When Roy Austin went on his first wildlife safari back in 2018, his only goal for the leisurely vacation was to catch sight of some African wildlife in its natural habitat—but he ended up finding something much more meaningful.
Although Austin enjoyed seeing lions and other wildlife across several East African countries, he was most captivated by the people he met in rural Kenya—particularly at the Amboseli Primary and Secondary School in Amboseli National Park.
In addition to befriending many of the students and teachers, Austin was surprised to learn how difficult it was to get books and school supplies for the children.
“In rural Kenya, the government does not build school buildings. You either build it yourself or raise the money to have it built,” says Austin. “A teacher was asked if they had a library. [She] replied, ‘No, but we would love to have a library.’ That stuck in my mind.”
When Austin eventually returned to his home in Bluffton, South Carolina, he launched Libraries for Kids International with the goal of sending books to the Kenyan schoolchildren.
Since starting the charity, Austin has managed to ship more than 1,000 books to 11 schools across Kenya and Tanzania. He says that he has managed to keep shipping costs down by sending the books through the post office rather than FedEx.
Not only has the charity supplied the schools with books, it has also given Austin a new sense of purpose and determination since his wife passed away in March.
As they continue to collect books and donations for additional shipments, Austin tells WJCL that the nonprofit is now helping to move a shipping container of 22,000 books from Atlanta to Kenya. In the future, the philanthropist hopes to start sending donations to South America as well.
“Many people told me that it can’t be done, it’s too expensive to ship books, and they will disappear going through customs,” Austin writes on the organization’s website. “However, one of my life philosophies is ‘Focus on the Objective, Not the Obstacle.’
“Every worthwhile project will have problems and obstacles. If you focus on the problems you will never start. Conversely, if you focus on the objective and solve the problems as they arise, most anything is possible.”