The 2022 CNN Hero of the Year is Kenyan born Nelly Cheboi, who in 2019 left a prestigious software engineering position in Chicago to build computer labs for Kenyan kids.
On December 11, 2022, in New York City, during the 16th annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History, Carie Broecker, Richard Casper, Tyrique Glasgow, Nora El-Khouri Spencer, Kelly Ripa, CNN Hero of the Year Nelly Cheboi, Christina Cheboi Chebii, Anderson Cooper, Aidan Reilly, Meymuna Hussein-Cattan, Teresa Gray, Bobby Wilson, and De (Image courtesy of Getty Images/Mike Coppola for CNN)
She was chosen from among this year’s Top 10 CNN Heroes by online voters for “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” in 2022.
Cheboi will be given $100,000 as the CNN Hero of the Year to further her work. She, along with the other top 10 CNN Heroes awarded at Sunday’s event, will each receive a $10,000 cash prize as well as, thanks to a new partnership with CNN Heroes, extra grants, organizational training, and support from The Elevate Prize Foundation. Nelly will also receive the Elevate Prize, which entitles her to a $300,000 grant as well as further assistance for her charity organization worth $200,000.
In the Kenyan hamlet of Mogotio, Cheboi was raised in abject poverty. Cheboi, 29, stated, “I understand the suffering of poverty. “I never forgot what it felt like to be hungry at night with my stomach churning.”
Cheboi was a diligent student who in 2012 was awarded a full scholarship at Augustana College in Illinois. She started her studies there with little to no computer expertise, penning her papers by hand and attempting to type them up on a laptop.
However, everything changed when Cheboi enrolled in a programming course that was necessary for her mathematics degree in her junior year. However, there was still a high learning curve for many fundamental computing abilities. Cheboi recalled having to spend six months perfecting her touch-typing in order to pass a coding interview. One ability that is now a crucial component of the TechLit curriculum is touch-typing.
Cheboi quickly became aware of the extent to which PCs were being discarded as businesses modernized their IT infrastructure once she started working in the software industry. She started bringing donated computers back to Kenya in her personal luggage in 2018 and took care of the customs duties and taxes herself.
She quit her positions and, a year later, co-founded TechLit Africa with another software programmer. Companies, academic institutions, and private citizens can donate computers to the nonprofit.
Before being transported to Kenya, the gear is cleaned and repaired. It is then given to partner schools in rural areas where children between the ages of 4 and 12 attend daily lessons and frequently have the chance to interact with experts, developing skills that will enhance their education and better position them for future employment.
TechLit Africa presently serves 10 schools in Kenya and for the next year Nelly Cheboi hopes to increase to with 100 more.