Children in Maai Mahiu, Kenya, may not have much access to modern education, but they’re getting the latest in digital reading technology thanks to a Kansas-based program called Kansas to Kenya.
Last May, Kathy Miller, a Woodlawn School paraprofessional in special education and a member of K2K, spent 10 days in Kenya teaching eager children in Maai Mahiu how to use e-readers. The children were introduced to the new technology by a partnership of K2K, a generous family from Wichita and Worldreader International, a nonprofit group that helps spread e-books to developing countries.
“I enjoy working with kids, and I want to bring knowledge to them,” said Miller, who plans to go back to Kenya with K2K this summer. “I want to help make their life better.”
The Osborne Library in Maai Mahiu opened last November, in a building built with a donation from John and Renee Osborne of Wichita. John is actively involved with charity work in Wichita and named the library in honor of his father, the late Rev. H. Paul Osborne, a longtime Episcopal priest in Wichita. John Osborne said donating money to help build a library seemed fitting because his father was focused on reading and education.
The purpose of the library was to help fulfill the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal to achieve universal primary education in developing countries. Steve Segebrecht, the director of K2K, said the group chose to work in Kenya because one of the primary targets of this Millennium Development Goal was sub-Saharan countries in Africa.
“They were falling so far behind in terms of poverty and women’s rights, education equality and health issues such as HIV, TB, malaria,” Segebrecht said.
K2K is a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 and led by members of the Episcopal Diocese in Kansas. Its goal is to work with other organizations to improve living in Kenya through various projects. For example, in addition to co-founding the digital library, members have helped Maai Mahiu residents learn about health, sanitation and irrigation methods. They also have built houses, provided health care, paid school fees for orphans and more.
Linda Vander Velde, the goal coordinator for K2K, said many of the children in Maai Mahiu do not have access to traditional paper books. Even the schools have very few books, and most of them are in poor condition. In many of the classrooms, one or two books are shared among about 40 students.
“The passion is to put them in touch with a whole world of reading and ideas and dreams that can potentially change their lives and change the lives of their community and their nation,” Vander Velde said. “It expands their imagination; it creates thinking processes that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Why e-readers? Miller said the devices are cheap and easy to transport overseas, and they can hold thousands of books. K2K raised money to pay for the e-books and Kindles for the library last spring during its Medieval Feast and auction. The group will hold another feast and auction to raise money for more books in April.
Worldreader supplied 37 Kindles and many books at a discount price. Its mission is to bring books to developing countries in order to improve lives.
“We’re particularly taken by the fact that they (K2K) are helping for the long term, year after year,” said David Risher, CEO and co-founder of Worldreader. “We love working with strong organizations like Kansas to Kenya that share our dream, and thank them for being enthusiastic partners and leaders in education in Africa.”
When K2K purchased the e-readers, it also purchased 50 books by African authors and 50 books from other authors around the world. Segebrecht said K2K is accepting donations to purchase more books. To make a donation, go to kansas2kenya.com or send a check or money order to Kansas to Kenya at 835 SW Polk St., Topeka, KS 66612.