Tag Archive for Kennedy Odede ’12

Kennedy Odede ’12 Tells His Story in David Brooks Column

Pictured in center, Kennedy Odede '12 and Jessica Posner '09 operate the non-profit organization Shining Hope for Communities in Kibera, Kenya.

Pictured in center, Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09 operate the non-profit organization Shining Hope for Communities in Kibera, Kenya.

“Kennedy Odede is one of the most joy-filled people I’ve met,” begins David Brooks in his regular New York Times column.

On November 10, Brooks turned his column over to Odede ’12, who grew up in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya and attended Wesleyan. Together with his wife Jessica Posner Odede ’09, Odede created the community organization Shining Hope for Communities (Shofco) and a school for girls in Kibera. Together, they’ve authored the new book, Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum.

In the column, Odede tells his story in his own words. He describes a tumultuous childhood filled with hunger, violence, and the death of many loved ones. Brooks asks, “How did this delightful man emerge from this horrific childhood?”

“While I didn’t have food, couldn’t go to school, or when I was the victim or witness of violence, I tried to appreciate things like the sunrise — something that everyone in the world shares and can find joy in no matter if you are rich or poor. Seeing the sunrise was always healing for me, it was a new day, and it was a beauty to behold,” Odede writes.

He learned to replace negative addictions with a positive one—to books—and to learn that no situation, no matter how dire, lasts forever. He writes:

For every bad person I encountered who hurt me and caused me suffering and pain, I also met a lot of good people. For the priest that abused me, I met a man of God who saved my life on the day I stole a mango and was almost beaten to death (he paid back the mango’s price and more).

“My mom taught me that while there is a God, that one God might be very busy, so we have to rely on the people we encounter in our life who become what she called ‘small gods.’

Kenyan School, Founded by Posner ’09, Odede ’12, on NBC Rock Center

Jessica Posner '09 on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.

Jessica Posner ’09 on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.

Wesleyan alumni Jessica Posner ’09 and Kennedy Odede ’12 appeared on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams on Jan. 17 in a report titled “Couple’s School becomes Lifeline in Kenyan Slum.” Watch the report, hosted by Rock Center Special Correspondent Chelsea Clinton, online here.

Posner and Odede are co-founders of Shining Hope for Communities, an organization working to combat gender inequality and extreme poverty in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

In August 2009, Shining Hope for Communities founded The Kibera School for Girls, the first tuition-free school for girls in Kibera. By providing a superior education, daily nourishment, uniforms, and schools supplies all free of charge, Shining Hope is able to give the brightest and most at-risk girls the power of hope and education.

Odede ’12: From an African Slum to a Wesleyan Graduate

Kennedy Odede '12 delivered the Senior Class Welcome during the 180th Commencement Ceremony on May 27. (Photo by Nick Lacy)

Kennedy Odede ’12 delivered the Senior Class Welcome during the 180th Commencement Ceremony May 27:

Today, I stand before you as the first person from Africa’s largest slum to graduate from an American university.
For most of my life, I never imagined that one day I would be standing here.
For me, Wesleyan is HOPE.

You, the class of 2012, and my time at Wesleyan have changed me forever.

I grew up in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, where more than a million people live in an area the size of Central Park—without sewage systems, roads, running water, or access to basic rights like health care and education.

I was the oldest of eight children in a family that could not afford food, much less school fees. In Kibera, I dreamed of many things: food to eat, clean water to drink, safety from the violence, and relief from oppression that surrounded me.

Today, I want to tell you three stories about hope.

Odede ’12 Featured in Hartford Courant

Kennedy Odede ’12 was featured in a May 5 Hartford Courant article discussing his mother’s impact on all he has done in the last four years. Odede came to Wesleyan from the Kibera slum of Nairobi and has since built a school, a clean water latrine, and a health center back home.

“Work hard and read books. Look around you, but don’t hate,” Jane Achieng Odede told the young son she struggled to feed in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums next to Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. Residents there are mostly jobless or live on less than a dollar a day, the article says.

He presented the Senior Class Welcome at Wesleyan’s 2012 Commencement.

Students, Alumna Mentor Children in Summer Institute in Kenya

Emily Weitzman ’14 hugs one of her students at the Shining Hope for Communities Summer Institute. Weizman says many of the girls want to be teachers, pilots and doctors when they grow up.

Six Wesleyan students and one alumna spent part of their summer in Nairobi, Kenya as volunteers in Shining Hope for Communities Summer Institute. The institute brings college undergraduates and recent graduates together with students from the Kibera School for Girls.

Institute participants provided tutoring and mentoring during the mornings and helped run a summer camp at the school in the afternoon. The volunteers also worked on other Shining Hope projects, including the Johanna Justin-Jinich Community Clinic, a clean water project, toilet access project, community center, and a garden project.Shining Hope for Communities was founded three years ago by Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09.

Their inaugural project was the Kibera School for Girls (KSG), a day school set in the Kibera slum in Nairobi,

Odede ’12 Joining Panel with Bill Clinton, Sean Penn


Kennedy Odede '12 is president of Shining Hope for Communities.


Kennedy Odede ’12 will be a featured panelist at the fourth annual meeting of former President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), which will be held at the University of California – San Diego on April 1-3. Odede is one of three participants on the panel; the other two are Clinton and actor Sean Penn.

“This is very exciting and a tremendous honor for me, and for my foundation, Shining Hope for Communities,” Odede said.

The CGI U is part of the former president’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) foundation. According to CGI’s website, CGI U “challenges students

Students to Create Health Care Clinic in Kenya Slum

A student-created health care clinic in Kibera, Kenya, named for Johanna Justin-Jinich, receives grant from Newman’s Own Foundation

Last year, two students from Wesleyan founded the first tuition-free school for girls in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, located in Nairobi, Kenya. This year, they’ve teamed with three more Wesleyan students and medical experts to create a health care clinic on the same site.

Pictured in center, Kennedy Odede '12 and Jessica Posner '09 operate the non-profit organization Shining Hope for Communities in Kibera, Kenya.

The Johanna Justin-Jinich Memorial Clinic of Kibera will be the first community-driven clinic in Kibera that specializes in women’s health. The student-created Shining Hope for Communities non-profit organization will preside over the clinic’s construction and daily operation.

Johanna Justin-Jinich was shot and killed off campus during her junior year at Wesleyan in May, 2009.

More than $37,000 in construction seed-funds has been provided to Shining Hope for as part of a $53,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation in support of The Johanna Justin-Jinich Memorial Clinic of Kibera. Additional funds from the grant will also fund an on site Green Bio-Latrine Center.

“When I first heard Kennedy Odede and Jess Posner speak about Shining Hope’s work in Kibera, I immediately knew this was the type of program we should look at, and Kennedy and Jess were the type of committed young people we want to encourage,” said Bob Forrester, president of Newman’s Own Foundation. “We are proud to support Shining Hope.”

Shining Hope for Communities also operates the Kibera School for Girls and the Shining Hope Community Center. The Kibera School for Girls was also the recipient of a 100 Project for Peace grant in 2009.

Designed to initially serve 5,000-6,000 Kibera residents annually, the Johanna Justin-Jinich Memorial Clinic will be a community-driven initiative staffed by a Kenyan nurse five days a week in tandem with community health workers and a full-time administrator. A physician will also maintain hours at the clinic one day a week. The clinic is scheduled for construction this summer.

Shining Hope for Communities’ senior administration consists of Executive Director and Kibera native Kennedy Odede ’12; Managing Director Jessica Posner ’09 and Wesleyan students Leah Lucid ’10, Ari Tolman ’10, and Inslee Coddington ’10.

The land and medical permits for the clinic are in hand and the students are now working to secure funding for the future sustainability of the project.

One of the primary health care concerns the students hope the clinic will affect immediately is the issue of reproductive health.