Kenyan social entrepreneur Kennedy Odede is the co-founder and CEO of Shining Hope for Communities. He is a passionate advocate for girls’ education, clean water and better health care provision and works hard to strengthen communities from within. Driven by his desire to make things better, he has helped many people to improve their lives in the slums of Kibera.
|PROFESSION||Social entrepreneur and philanthropist|
|PHILANTHROPIC FOCUS||Empowering Kibera's girls with education and promoting female leadership|
|QUOTE YOU LIVE YOUR LIVE BY||Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. - Martin Luther King|
|ROLE MODEL||Markus Garvey|
Looking at your time as a philanthropist, what moments stand out to make it all seem worthwhile?
Seeing the direct impact of the organization on my community. While walking the streets of Kibera, I see little girls, telling me with a smile, "Thanks Kennedy for helping me with my hunger and offering me education and a safe place." I always reply, "Thank you, girls -- for doing it yourself. You can be who you want to be." This is more important than anything else I might receive in this world, and my life is changed every day when I talk to our students. They challenge me to continue to do the most I can with my life.
What challenges have you had to face and how did you and your team respond?
SHOFCO tackles urban poverty by nurturing the next generation of female leaders while also improving water, sanitation and health standards. Yet with all of this improvement, there are still many larger problems in my country. One of the cruellest aspects of Kibera is the wasted human potential, and without access to quality health care and basic resources
It is very difficult for people in Kibera to be the best they can be.
How many people make up the SHOFCO team?
The organization has 540 staff and over 100 volunteers. Of those employed, 78% are people who live in the slums.
What does success look like for the charity foundation?
We created SHOFCO as a grassroots model that can be implemented to improve all slums around the world. Our hope is that other communities will be able to implement this model and disrupt the systems that perpetuate poverty.
If you could change just one thing in Kenya, what would you choose to do?
Growing up in Kibera, I realised that there was a lack of value placed on women and girls, which was why many of the most vulnerable girls never had the opportunity to go to school.
Providing Kibera’s girls with superior education and promoting female leadership were key to gender equality, which in turn could help break the cycle of urban poverty.
We believe that communities which have greater gender equality will also have more hope and be less impoverished because women are central to development and family.
How can people get involved in supporting SHOFCO?
There are several ways people can support SHOFCO:
1) Sponsorship: Our girls are the core of our programme model and our communities. One of the best things you can do is to sponsor one of our girls — a sponsorship will support their education, uniforms, school meals, health care, school supplies, and more for an entire year.
2) Fundraising: Through our online donation platform, you can fundraise on your own or with a team to sponsor a student. You can also host a birthday campaign to encourage others to give to SHOFCO instead of birthday gifts, or host a local event to garner support.
3) Social Media: Stay connected with us through social media. This really helps spread our mission and work and encourages others to do the same. Follow us
on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
4) Donate: Every little bit counts in paving a brighter future for our communities. Even the $4 you’re going to spend on coffee at Starbucks could make a huge difference to the work we are doing. You don’t have to do a lot or make a lot to make a difference.
Over the last 12 years SHOFCO has carried out a number of impressive initiatives, what are you planning for now?
These days, we are focused on expanding the SHOFCO Urban Network (SUN), a movement of connected urban slums that are empowering communities to advocate for themselves. SHOFCO provides SUN groups with spaces that can be used for educational purposes and where community groups can get together on a weekly basis. The network prioritizes promoting peace and encouraging collective action while providing structures to launch advocacy campaigns and peaceful protests. Currently, SUN operates in eight slums in Kenya, but we are looking to have a wider reach throughout the country.
If you could turn back time, what might you do differently?
When I started, I was against help, especially from foreigners because I didn’t think they understood our plight. I felt their help was about rich people sitting around drinking wine and champagne and talking about poor people to make themselves feel better. Jessica (my wife) made me see the error of my ways, including my ‘no foreigners’ policy. With structure came confidence from larger organisations and it opened us up to the rest of the world.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned from being a philanthropist?
I believe in humanity. I’ve come to accept that the beauty of life is not what we own, but what we have inside us - humility, love, family, friends and touching other people’s lives positively.
Everybody has a gift, and that gift can be useful as something positive.
What advice can you offer to a person who wants to give something back?
The biggest misconception people have of the communities they serve is that they need to be saved. They don’t, but they could use the support of NGOs to give their people tools to unlock their own potential. It’s useless if we try to go in and change communities in the way we think they need us to. Rather, communities will become engaged and involved when you invest in them. Additionally, grassroots leadership is really important: At least 95% of SHOFCO’s staff are local to Kenya.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t think I have a typical day. Some days I am meeting with potential donors or existing donors. Often, I am travelling and networking to raise awareness of SHOFCO. However, my favourite days are when I am able to be on the ground working and connecting with the community.