Kenyan Nelly Cheboi is the CNN Hero of the Year

Her novel and innovative project, setting up computer labs for Kenyan schoolchildren, saw her declared the winner from among 10 other nominee

Kenya’s 29-year-old Nelly Cheboi is the 2022 CNN Hero of the Year.

Her novel and innovative project, setting up computer labs for Kenyan schoolchildren, saw her declared the winner from among 10 other nominees.

Cheboi, who in 2019 quit a lucrative software engineering job in Chicago to focus on the project, is set to receive $100,000 (Sh12.3 million) that will be channeled to her lab projects.

She and the other top 10 heroes honoured at Sunday’s gala will all receive a $10,000 (Sh1.2 million) cash award and, for the first time, additional grants, organizational training and support from The Elevate Prize Foundation through a new collaboration with CNN Heroes.

Cheboi will also be named an Elevate Prize winner, which comes with a $300,000 (Sh36.9 million) grant and additional support worth $200,000 for her non-profit.

Cheboi’s firm, TechLit Africa, has provided thousands of students across rural Kenya with access to computers which are now key in building productive citizens of a global tech scene.

In 2012, , Cheboi received a full scholarship to Augustana College in Illinois, United States of America.

When started her studies, she did not have any experience in computers. However, she soon took a programming course required for her mathematics major.

“When I discovered computer science, I just fell in love with it,” she told CNN>

“I knew that this is something that I wanted to do as my career, and also bring it to my community.”

Many basic computer skills were still a steep learning curve, however. Cheboi remembers having to practice touch-typing for six months before she could pass a coding interview. Touch-typing is a skill that is now a core part of the TechLit curriculum.

“I feel so accomplished seeing kids that are 7 years old touch-typing, knowing that I just learned how to touch-type less than five years ago,” she said.

Once she had begun working in the software industry, Cheboi soon realized the extent of which computers were being thrown away as companies upgraded their technology infrastructure.

“We have kids here (in Kenya) — myself included, back in the day — who don’t even know what a computer is,” she said.

So, in 2018, she began transporting donated computers back to Kenya — in her personal luggage, handling customs fees and taxes herself.

“At one point, I was bringing 44 computers, and I paid more for the luggage than I did for the air ticket,” she said


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