Kennedy Odede lived for 23 of his 29 years in the Kibera Slum in Kenya, the largest slum in Africa, where he experienced the devastating realities of life in extreme poverty firsthand. The oldest of eight children, he became a street child at the age of 10. Still, he dreamed about changing his community.
In 2004, he had a job in a factory earning $1 a day. He saved 20 cents and used this to buy a soccer ball and start Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). Driven by the innovation and entrepreneurial spirits of the people of Kibera, Shining Hope became the largest grassroots organization in the slum. SHOFCO’s model connects schools for girls to services focused on health and economic empowerment. SHOFCO currently serves over 50,000 people and is spreading across Kenya’s urban slums.
Although he was informally educated, Odede received a full scholarship to Wesleyan University and graduated in 2012 as the commencement speaker. He was chosen as one of Forbes “30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs” in 2014. He is an Echoing Green fellow and a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. His work has been featured by President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton on NBC, Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times and by Newman’s Own Foundation, among others. He speaks six languages and his opinion pieces have appeared in The New York Times, CNN and Project Syndicate.