Kennedy Odede grew up in Kibera in Nairobi, Africa’s largest slum where he was surrounded by poverty, violence and a clear lack of opportunity. In 2004, aged 18, he would walk to work for four hours everyday as a manual labourer earning barely enough to survive.
Despite growing up with such adversity, he saw potential to create change through grassroots action and rallied his fellow community members to make a better life for themselves. He taught himself to read and write and founded Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). Spurred on by meeting Jessica Posner, he received a scholarship to study at university in the US. Together they created SHOFCO’s innovative model to combat urban poverty by linking much-needed community services to girls’ education.
The organisation gained the attention of Michael Dell and President Clinton, showing how the dedication, hard work and goodness of one man can create something powerful enough to win support from all over the world.
The charity operates in Kibera and more recently Mathare. In both slums, SHOFCO provides education to the brightest and most at-risk girls, increasing their potential to make a better life for themselves and those around them.
These buildings are not just schools for the girls attending, but community centres where healthcare is provided. In Kibera, a library and computer lab lay near the school as testament to Kennedy’s commitment to his community’s advancement. In the same area, the enterprising clean water tower is one of the few areas in the slum where clean water can be accessed through an innovative credit system.
Rumi Verjee and Simon Verjee visited Kibera to see the inspiring work that SHOFCO is doing in the area. They were shown around Kibera School for Girls and the community centre, and saw first hand the positive impact that it has made on the local community.
SHOFCO is now the single biggest employer in Kibera, with over 160 employees who run all of the charity’s programmes.