Author Bryan Mealer to speak at Maumee ValleyWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When he first read of William Kamkwamba’s story, Bryan Mealer was inspired. However, it wasn’t until he visited he village that he was sincerely moved.
“It was a really inspiring story that anyone can read it and it went against the grain of what was normally coming out of Africa,” Mealer said. “It’s like a story that every human being loves to read. When I made my first trip there in March that I was like, ‘wow, this is a fantastic story.’”
Mealer will be speaking as part of the Maumee Valley Country Day School Global Education Program April 13 in the Millennium Theater.
Kamkwamba, a teenager at the time, is the focal point in Mealer’s book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” which tells the story of how Kamkwamba built a windmill out of scrap metal in order to power his family’s home.
Kamkwamba’s family was pushed near the point of starvation in 2002 when one of the worst famines in Malawi’s history struck. His father, a maize and tobacco farmer, was unable to afford school fees, causing Kamkwamba to seek an education through the small, rundown public library.
In an old British science book, Kamkwamba was able to teach himself physics with the diagrams and photos. His windmill included parts such as tractor fans, shock absorbers, a plastic pipe and bicycle parts which yielded 12 volts of electricity.
Jarin Jaffee, co-director of Maumee Valley’s global education program, said Mealer was asked to speak because his book has a “very powerful message” that any individual can make a contribution to improve their community.
The theme this year addresses environmental issues. The first speaker Michael Maniates, a professor of political science and environmental science at Allegheny College in Meadville, Penn., discussed cutting the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil.
Mealer’s lecture is to help show the impact of an individual’s work and the third speaker, M. Sanjayan, the lead scientist of the Nature Conservancy, will talk about the environmental challenges are being addressed on the macro and micro levels.
Jaffee said the book, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” was assigned to all grades above fifth because of its message and the variety of topics the book discusses while focusing on Kamkwamba’s story.
“This isn’t a book about the environment or alternative energies, but it teaches that,” he said. “It’s not a book about poverty, but it teaches about it in third world countries and famine. It talks about survival and community. There are so many areas this books touches and it focuses on a teenager. It’s not only very readable and accepted throughout our school, it’s also a very powerful message.”
Jaffee said he hopes students and members of the community feel empowered to make strides toward improving the quality of their lives in Northwest Ohio. Because students at Maumee Valley receive an education, he believes there is no limit as to what they can accomplish.
“If he can do that, what can our kids do? They have a new $10 million building we just opened upl. We have one computer for every two or three students; they’re getting the best education in Northwest Ohio,” he said. “If William Kamkwamba can build a windmill for his village, certainly our students have the capacity to make change in their own lives and families and communities and we want them to feel empowered by that.”