but will move to the UI College of Law on July 1. The website will still be accessible at www.uichr.org.

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