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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

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This is an inspirational story about the author, William, who as a boy went to school initially and developed a love of science. After making a small income with his friends repairing radios, famine struck the land in 2002 and he decided to build a windmill from scraps of metal and wire to bring electricity to his house and village which could be used in future to irrigate crops. This achievement made an enormous difference to William's village since his father can now harvest 2 crops a year and a new willingness to embrace science has resulted in solar panels on the school roof.

The village community in which William was raised were almost entirely self sufficient and the villagers lives were spent labouring for food and warmth. Their resilience through the famine was extraordinary.

Parts of the book were quite harrowing and it gave us some insight into the experience of a famine by someone who has lived through it. The value of aid and the difference it can make was reinforced to many within the group and the importance of giving to NGO's rather than governments was emphasised. David Livingstone went to Malawi to initiate trade originally but noted the poorness of the land for growing crops. Now it has been largely deforested for firewood making the situation worse. William describes a country where in 2002 most of the people had no source of electricity and belief in magic was widespread. His vision for the windmill and determination to build it with just the support of his 2 friends, Gilbert and Geoffrey, is astonishing. Despite facing frequent setbacks he never abandoned the project.

An interesting effect of the famine was the change in custom of men and women eating separately. Another observation was the threat of education to established power bases which had been noted in our discussion of our previous book, Malala.

This book would make a very good film and we would like to continue to follow the life of William to see if he returns to Malawi after finishing his studies. We would also be interested to discover, since 2015 is the deadline year, the extent to which the millennium goals have been achieved.

Michele Challenger – May 2015

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