Shining Hope for Communities
Kennedy Odede started Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in 2004 with passion, 20 cents, and a soccer ball. Growing up in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa, he experienced extreme poverty, violence, lack of opportunity, and deep gender inequality.
However, Kennedy also witnessed the palpable hope that persists in slums and recognized that people sought something different for themselves, their families, and their communities. Visionaries like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela showed Kennedy that great, systemic change can come from within. Women like Kennedy's mother inspired him to build the solutions to urban poverty through addressing one of its core obstacles: the prohibitive level of gender inequality.
In 2007, Kennedy met Jessica Posner, a bright and driven American student studying abroad. Together they devised the model that SHOFCO utilizes today, which focuses on education, health, community empowerment, and water and sanitation. SHOFCO's innovation is to link girls' education to deeply needed community wide services. This increases the value of girls and women, invites both genders to participate in the solution, and allows girls' schools to be portals for large-scale social change.
The SHOFCO model is centered around a school for girls that provides a superior education with free health care, food, and psychosocial services. The school gives students the support they need to complete their educations and the tools to find a path out of poverty for themselves and their families. From the school, SHOFCO extends holistic community services beyond the families of students to the entire community. It raises the overall health of the community by providing access to free health care, clean water (SHOFCO's 100,000-liter water tower serves as the largest access point to clean water in Kibera), sanitation education, and toilet facilities.
SHOFCO also empowers the community through valuable public resources including computer and library access, adult education, and group savings and loans. It fosters community fellowship though soccer teams, youth programs, and women's empowerment groups. In October of 2015, Kennedy and Jessica will be releasing Find Me Unafraid, the story of SHOFCO and described as a story "about a fight against poverty and hopelessness, the transformation made possible by true love, and the power of young people to have a deep impact on the world."
Shining Hope for Communities is dedicated to bringing hope to urban communities. To learn more about their work visit shofco.org.