Even though Kent Noel calls Nairobi, Kenya home these days, he believes he transplants some of his Kansas roots in the fertile minds of the children, youth and adults he serves every day in his work with the Education Development Center, a fifty year old nonprofit company specializing in domestic and international literacy and numeracy, curriculum development, teacher training, and adolescent health, youth leadership and work readiness in 25 to 30 countries.
“The rich tradition of missionaries and strong leaders from this area, both women and men, people’s friendliness and tolerance for others, their generosity and understanding that education is key…” are just a few of the lessons Noel observed as he grew up in the local farming community.
The education and empowerment of girls and women are the keystones of developing sustainable infrastructures in a society, says Noel. “For every year you educate a girl, her own children stay in school longer, her family’s health and wealth increases, and mortality rates decrease.”
Noel and others working with the children and youth in countries like Rwanda have the opportunity to improve the education and lives of millions of children and their families. This grand scale outreach allows Noel to effectively manage multiple projects in the East and Southern African countries he manages, which include Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Rwanda, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, and Tanzania.
Along with education, health, and literacy, EDC partners with other entities like World Bank to provide technology to revolutionize educational systems and the people they serve. Many children are learning literacy through handheld devices such as mobile phones and tablets, a learning leap which places them at the forefront of the use of appropriate technologies.
Noel feels he carries on a rich tradition from his hometown community, which fostered missionaries such as his Aunt Evelyn Noel, who served in Southern Rhodesia when he was growing up.
“While growing up, I was fascinated by stories from relatives who had worked in Africa and other parts of the developing world,” Noel said. “Having the opportunity to work with people from interesting cultures, philosophies, and religions and partnering with them to improve their circumstances is one of the most satisfying aspects of my work.”
The Talmage community can only hope that someday Noel will come full circle and return to his Kansas roots, as he continues on a journey that began in Kansas and led him to many other countries, including Botswana, Turkey, Pakistan, Zambia, and now East and Southern Africa.
Noel received a BS in English Secondary Education and a MS in Curriculum and Instruction from KSU, and a PhD in Instructional Systems Design from Florida State University.