a children's book project on young education activists from around the world, portraits, illustration by penelope dullaghan

Thank you for all the kind comments on yesterday’s young activist portrait! For Day 2, this portrait is of William Kamkwamba. William was born in a family of relative poverty and relied primarily on farming to survive. A crippling famine forced William to drop out of school, and he was not able to return to school because his family was unable to afford the tuition fee. In a desperate attempt to retain his education, William began to frequently visit the school library. It was there that he discovered the book “Using Energy” in which he found rough plans on how to create a makeshift wind turbine.

When he was just 14, he built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap, modifying them to fit his needs. The windmill he built powers four lights and two radios in his family home.

His dream was to build a larger windmill to help with irrigation for his entire village, and to go back to school. And in 2014, Kamkwamba received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire where he was a student and elected to the Sphinx Senior Honor Society. He is now working with WiderNet to develop appropriate technology curriculum that will allow people to bridge the gap between “knowing” and “doing”.

Find out more about William at: williamkamkwamba.com