Chapters Thirteen & Fourteen

Summary: Chapter Thirteen

William continues to experiment with Geoffrey and Gilbert. William creates a radio transmitter, although its range is very short. He builds a water pump to draw water from the well, due to the materials that he uses to build, the pump is too difficult to operate. William is concerned over the continued deforestation in Malawi, which increases droughts and flooding. He creates a metal coil that can boil water with the electricity from the windmill. He also tries to create biogas, but he just ruins his mother’s cooking pot. 

Later, William’s mother gets malaria and becomes extremely sick. She is eventually hospitalized before she improves. Not long after, Chief Wimbe, Gilbert’s father, dies. There is a large funeral, and many people visit from the surrounding area. Gilbert’s cousin takes over as the new chief. In May of 2004, President Muluzi steps down and a new president is elected. The new president offers subsidies to farmers. Some of the relief reaches the farmers, but much of it is lost to corruption. When another drought destroys crops across the country, many citizens fall back on superstition. William describes how many people become obsessed with magic and curses, some of them even accusing him of causing the drought with his windmill. The government and foreign relief efforts are able to intervene before widespread famine kills more people. 

William joins a club where young people help distribute information about HIV and AIDS, to stop its rampant spread. William even writes a play to help people understand the need for clinics and AIDS testing. William’s community enjoys the play. One of the teachers at the Wimbe Primary is impressed by William’s play, and by his windmill. He asks William to start a science club at the primary school. William builds a small windmill for them that can power a radio. The students are all impressed, and William’s dream of bringing electricity to the people of Malawi is renewed.

Summary: Chapter Fourteen

Some officials from the Malawi Teacher Training Activity (MTTA) express interest in William’s windmill at the school. Dr. Mchazime, the head of the MTTA then drives five hours to Wimbe to meet William. He realizes that William should be in school and have access to more resources. Dr. Mchazime arranges for reporters to interview William. William is in the newspaper and on the radio. William’s story eventually reaches a software engineer named Soyapi Mumba, who works in Malawi. 

William’s story spreads to the Internet. Dr. Mchazime pressures the education system and raises money in his office to send William to a boarding school in Madisi. William travels to Madisi and is excited that the roof of the school does not leak, he has his own desk, and the science class is taught in a lab. Dr. Mchazime contacts William and tells him that William will be going to Tanzania for a TED conference. William is given dress clothes and rides in an airplane for the first time. Aboard the plane, William is seated next to Soyapi Mumba, who is partly responsible for William getting invited to the TED conference.

Analysis: Chapters Thirteen & Fourteen

Despite all of William’s scientific progress, his community slips into superstitious beliefs and uses magic when another drought threatens their lives. Magic has always been a part of William’s community, but now it truly conflicts with William’s plans. In their paranoia, believers come to blame the drought on the windmill. They obsess over curses and magic. William’s conflict with this magical thinking leads him to another crucial point in his journey. Instead of focusing solely on the windmill, William sets himself to work on other problems in his community. He knows that magical remedies will not work, and now possesses the scientific knowledge to help people. He sees that passing along that knowledge is the only way to help those in need. Through education, people will be able to make better choices for their health and success.

When William finds like-minded students who want to change Malawi for the better, mutual support is highlighted as a major theme. Instead of relying only on neighbors or close friends, William makes connections beyond his village and even beyond Malawi. At one time, William saw Malawi as tiny, and his problems as tiny in comparison to the largeness of the world. But William has been learning that his problems are not insignificant, and neither is his impact. William finds people who want to help, and people he can help in return. William’s work on the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a perfect example of mutual support. Teaching science is another. William then finds supporters who he has never met online. William has received help in many ways from his community in his quest to build the windmill. Now, that support extends to people who care about Malawi’s future from around the globe.