When we say he taught himself, what we meant to say was that he went to the library and read a British book called Explaining Physics despite not really knowing how to read English. So step one of operation "Save my entire village" was combining your science and foreign language homework, except replace the part where you complain to your mom about making you do it, with voluntarily doing it in order to save your mom's life.
Feel awful yet? Great! On to step two! Next he went to the junkyard every day, picking up random stuff that sort of looked like the parts he saw in the diagram and began painstakingly assembling them into a giant windmill. Of course, painstaking has a different definition in Africa. He didn't have tools of any sort, not even a drill or a proper hammer. He had to bang the rusty nails he found with rocks until they got hot enough to burn holes into the pipes he was trying to drive them through. Like a cross between Captain Lou Albano and Don Quixote, Kamkwamba ran back and forth from his nail heating rocks to his pile of garbage that he claimed was going to be a windmill. While everyone in his village laughed at him, he managed to get enough nails hot enough to drive into enough garbage to build a windmill that saved all of their lives.
"Can you hear me saying, 'Told you so,' all the way down there? Because I could totally build a walkie talkie?"
Kamkwamba's windmill worked so well, even during droughts, that he was accused of witchcraft. It also provides enough energy to charge mobile phones, run radios and power the lights - no small feat in a country where only two percent of the population has electricity.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Know way too much about a random topic? Create a topic page and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!
For more people who lived in squalor but are still better than you, check out 5 Homeless Guys Who Accomplished Amazing Things. Or find out how you can craft your own booze, in Nectar of the Broke: The World's 5 Worst Ways To Get Drunk.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 05.19.10) to see the fort Jack O'Brien constructed out of his underwear.
And don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get dick jokes sent straight to your news feed.