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Book smart
A Richmond student used a Projects for Peace grant to open a library in his hometown.

Mike Kitimet, ’19, beat the odds when he enrolled at Richmond. Now he’s working to change them.

Kitimet came to UR from Kiserian, Kenya, a town about 10 miles west of Nairobi National Park. Although tourists stream in and out of the region, Kiserian’s educational system struggles with inadequate resources, including lack of a suitable library.

Inspired by his time studying in Boatwright Memorial Library, Kitimet raised funds to build a library that is the first of its kind in Kiserian. The original plan called for it to be housed in a school, but once word of his project began spreading, plans changed.

“People from all walks of life were calling and emailing me to express their interest in donating books for the project,” he said. “Following the immense goodwill from donors, I and the school saw fit to build a new structure from scratch in order to accommodate more books and more students,” he said.

Kitimet raised funds to build a library that is the first of its kind in Kiserian.

Construction finished in midsummer. In late August, once the walls were painted and the books shelved, a library once designed to hold 30 students opened with space for 90.

“The students are currently out on school break and are excited about using the facility once school resumes,” he said via email from Kiserian. Teachers “expressed their optimism that the structure will [improve] literacy skills in the area by a big margin.”

The effort is supported by a $10,000 grant from the nonprofit Projects for Peace, which funds grassroots efforts by undergraduates to address the root causes of conflict.

“I was able to maneuver the system, but many of the kids back home don’t have those same opportunities,” he told a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Hopefully, this facility will help their academic empowerment.”