We are so thrilled to have Tavia Kowalchuk, Marketing Director for William Morrow, Eos and Cookbooks (imprints of HarperCollins Publishers) as a guest blogger today. Tavia is excited about the publication of the forthcoming title, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
The buzz is building for the soon-to-be-released THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND –the inspirational true story about an enterprising teenager in Malawi who built a windmill from scraps found around his village and brought electricity—and a future—to himself and his family.
William Kamkwamba, grew up poor in Malawi, Africa, a country suffering from poverty, famine, AIDS and lack of basic services like plumbing and electricity. When William was 14 and unable to attend school because his family couldn’t afford the $80 tuition, he began thinking a lot about electricity. After being given a book about windmills by his local librarian, he decided to build his own using scrap metal, tractor parts, and blue-gum trees, which grew near his village. William’s home-made contraption succeeded in supplying electricity to his family’s compound. You can click here to read an excerpt from his memoir before the book is on sale (September 29th), but in the meantime, here is an exclusive interview with the librarian in Malawi who gave William the book that changed his life.
Meet librarian Edith Sikelo. Mrs. Sikelo was sitting behind her desk at the library when William first walked in.
She quickly noticed his interest in science books and encouraged him to keep reading. His library card soon grew to several pages, which Sikelo now keeps to show visitors, and to brandish to younger students as an example of success.
Mrs. Sikelo was recently interviewed by Tom Rielly, Community Director of the TED Conference, a major party in promoting William’s story throughout the world.
Q: How did the library come to Wimbe village?
A: The library came to Wimbe because of a certain NGO which came to help teachers, the Malawi Teacher Training Authority (MTTA) It was helping teachers academically and professionally. These books were sent by the Americans to help us. This is how these books came to Malawi.
Q: Was the library only for the teachers?
A: No the library was for the teachers, the students, and the community. Everyone used the library
Q: Was the library installed before the Hunger?
A: Yes, in 2000, just one year before the Hunger. It was terrible because I remember people were dying of hunger. Many starved. I remember people lost weight, they had swollen legs, their hair was grey, even their faces changed.
Q: How many books do you have in your library?
A: We have 900 books.
Q: What kind of books do you have in the library?
A: We have science, history, geography, fiction, mathematics, and others.
Q: Since the original books came have there been other books added to the collection. And, do you need more?
A: No, we have not received any other books. Yes, we need more books for the library, for example, science, mathematics, and fiction. We also need some picture books for young children.
Q: When did you meet William?
A: I first met him in 2001, though he knew me from school and the community.
Q: What kind of books did William like?
A: Because of his interest in science, he used to borrow science books from the library. One of the books I will mention is Using Energy, a science book.
Q: What books did he check out most frequently?
A: Using Energy, Explaining Physics, and an English grammar book.
Q: How did you discover that he had dropped out of school?
A: William was a dropout because I asked him whether he was very keen at reading or whether he was going to write examinations and he said no, but I’m making something. I didn’t ask him why he dropped out of school, but I think it was because of the hunger. I knew his parents could not pay his school fees as they were striving to buy maize for his family.
Q: When did you become aware that he was building something in his home?
A: It was a time when I was checking out that the boy has been borrowing these books most frequent. In 2002 when I asked him why he liked to borrow these books and he told me he was building something and these books are helping me.
Q: Did you go to visit his home?
A: After I visited his home I found a windmill that was producing some light. I told him I was going to tell someone about what he’d done, and I told my boss who told the NGO that installed the library. The MTTA’s deputy director Dr. Hartford Mchazime then came to visit. He was overwhelmed. He said we need to do something for the boy and he needs to go back to school.
Q: Do you feel proud of William?
A: I feel proud of William because he will make history, and at one time or another he is going to remember me. He was a dropout and then he has just come back into the system of education. He didn’t think he was going again to school, he thought it is ended. As he is now I think he has become something really great.
Read William’s blog, watch a video and learn more about his nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing wind power to villages all over Malawi.
William Morrow, Eos Books & Cookbooks