What started as a teenager’s dream in the slum has turned into a Sh200 million award winning cause.
Kennedy Odede’s plans of starting an initiative to improve his life and of those around him started as a mere idea but he never once thought that they would go as far as gaining international recognition.
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His organisation, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) bagged the biggest global award given to humanitarian causes, making them the first local NGO formed by a local person to get recognized by the Hilton Foundation.
The Annual Hilton Humanitarian Award worth 200 million will be formally presented to the NGO in October.
His great achievement was widely celebrated with the likes of Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore and Famous Actor Tony Goldwyn taking to their twitter to congratulate him and the organisation.
Kennedy Odede, SHOFCO’s founder says that when he got the call from the foundation concerning the award he thought that it was a joke until their backed the confirmation via mail which was when he believed it all.
“I thought they were joking, it felt so unreal until they sent me an email to confirm that we are to receive the award after being nominated,” he said.
A dream that he attributes to gaining inspiration from the likes of Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Wangari Maathai and his own Mother whom he contributes to his advocacy for gender equality.
“SHOFCO was a dream that I had as a teenager growing up in Kibera. A lot of foreign people would come and start organizations to help the community but none would last, that is when I decided that it was time for someone in the locality to start something that would benefit the people in my community and would feel completely owned by the community,” he said.
Kennedy started the organisation in 2004 in Kibera and was later joined by his co-founder Jessica Posner in 2007, growing up in the area and witnessing all the problems his people were facing Odede decided that it was time to implement solid solutions that would help slum dwellers live a comfortable lif if not perfect.
Projects on the ground
In Kibera- the genesis of it all, the projects clearly represent the great work that the organisation is doing to see its people live a comfortable if not perfect life.
Due to the poor sanitation conditions in the area, SHOFCO came up with a brilliant idea through aerial piping connected to storage tanks that ensure the residents receive pure and clean water.
The method sees the water pipes hoisted up in the sky with strong poles rather than having them laid down on the ground where the water can easily get contaminated due to the poor sewerage systems.
The storage tank that holds 100,000 litres of water is dispensed to the community through a water dispenser kiosk where the residents pay an affordable sum of 2 shillings per 20 litre.
Education and economic empowerment for women and girls has also been a key priority for the organisation.
SHOFCO has also set up a primary school exclusively for girls, The Kibera School for Girls that has 500 girls currently enrolled.
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Kennedy’s reason for this stems from his view of the plight of women in the informal settlements. He did not like how women were being mistreated and struggling to fend for their families.
“Women are the pillars of the society if we educate and empower them just like we do with the men then we will promoting gender equality. The school is a radicalisng change to show that if women and young girls are given the opportunity a lot of great things can happen, “said Odede.
Kibera residents also benefit medically with a clinic setup to offer free medical services, offering maternal care for pregnant women before and after birth.
Through the SHOFCO Urban Network(SUN) that was launched three years ago the community has greatly benefited from projects such as Community SACCO’S and WelfareGroups that have enabled the Kibera residents to start their own business ventures and have also taken care of bereavement matters where members are given an amount of sh.50,000 to fund funeral plans.
SUN was formed with an aim of improving the living standards of slum dwellers.
Consolata Adhiambo a Kibera resident says that the project has greatly impacted her life with her grandchildren getting good education opportunities and her health improved from the free medical services at the clinic.
“As a grandmother my grandchildren have been able to get good education opportunities with some at the Kibera School of Girls and others under the scholarship programme, we have also profited from the free medical services at the clinic without having to go far to get treated,” she said.
Mr. Onyango a community mobiliser for SHOFCO echoes the same sentiments, he has seen great transformation in his life and of those in the Kibera community.
“Our children have been granted great education opportunities through SHOFCO’s affordable scholarships, with my own brother being a benefactor of the programme. As a community we have been accorded affordable supply of clean water, free medical services and economic empowerment,” he added.
To them SHOFCO is an oasis of hope, a proof that no matter what your circumstances are there is a sure promise of a better life and a brighter future.