Friday, March 19, 2010

How To Generate Power

Imagine you are born to a poor farmer in a rural villiage north of Malawi, Africa. You are the only boy in a family of six sisters. You know one thing. You possess basically one skill. You raise maize. In addition, imagine that you are surrounded by 60 families in your small community and that all of them are simple farmers too, poor, uneducated and able to do thing; farm. Furthermore, imagine that your family cannot afford to send you to school, so you must drop out. Imagine that even with all this weighing you down, you must face yet another calamity. A famine strikes your country, your crops dry up, and after five months you, your family and your community are literally starving to death. Oh yeah, and you are just fourteen years old. Remember, you are not from a priveledged class. You do not attend motivational seminars. You have never cruised the Internet, because you do not have a computer. In fact, your villiage does not even have high-speed cable. You are just poor, hungry, isolated, and uneducated. What do you do?

I cannot say what you would do. Most would fret or cry or complain or just lie down and die. Some would pray, beg, borrow or steal. Others might blame or solicit the government or declare war to ultimately pillage and command control. Violence seems like an almost natural reaction in times like these. What would you do?

For William Kamkwamba this was no imaginiative exercise. This was his life. It could have been his death. What did this young man, determined to help his family, do? He looked around and instead of bemoaning what his villiage did not have, instead of decrying his fate, William Kamkwamba looked around and noticed something. He noticed that his villiage had wind. That's where it all started. His villiage had a nice breeze, constant and strong and he wondered if he could harness it.

Though his language skills were poor, he went to the library and began looking at science books when he came across a picture of a windmill. Intrigued, he read a little further and learned that a windmill could harness the wind and generate power, so he determined he would build one. He studied the pictures. He did not complain that he had no money, no materials, no support. He trudged down to the scrap yard. There he scrounged up a tractor fan, a shock absorber, a bike frame, PVC pipe, PCV blades, and a small bicycle generator. When he told his mother what he was planning to do, she told him, just like everyone else, that he was crazy.

Undeterred, he began building anyway. Two months later he had built his first working windmill. The first anyone he knew had ever seen. He uncovered a light bulb, a circut breaker and a light switch. One day he generated enough electricty to play the radio. His family stood amazed as they listened to an African Regee song generated by their son's ingenuity and resolve. When he built a second windmill for irrigation, families began to line up at his door. They, he said, would not go away. Then came the reporters, and his first airplane ride to America, and his first hotel, and the chance to go to school, to get the education he always dreamed of. In America he spoke to windmill experts. More importantly, he generated hope in a dying village. He instilled in their shared memories a new way out of hardship. He inspired faith in the human spirit and highlighted what one person can do when determined, curious, positive and resourceful. He inspired change and saved lives.

So imagine you could instill within your heart William Kamkwamba's spirit. Imagine you could breathe in his qualities of resolve, resourcefulness and the power to press on confidently despite prevailing doubt. Now think for a moment. Imagine what you would do. Imagine what you could accomplish. Imagine how your world would change.

Now let's take this one step further. Stop imagining for a moment and realize that you can. You really can call up that strength within you, because it is already there, just as it was and still is in William Kamkwamba. You have the natural resources, just as he did, to generate hope, love and power. You can. You really can. And that change you were imagining earlier, be honest, is it really more dire than what William Kamkwamba faced? Do you really, in this great country of ours, possess fewer resources, greater hunger, or less hope? If not, then go ahead and challenge yourself to make the change you desire. Stride toward resolution. If it's worthy of your attention and you have the power to transform it, then begin today, so that you can march on with your head up, your shoulders back and your heart fully engaged. You can. You really can.

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