*By Joan Thatiah

Catherine Miano, 24, is the founder Pitch a Dream, an organization that nurtures a reading culture among pupils from less-privileged backgrounds.

“I am a lawyer by training. I grew up wanting to make a difference in the lives of other young people, perhaps because I grew up in Samburu where I saw firsthand the struggles of the less fortunate. I have always been a book lover so I opted to use books to make a difference.”

“Pitch a Dream began as a Facebook event four years ago. Back then, I was a university student with a burning passion, but no concrete plan of what I wanted to do. For the first event, I got together with a group of friends and visited a children’s home to donate books. Now, our cause is much bigger. We also built structures around it.”

“I live out of town so I am up by 5am every morning to beat the Nairobi traffic that ushers in the days. My workday begins at 7am. What Pitch a Dream does today is pick out needy schools in rural and semi-urban areas, then from those schools, a group of pupils is picked to enroll in a one-year program during which they are given books and mentored. The initial goal is to get children to take to the culture of reading. The overall goal though, is to get children to learn better. That is why the pupils on the program get storybooks on the first half of the program and educational reading material during the second half.”

“My schedule varies every day. Most days though, I meet potential sponsors or partners or talk people into volunteering for the program. On some days, I go round the three counties where we currently have a presence, looking for more schools to bring on board. First, we talk to headteachers to see if they are interested in the program. The program can only be a success if the school’s teaching staff and parents embrace it. Second, I gauge the needs of the schools. Sometimes, I find that the pupils have much bigger needs than books. Recently, I visited a school where most of the girls could not afford sanitary towels. How can a child read comfortably if she does not have pads? What I do in such instances is head out in search of organizations that can partner with me to meet these children’s other needs.”

“My ultimate dream is to reach out to as many of these children as possible. My workday ends at 4pm. When I am not working, I sing. When I had more time on my hands, I was part of a band called Lele Ngoma. Now I sing whenever I get a chance. And I am still a book lover so I read a lot. I am currently reading The Spook’s Curse by Joseph Delaney. It is a good light read.”

This article was originally published in the Daily Nation, Saturday Magazine