From the Kenyan Slum of Mogotio to Becoming CNN’s Hero of the Year, the Story of Nelly Cheboi

From the Kenyan Slum of Mogotio to Becoming CNN’s Hero of the Year, the Story of Nelly Cheboi

Harriet Tubman, an American abolitionist, once said “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”   This is the story of Nelly Cheboi, a 29-year-old Kenyan who grew up in poverty in Mogotio, a rural township in Kenya, but received a full scholarship to study computer science at Augustana College in Illinois, United States. When she began working in the western software industry, she became aware of the extent to which computers were being discarded as companies upgraded their technology infrastructure. So she began bringing back refurbished and donated computers to Kenya.

With only 8.8% of Kenya’s 12 million conventional households reported having a desktop computer, laptop or tablet according to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census,  Nelly Cheboi alongside a fellow software engineer quit their lucrative jobs in America to found TechLit Africa (short for Technologically Literate) in 2019, a non-profit that provides students across rural Kenya with access to donated, upcycled computers.

TechLit Africa currently has 4,000 students from 10 schools across rural Kenya. It is selecting our next 100 schools in Kenya, to prepare an additional 40,000 students.

Nelly Cheboi Named CNN’s Hero of the year for 2022

Nelly Cheboi and Mother

In pursuing her passion to provide computer literacy to students across rural Kenya, Nelly Cheboi has caught the world’s attention as she was recently named CNN’s Hero of the year for 2022. Beating ten other heroes to cart away the much-coveted prize at an event held at the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 11, 2022.

Cheboi was selected by online voters from among this year’s Top 10 CNN Heroes at the event hosted by American broadcaster, Anderson Cooper and actress, Kelly Ripa. It was an emotional moment as she received the award with her mother who she said, “worked really hard to educate us.”

Cheboi will receive $100,000 as CNN Hero of the Year to further her work. She and the other top ten CNN Heroes honored at the gala on Sunday will each receive a $10,000 cash award as well as, for the first time, additional grants, organizational training, and support from The Elevate Prize Foundation as part of a new collaboration with CNN Heroes. Nelly will also be named an Elevate Prize winner, which includes a $300,000 grant and $200,000 in additional support for her nonprofit.

Commenting on her drive,  Cheboi said “My hope is that when the first TechLit kids graduate high school, they’re able to get a job online because they will know how to code, they will know how to do graphic design, they will know how to do marketing. The world is your oyster when you are educated. By bringing the resources, by bringing these skills, we are opening up the world to them.”

Other CNN heroes include Carie Broecker, Richard Casper, Nora El-Khouri Spencer, Tyrique Glasgow, Teresa Gray, Meymuna Hussein-Cattan, Aidan Reilly, Debra Vines, and Bobby Wilson.