April 2022 Issue
By Roy Austin
When you were in school did you:
Have books to read at home?
Have your own textbooks?
Did your school have a library?
Rural schools in Kenya have few books, and in some cases, no books. Often 20-30 children must share one textbook. How would your education have been affected if you had to share your English, Math or Science book with even one other child?
The mission of Libraries for Kids, International, which is a South Carolina non-profit corporation, is to help rural schools with little or no electricity or internet establish libraries. The goal is to get as many books as possible in the hands of as many children as possible. Currently, the organization is operating in Kenya where there are more than 6,700 rural schools averaging about 225 students in each for a total of about 1.5 million children. So far, Libraries for Kids has created libraries in 1,609 schools, impacting 360,000 children.
It costs money to ship containers full of books and then it costs money to deliver the books to the schools. Kenya is almost as big as Texas, and while most main roads are paved, the rural schools are not on these highways, but are hidden away on the sides of mountains or in deep valleys. In many cases, they are inaccessible by car or truck, so books are delivered by motorcycle. Sometimes even motorcycles can’t get there, so boxes of books are hand-carried.
Rural schools are disadvantaged relative to urban schools, which have libraries, books and computers. The Kenyan government only gives the rural schools $5.50 per student per year which must pay for books, supplies, building maintenance, support staff and everything else. All students in Kenya take annual national exams. Exam scores determine whether a student can advance from primary to secondary schools. Rural students do not score as well as urban students because they lack educational resources like books, libraries and computers. Libraries For Kids, International aims to level the playing field and give rural kids a chance to be competitive.
Lowcountry locals have come together to support this mission in holding a Wine and Charcuterie Tasting on April 23, which happens to also be World Book Day. The goal of this fundraiser is to raise money to ship more containers, each holding 40,000 to 50,000 books! The organization has a dedicated team on the ground in Kenya lead by Wanjiku Francis (“Ciku”). Ciku is the Operations Coordinator and has overcome great obstacles to get books delivered to many rural schools. She is an amazing and resourceful young lady and truly embodies the philosophy of the organization that “everything is figureoutable!”
Kenya is the starting point. There have been requests from several other East African countries and potential Operations Coordinators have been identified in Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. The Libraries for Kids, International concept can go anywhere in the world where there are rural schools with little or no electricity or internet access.
If You Go: Books Open Opportunities for Kids
These children dream of being doctors, lawyers, pilots, engineers, teachers and many other professions. The Wine and Charcuterie tasting will help these children have the opportunity to realize their dreams. To purchase tickets, please contact Founder Roy Austin at 843-597-4826 or Laura Winkel at 609-402-6025. To donate and learn more about Libraries for Kids log on to www.libraries4kids.org.