From Kibera to New York, who would have thought?
Posted Tuesday, February 5 2013 at 02:00
- Beacon of hope: When one of his friends was shot dead after committing a crime and another took his own life, Kennedy Odede started looking at life differently. Then his sister was raped, and he vowed to make Nairobi’s Kibera slum a better place to live in. His is a story of the triumph of human spirit over adversity.
Odede splits his time between Nairobi and New York, organising fundraisers and doing strategic work while maintaining the organisation’s networks.
Women are the backbone of society, but in marginalised communities such as Kibera, they suffer a lot. Organisations such as Odede’s bring hope because, through helping women, optimism is brought to entire communities.
This is just one of the facets of Shining Hope for Communities, founded in 2004 to educate and empower girls while helping to change societal attitudes toward women by providing services to the society as a whole. Its 120 employees serve about 36,000 people from Kibera and its environs.
One of its first initiatives was The Kibera School for Girls, which provides tuition free of charge and provides free meals, school uniforms, and educational supplies to girls.
Today, 10-year-old Eunice Akoth recites a poem in the school’s hall: “Every mighty king was once a crying baby... and every great tree was once a tiny seed,” she reminds us.
The Class 4 student lives in a nearby area called Raila. She likes this school because it provides free education while her teachers are willing to help anytime.
Next to the school is a bio-latrine centre. Called the Toilet Access Project, it builds sanitary toilets throughout Kibera. Each serves at least 150 people.
A small farm referred to as Gardens for Growth provides healthy and sustainable food for the pupils, while the Johanna Justin-Jinich Community Clinic serves more than 220 patients per day and, in addition to primary health care, offers free programmes that focus on women and children’s health.
“Health is a big issue in Kibera, particularly because of the mess created by cheap, unregulated clinics,” says Richard Nthiwa, a clinical officer at the community clinic. He adds that most people who come for treatment suffer from upper respiratory tract infections and waterborne diseases.
Shining Hope also sells clean water to around 2,000 households per day.