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Why You Should Never, Ever Give Up on Your Dreams

2011 April 2
by Marquita Herald

It can be so tempting to fall into “if only” thinking when you’re faced with obstacles to achieving your dreams and goals . . . if only I had more time, more money, a better education. Sometimes seeing what others have accomplished despite the enormous odds against them helps to steel our own resolve. I hope you’ll find this story as inspiring as I do.

William K never give up on your dreamsWilliam Kamkwamba, from Malawi, is a born inventor. When he was 14, he built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap, working from rough plans he found in a library book called Using Energy and modifying them to fit his needs. The windmill he built powers four lights and two radios in his family home.

After reading about Kamkwamba on Mike McKay’s blog Hactivate (which picked up the story from a local Malawi newspaper), TEDGlobal Conference Director Emeka Okafor spent several weeks tracking him down at his home in Masitala Village, Wimbe, and invited him to attend TEDGlobal on a fellowship. Here, Kamkwamba talks about his invention and shared his dreams: to build a larger windmill to help with irrigation for his entire village, and to go back to school.

Following Kamkwamba’s moving talk, there was an outpouring of support for him and his promising work. Members of the TED community got together to help him improve his power system (by incorporating solar energy), and further his education through school and mentorships. Subsequent projects have included clean water, malaria prevention, solar power and lighting for the six homes in his family compound; a deep-water well with a solar-powered pump for clean water; and a drip irrigation system. Kamkwamba himself returned to school, and is now attending the African Leadership Academy, a new pan-African prep school outside Johannesburg, South Africa.

Kamkwamba’s story is documented in his autobiography, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. A short documentary about Kamkwamba, called Moving Windmills, won several awards last year; Kamkwamba and friends are now working on a full-length film. You can read the ongoing details on his blog (which he keeps with help from his mentor), and support his work and other young inventors at

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8 Responses
  1. March 13, 2012

    If you watch the movie spider man there’s a message their that peter parker says “I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us … we have to be steady and give up the thing we want most, even our dreams.

  2. les permalink
    February 25, 2012

    what a great article, very inspiring, well done.

  3. June 3, 2011

    Hi Marty,

    What I find amazing is how others jumped on board to help this gentleman achieve his dream.

    It just shows, if you can dream it, you can achieve it and many times others will help you along your journey.

    Never under estimate the power of a dream.

    willie recently posted..Defining What It Means to Be an Internet MarketerMy Profile

  4. Irene Berney permalink
    April 2, 2011

    What an Inspiration to All of Us.

    This young man shows : That Mega achievers never came to understand the word, You can’t.

    This young man HAD A DREAM

    Lovely story to share. Thank you for sharing this with me.

    Irene Berney recently posted..Why A Network Of WomenMy Profile

  5. ruth konig permalink
    April 2, 2011

    Kamkwamba’s story about finding a physics book should be a lesson to all of us in that ones trash may be someone else’s treasure.

    Also, we should NEVER judge someone’s limitations. How shallow are we to think that sending a physics book to an under developed country would be of no value to them!!
    I believe that sometimes, we harness our own limitations by how we project what we do for other and this is just wrong.

    When we are sorting through our “things”; coming across old schools book, I know I have tossed them away.
    Kamkwamba’s video has inspired me to search for ways to turn those books over to organizations who will send them to countries who have not the means to purchase their own. If anyone know of any in Canada, please share.

    I will join Kamkwamba’s blog to follow his story. Thanks for sharing this story!

    • Marty permalink
      April 2, 2011

      Thank you for sharing your insights Ruth. I don’t have any contacts in Canada I’m afraid, but I do have another suggestion for anyone interested in passing on inspirational or children’s books. Many domestic violence / women’s shelters welcome the opportunity to have positive reinforcement reading material on hand for their clients. Thanks again Ruth!

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