Kenyan philanthropist Dr Kennedy Odede is among eminent African personalities selected for the TIME’s TIME100 Impact Awards set to take place in Kigali, Rwanda on November 17. The star-studded Awards honor the continent’s leading change makers.
The Shining Hope for Communities (Shofco) founder and CEO will be feted at the ceremony which recognises leaders from across the world who are driving change in their communities.
Dr. Odede is being awarded for the community-driven change, championed by Shofco, that has now become a model for global NGOs.
Founded in 2004 by Dr Odede as a way of uplifting his community after growing up in poverty in Kibera slums, Shofco is now a grassroots movement that has impacted over 2.5 million slum dwellers in Kenya through various causes such access to health, water, community advocacy platforms, education, and sustainable livelihoods program.
The oldest of eight children, Dr. Odede experienced extreme poverty and violence, became a street boy aged 10 and later joined a gang.
All these are not things you associate with a change maker but this is exactly what Dr. Odede later became.
Having struggled to access water in the slums where clean and safe piped water was non-existent, Odede put provision of this basic commodity on top of his wish list when Shofco came into being.
“We used to walk several kilometres to get water and most of the time, we would suffer water-borne diseases because the water we got was contaminated due to the underground pipes getting mixed up with raw sewage,” Odede told CNN in a past interview.
It is for this reason that Shofco used a cutting-edge aerial piping system when installing a water treatment facility in the slum which can pump up to 300,000 litres of water at a time to aerial pipes that connect to various water kiosks throughout Kibera and Mathare.
With the water going to various kiosks stationed at strategic points across the slums, members of this community are now not walking several kilometres in search of the precious commodity, all thanks to Dr. Odede.
Women’s education is also close to his heart and after witnessing a lot of gender inequality in the slum, he founded two tuition-free schools for girls in Kibera and Mathare slums.
So far, the school in Kibera, which has over 500 pupils, has had students sit for KCPE since 2017 while in Mathare, there are nearly 400 students from pre-primary to Grade 7.
The Kibera School for Girls is now a consistent top performer, ranked among the top 10 in Nairobi, with graduates going on to attend high schools in Kenya and the United States.
Shofco has also spread its wings beyond Nairobi as every year, over 500 needy students from Mombasa, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu and Kisii counties who score more that 300 marks receive scholarships.
Odede’s efforts do not end there. Shofco has seven clinics in the slums that attend to over 700 people in the community at near-zero cost after decades of struggling to access medical care due to its high cost.
He also initiated the Shofco Urban Network (SUN), a grassroots movement that brings together individuals and households through social groups, a key pillar of the ogransation that ensures community-driven change is achieved.
There are over three million SUN members in Kenya with over 1.5 beneficiaries. SUN has created a self-sustaining group savings and loans programme for the members and their immediate families with over 300,000 active saving groups.
One such programme is the highly-successful Shofco Savings and Credit Cooperative Society (Sacco) which draws its over 17000 membership from Kibera, Mathare, Kawangware as well as slums in Mombasa, Kisumu and Kakamega.
Shofco Sacco has given out over Ksh600 million in loans since its inception five years ago which go to small businesses, self-help groups and the youth to start or boost income-generating activities.
As of September 2023, Shofco also launched an ambitious five-year programme to enroll 2.2 million young people in Technical and Educational Vocation Training (TVET) institutions across Kenya and to provide business training and grants to nearly 50,000 by end of 2024 in Nairobi County.
These efforts have not gone unnoticed as Dr. Odede has been named a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, an Obama Foundation Africa Leader, a USAID Advisory Board member, and the winner of the Mohammed Ali Humanitarian Award among others.
He is also the co-author of New York Times bestseller, Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in African Slum. The TIME100 Impact Awards, therefore, is another feather on Odede’s cap.
He will be awarded alongside UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Danai Gurira, social justice humanitarian Ashley Judd, United Nations’ IFAD Advocate for Rural Youth Sherrie Silver, former Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and African Leadership Group founder Fred Swaniker.