Kitty Phillips, a student and mentor at Pellissippi State Community College, wanted to help people in need, but she wasn’t sure how to get started.
The answer, she then realized, was on her feet.
With the support of the college’s Blount County Campus, Phillips has organized a shoe drive for the month of September in honor of William Kamkwamba. Kamkwamba, with Bryan Mealer, is co-author of Pellissippi State’s 2011-2012 Common Book, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope.”
The Common Book is part of the school’s Common Academic Experience, which brings guest speakers and activities relevant to the Common Book’s theme to campus. With the primary mission of engaging students, the Common Book is required reading for all Pellissippi State freshmen.
Kamkwamba’s inspirational story is what moved Phillips to action. Using his intellect and ingenuity, he built a windmill that provided the only source of electricity to his impoverished village of Masitala, Malawi. He was 14 years old at the time, with no money and little formal education.
Phillips received “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” at Pellissippi State’s New Student Orientation in May. Once Phillips started the book, she says, she could not put it down. She came away with a resolution: to reach out to others in need and help them.
“I can’t explain why this book touched me so much,” said Phillips, a 43-year-old Friendsville resident and aspiring social worker. “He went through so much. He had so much hope.”
Phillips says she opted for a shoe drive because cash is hard to come by for college students. People who want to donate can bring their shoes to the William “Keith” McCord Lobby at the Blount County Campus, 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Pkwy.
The shoes will be taken to Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that distributes shoes to people in need. Since 2005, the nonprofit organization has given away more than 14 million pairs of new and used shoes to people in 127 countries, including the U.S.
Phillips likens the charity to Kwamkwamba.
“That’s what Soles4Souls is about: hope, through giving shoes,” she said.
Kamkwamba is now a student at Dartmouth College. Since building his first windmill, he has ventured into subsequent projects, among them a deep-water well with a solar-powered pump for clean water and a drip irrigation system.
To learn more about Kamkwamba, visit his blog at www.williamkamkwamba.com.
For more information about how to donate to the shoe drive, call the Blount County Campus at (865) 981-5300.