BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) – It’s something kids here might take for granted every day — the ability to have a textbook or any kind of book of their own.
One Lowcountry man is working to make that a reality for all kids, starting in Africa.
“The teacher was using sheets of cloth with pictures drawn on them to teach kids numbers or fruits,” explained Roy Austin.
He saw these scenes when he went to Kenya three years ago and it spurred him on to create Libraries For Kids International.
The program has now helped students in 378 schools around the African country.
“Some of these kids have never seen a novel,” Austin said. “They have never seen a storybook.”
Wanjiku Francis is the liaison on the ground in Kenya, helping distribute books to kids in rural schools.
“Most of the subjects we had only one textbook,” said Francis. “That textbook is there but some pages are missing.”
Some schools only receive $5.50 per student for education, including schoolhouses.
“Some of them don’t even know how to read but you see their faces and they are so excited. You just look at them and say, ‘Wow, now this is worth it.’ Because this kid is already interested in the book that is there,” said Francis.
“He (the teacher) emailed me and said enrollment has skyrocketed since we got books,” said Austin. “Scores are going up on the annual exams and parents are coming in at night for additional education.”
What started with mailing a box of books from Bluffton is now shipping containers full of thousands of texts and novels.
“You have an opportunity to make this person’s life better, easier than it was for me,” said Wanjiku. “To give these kids a chance to go to Form 1 or even make a complete sentence. Some don’t even know how to read.”
“When I hear Wanjiku talk, when I get emails from the teachers about the impact it’s having. It brings tears to your eyes,” said Austin.
“I am able to change someone’s life,” Wanjiku smiled.
Austin has a partner organization that is helping get the books. His team is delivering them — but it all costs money.
He is hoping to get more donations, even a corporate sponsor to help the cause, and help him bring this program not just to Kenya but to other underprivileged children around the world.
If you would like to help go to libraries4kids.org.