Nelly Cheboi, who creates computer labs for Kenyan schoolchildren, is CNN’s Hero of the Year | CNN

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## Nelly Cheboi, Chosen as CNN’s Hero of the Year for Establishing Computer Labs for Kenyan Schoolchildren

Nelly Cheboi, who left a well-paying software engineering job in Chicago in 2019 to establish computer labs for Kenyan schoolchildren, has been named the 2022 CNN Hero of the Year. Online voters selected her from a group of this year’s Top 10 CNN Heroes.

Through her nonprofit organization, TechLit Africa, Cheboi has equipped thousands of students in rural Kenya with access to donated and upcycled computers, offering them a brighter future.

During the award ceremony, Cheboi, alongside her hardworking mother who played a crucial role in her education, sang a meaningful song that held significance from her upbringing.

As CNN Hero of the Year, Cheboi will receive $100,000 to expand her impactful work. Additionally, the top 10 CNN Heroes recognized at the gala will each receive a $10,000 cash award. Furthermore, through a collaboration with CNN Heroes, The Elevate Prize Foundation will provide additional grants, training, and support. Nelly will also be recognized as an Elevate Prize winner, receiving a $300,000 grant and $200,000 in support for her nonprofit.

Growing up in poverty in Mogotio, a rural Kenyan township, Cheboi understands the hardships of deprivation. Despite her challenging background, her dedication to education led her to earn a full scholarship to Augustana College in Illinois in 2012. It was during her junior year that a mandatory programming course sparked her love for computer science and her desire to share this knowledge with her community.

Cheboi overcame the steep learning curve of mastering basic computer skills, such as touch-typing, which is now an essential component of the TechLit curriculum. Witnessing children as young as 7 years old confidently touch-typing fills her with a sense of accomplishment.

Working in the software industry exposed Cheboi to the wastage of computers discarded by companies upgrading their technology. This realization prompted her to start transporting donated computers back to Kenya in 2018, covering customs fees and taxes personally.

Passionate about bridging the digital divide, she co-founded TechLit Africa with a fellow software engineer the following year, after both decided to leave their jobs. The nonprofit accepts computer donations from various sources including companies, universities, and individuals.The hardware is cleaned and upgraded before being sent to Kenya. It is then given to partner schools in rural areas where children between 4 and 12 attend classes daily and have frequent opportunities to learn from professionals. This helps them acquire skills that can enhance their education and better equip them for future employment.

“We have individuals with specific expertise coming in to inspire the kids with activities such as music and video production, coding, and personal branding,” Cheboi mentioned. “They can transition from attending an online class with NASA on education to learning about music production.”

Presently, the organization serves 10 schools, and Cheboi aims to collaborate with an additional 100 schools in the upcoming year.

“My aspiration is that when the initial group of TechLit kids complete high school, they will be capable of securing online jobs due to their knowledge of coding, graphic design, and marketing,” Cheboi emphasized. “Education opens up a world of opportunities. By providing these resources and skills, we are broadening their horizons.”

[Watch the moment CNN’s Hero of the Year is announced](

### An inspiring night of heroism and advocacy

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Kelly Ripa co-hosted the 16th Annual “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” which showcased over a dozen celebrity presenters.

“We are deeply honored to be here,” expressed actress and singer Sofia Carson, who performed a song with award-winning songwriter Diane Warren at the event. “Diane crafted this incredible anthem ‘Applause’ for those leading, surviving, and fighting, and tonight we dedicate this song and performance to our heroes.”

Actor Aubrey Plaza introduced CNN Hero [Aidan Reilly](, who established his nonprofit while on a break from college during the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.During the pandemic, Aidan and his friends established the Farmlink Project, a nonprofit that links surplus food from farms nationwide with those in need to prevent wastage. Farmlink Project has managed to distribute more than 70 million pounds of food within just two years.

Debra Vines, founder of The Answer Inc., a nonprofit aiding underserved families affected by autism in Chicago, is recognized by actress Holly Robinson Peete, a fellow mother with an autistic child. up to now, Vines’ organization has benefitted over 4 people,000 families and she aims to inspire others to serve and bring about change.

At the event, Justin Theroux introduced Carie Broecker, and her nonprofit, Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, with his rescue dog Kuma. Another recognition was given to young changemakers. Ruby Chitsey contributed to nursing home residents through her initiative “Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents,” and Sri Nihal Tammana minimized battery waste with the program “Recycle My Battery.”

Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, two Georgia poll workers who faced turmoil after baseless accusations of election fraud, were also honored at the event. CNN has associated with GoFundMe to collect contributions for this year’s Top 10 honorees, where Subaru will match all donations up to $50,000 for each honoree until January 3, 2023.

If you know someone making a positive impact in your community, consider nominating them as a CNN Hero for 2023. You can also explore profiles of past CNN Heroes on, showcasing over 350 individuals who have collectively aided more than 55 million people across the US and in 110 countries globally.

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