My portfolio of images from the Kindle rollout at The Kilgoris Project in western Kenya has won an award in the International Travel Photographer Of The Year Awards. The images will hang in the Royal Geographic Society during the London Olympics. As thrilled as I am, this is even more meaningful because of the publicity it will create for the kids I work with in Kenya. The Kilgoris Project operates five schools in the Maasai region of western Kenya. For the 450 children who attend these schools, getting access to books has been a constant struggle because the schools had no library and only a limited supply of text books. This all changed in June when, in partnership with Worldreader, The Kilgoris Project rolled out Kindles in one of the schools.
It is difficult to explain the impact of Kindles on the students. Statistics like 65 Kindles with 90 books each (over 5000 books total) give an idea of the scale, but not the life changing nature of access to books. One way to understand the impact is through the eyes of a 9 year old girl. Namunyak lives with her parents and three brothers and sisters in rural Kenya. Every day before school she fetches water, helps her mother milk cows, and prepares breakfast for the family. When the chores are done and everyone has eaten, she walks three miles through scrub and bush to school.
At school, Namunyak's classroom only has two sets of books - one set contains an English workbook for each student, the other is a set of Kiswahili workbooks. There are no novels, no books to read, no extra material to expand Namunyak's knowledge beyond the basic Kenyan syllabus.
On June 22nd, Kindles arrived in Namunyak's classroom. When students first picked up a Kindle they saw it as some kind of crazy gadget - maybe a giant phone. Then, as each student selected a title for the first time, their face showed a sense of awe as the gadget became a book. Suddenly there was more to read than just the third grade activity book. Suddenly a whole world of books came in to the classroom.
Now Namunyak gets to read as much as she wants. Worldreader has worked with local Kenyan publishers so the books on Namunyak's Kindle contain subjects and themes that matter to her. The English language titles help her learn a new language, the Kiswahili titles allow her to learn without having to struggle with foreign words.
A little girl who has never picked up a story book before now has a magic book. A magic book that will teach her to read, expand her mind, and give her the chance to dream of becoming a teacher, doctor, lawyer, or whatever she chooses to be.
If you would like to support The Kilgoris Project either contact them directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or donate using PayPal. The Kilgoris Project is a 501c(3) charity and donations are tax deductible.