BLUFFTON, S.C. (WTOC) - Tens of thousands of children in Kenya will soon have new libraries in their schools thanks to a non-profit based in Bluffton and one man’s efforts that started with a single book.
A team of volunteers is preparing the latest shipment of books to arrive in Kenya as part of a project based in the Lowcountry.
“We funded eight container loads of books to Africa,” said Roy Austin, Founder and Chair of Libraries 4 Kids. “Those eight containers will create libraries in 1,200 schools.”
Austin started the non-profit after an African safari a few years ago.
“The tour included all these visits to homes and schools and villages and churches and markets and so forth. I didn’t care about that. I just want to see the animals in the wild while they’re still in the wild,” Austin said.
Austin’s trip to Africa turned out to be life-changing thanks to one of those school visits he almost overlooked.
“Someone in our tour group asked, ‘Do you have a library?’ and her eyes lit up and she smiled. She said ‘No, but we’d love to.’ I could not get that out of my head. I kept thinking, how hard can this be,” said Austin.
Austin started by shipping one book, then a box, and soon he was sending hundreds of books.
“The 11 schools that we shipped to, I guess that would have been maybe 1,500 books,” he said.
Austin says this has become a full-time effort and a blessing during a time of grief over the past year.
“My wife died last March, 29th. She was a big supporter of this project and she would be very upset with me if I didn’t continue to try to build and grow up. But it gives me a sense of purpose and keeping on,” said Austin.
Libraries 4 Kids teamed up with Books for Africa to start shipping containers filled with 20,000 to 30,000 books each. The first started arriving this week.
“Those eight containers will impact the lives of 180,000 children. So, it’s far more than I initially imagined but only the beginning,” Austin said.
As the containers filled with books make their way across the ocean, Austin’s vision keeps expanding.
“My short-term vision is a million children. And I say that because, in Kenya, there are over 6,700 rural schools without internet. They’re small, 150 students on average, so, 150 times 6,700, that’s over a million,” explained Austin.
To learn more about Libraries 4 Kids, click here.