Kenya’s Nelly Cheboi, has been named as the CNN Hero of the year 2022

Nelly Cheboi, founder of TechLit Africa has been named as the CNN Hero of the year 2022. The CNN Hero award is given to everyday people who are changing the world in their own little ways. As part of the award, Nelly will receive, Ksh. 1.2 Million to expand her work in the community.

Nelly grew up in poverty where she witnessed her single mother toiling in order to pay for school fees and put food on the table. From an early age, Nelly realized that her family as well as others in her community were stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty, and it became clear to her that she needed to do something to change this fact.

Despite the challenges that she faced while in school, from hunger to being sent home for fees every other time, Nelly worked hard and managed to excel. This saw her win a full scholarship to Augustana College in Illinois in 2012 where and began her studies with almost no computer experience. When she started school, she never felt comfortable using a computer preferring to handwrite papers and struggling to transcribe them on a laptop later. This was until her junior year when she took a Java course that was required for her mathematics major.

When she took up the Java course, she fell in love with computer science immediately because it was something that she felt could benefit her community. She ended up graduating with a double major for her bachelor’s degree. As a software engineer, Nelly was able to interact with many I.T companies in the U.S which would dump old computers in landfills every time they wanted to upgrade. This gave her an idea whereby she could ship these computers back home to her village to teach school kids I.T skills.

In 2018, she began accepting recycled computers from these companies and started carrying these machines to Kenya in check-on bags and handling customs fees and taxes herself.

Nowadays, TechLit Africa works with freight and shipping companies to transport the donated computers so it’s more cost efficient. The donated hardware is wiped, refurbished and distributed to partner schools in Kenya, where students aged 4 to 12 receive daily classes and frequent opportunities to learn from professionals and gain skills that will help improve their education and prepare them for future jobs.

TechLit Africa maintains online and onsite ownership of the computers, providing tech support, software updates and troubleshooting. TechLit Africa installs new customer operating systems geared towards children, and schools are asked to pay a small fee for the services, which includes TechLit educators onsite from 8am-4pm. They are currently serving 10 schools, and by early next year, they hope to have partnered with 100 more.