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The Boy Who Built Me

Madison Loughlin

July 29th, 2020


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba was the inspiration for this poem.

The boy who built me

started slowly. He built me in his mind. He

wanted to tame, to understand, to hold lightning in his hands.

He begins to dream. I am his dreams. He is in awe of me.

In his dreams, I am the light in the midst of darkness. I am that which keeps the soil fertile.

I am the promise of a different present. I am the cure for the cries of hunger.

He builds me slowly.

Pieces of me are saved from hills of scrap.

Pieces of him are daily doubted.

The people of Wimbe claim that I am just a fool’s dream.

I do not blame them. Hardship, like sand, can destroy hope until it is pitted and gone.

But while they question, he builds me slowly.

The boy took a long time finding my heart.

He never does. It comes to him as a gift in a moment of joy and determination.

I am almost breathing.

I have so many promises to keep. I am nearly built.

The boy who built me is petrified. I have consumed him, I am of him.

If I do not work...

Through a moment of frozen tension, the wind begins to blow,

and the eyes of the boy who built me begin to glow with hope

and lightning.

In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba explains that the futures of Malawians are circumscribed by limited resources, wealth, and access to commodities.

The cycle of farming chains the people of Malawi as it narrows their visions to a single point, which decides the rest of their life. William mentions, “Being born Malawian automatically made you a farmer. I think it’s written in the constitution somewhere, like a law passed down from Moses.” In addition, if there is a famine or if crops fail, education and schooling become secondary. Consequences of famine include debt, not just starvation. In order to improve the standards of one’s life, an individual has to exploit the resources they do have and show initiative. They have to force parts of their life to be decided by something other than “rain and the price of fertilizer and seeds.” William’s identity is guided by his home, and his struggles and experiences as a child shape his aspirations. William builds a windmill after learning that a windmill could rotate a pump for water and irrigation. He mentions that a water pump could allow his family and others to harvest twice a year, providing them with year-round crops, which would release them “from the troubles of darkness and hunger.” William was able to use his love for his heritage to “power” his intentions. This passion leads to chances for William to receive an additional education beyond what was available to him in his village. William’s passion and pride also push him to continue to build his windmill, even when many mocked and doubted him. William stays firm in his beliefs when others doubted him, which is a true example of courage. He defies judgments and assumptions made by other people.

William’s future rests in the hands of things which cannot be controlled: the weather, the crop growth, the fertility of the fields, and the beliefs and openness of his family and his political leaders. I can only begin to comprehend how discouraging and heartbreaking such limitations are for such a passionate and ambitious individual. Nothing in my life is so preordained. My life is more privileged and does not contain obstacles of this intensity, and my priorities are different because of that. Most importantly, I don't really have to be concerned about the issue of survival. Reading this was shocking and powerful for me, even though I do not share those exact experiences.

In William’s case, his devotion to Malawi and resolving Malawian issues and pain pushes further and further in his quest. I truly believe that achieving your goals inevitably means confronting obstacles and failures, which can ultimately be beneficial to your resolve. Furthermore, if you are fueled by something greater than yourself, something which aids others, then those around you can also be enabled and empowered. I think that not only wanting to improve the life of yourself, but to improve the lives of others is the best kind of fuel.

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