Cal Poly professor Stuart Styles and his son, alumnus Brandon Styles, are working to improve education in Gambia — a country located in West Africa — through the distribution of more than 40,000 donated books to libraries and classrooms.
The Styles’ arrived in Gambia on Feb. 14 and spent 10 days walking across the country, delivering books.
The books were donated through the Course Hero Knowledge Drive. For every 10 academic documents submitted to Course Hero (which can be any sort of study material such as study guides, handouts or lecture notes), Course Hero donates one book to be delivered.
As Stuart and his son walked across Gambia (the small nation is only 30 miles across from north to south), they were followed by a tractor carrying boxes of books. The eventual goal is to raise funds to ship one million books to the country, where one book is often shared by 15 to 20 children in schools. In his blog, Brandon wrote that he “looked forward to make a huge impact on education.”
Brandon attributed his enthusiasm for this cause to his passions for community service and international travel. He had many opportunities to travel when he accompanied his father on his research trips.
Stuart is a professor for the bioresource and agricultural engineering department and has taught irrigation modernization principles abroad, while Brandon kept him company and helped with photography. The father-son roles are reversed this time, and Stuart said he is proud of his son and his commitment to service projects.
“It was nice to be in the background on an international trip and have him be the one in the front meeting mayors, education directors and teachers,” Stuart wrote in an email from Gambia.
Stuart also said in addition to his duties as photographer, he has been unofficially discussing irrigation methods with farmers that he encounters. However, his primary role has been to support his son.
“My role was to help my son and also to donate time for a great effort,” Stuart wrote.
Stuart was happy to see that this effort was supported by other international groups, particularly from representatives from fellow West African nation Nigeria.
“The ambassador of Nigeria and representatives from a Nigerian foundation participated in the walk and donated $50,000 for the effort,” Stuart wrote. “It was nice to hear their perspectives on West Africans helping other West Africans.”
Though the Gambia walk ended on Feb. 23, Books for Africa’s goal of one million books remains active. Course Hero is still accepting donated academic documents through their Knowledge Drive.
Kyle Loomis contributed to this article.