Kindles, Kenyans, and Cameras – A Perfect Storm

_DSC0690 August 2009 was the beginning of my perfect storm. Before then my life’s three big passions rarely overlapped. During the day I’d write software. On weekends I’d photograph landscapes in California’s Sierra Nevada. Once or twice a year I’d get to Kenya to work with The Kilgoris Project. Joining Kindle’s software team five years ago gave me a chance to pull all of my passions together around a single theme – literacy.

As I worked on Kindle I couldn’t help but think “the kids in Kilgoris would love these”. In time I came across David Risher, the co-founder of Worldreader. Worldreader works with publishers to source digital education content and teach schools in the developing world how to use eReaders. The more David and I talked, the more we realized that we had to do something together.

Our crazy idea was to raise enough money to buy 65 Kindles and 5000 eBooks for The Kilgoris Project - 50 for kids and 15 for teachers. After a few stops and starts we delivered the Kindles in June 2011.

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The results were staggering. Children that had never seen a storybook before became readers. Parents became more engaged in their kid’s education. Teachers felt empowered.

For me, it was a turning point as well. My photography became much more important to me after my images from the Kindle rollout were published worldwide by CNN, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. I started to see my camera as a way to tell stories about great things that are happening in the world. Up until then my images sat on a hard drive or my rarely visited web site.

Fast-forwarding a few years this perfect storm keeps going. As I work on Kindles, I think about kids in Kenya who will use them to build better lives. My photography has increasingly become a tool for talking about the things I care about – children’s literacy and the environment. The 65 Kindles have grown to 260 with more on the way. I love this storm!

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This March, The Kilgoris Project and our generous partners are raising $10,000 (just $56 per student) to give the kids at Oltikampu Primary School Kindle e-readers. Will you join us?