Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) is targeting to enroll 20, 000 youth in Kisumu County in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions in the next year as part of its program to reach 500, 000 young people across Kenya in five years.
Speaking in Kisumu County where he presided over the election of county community leaders, SHOFCO Founder and CEO Dr. Kennedy Odede said his organisation is partnering with existing TVET institutions to ensure the youth get quality training that can enable them to enter the job market.
“We also do youth mentorship programs so that they can start their own businesses or look for jobs to earn a living using their skills. We need to invest in the youth of Kisumu County and not only here, but across 33 counties that we work in,” Dr. Odede said at Jomo Kenyatta Sports Club where he addressed over 5000 Shofco Urban Network (SUN) members who turned up to elect their county community leaders.
The SHOFCO boss said he believes in accountability and has tapped into the expertise and lived experience of community leaders to advance his organisation’s transformative agenda.
“We believe in working with communities and we allow them to elect their leaders who can talk about their issues with the county government, national government and the private sector,” he said.
He added: “Community leaders help us in accountability and ensure that the right programs that can change their areas are rolled out. I grew up in Kibera slums where I saw many NGOs come up with their own ideas and not listening to the community. For me, I believe that for you to work well with the community, you must be able to listen to their needs and let them elect their own leaders whom you can work with.”
SHOFCO is running several projects in Kisumu which include water distribution, healthcare, school libraries, gender-based violence response and prevention and women empowerment program.
During his visit on Saturday, Dr Odede opened a new 3-storey building in Obunga slums which now houses fully equipped tailoring unit for women, a school library, a computer lab and a large community hall.
“I also believe in financial inclusion through our SHOFCO Sacco where women and youth can take money to start their own businesses. We work with chiefs and area MCAs so that we don’t duplicate activities that government is already doing,” he stated.
SUN currently has over 300, 000 members in Kisumu County.
Kisumu Central Member of Parliament (MP) Joshua Oron hailed SHOFCO’s community-led change saying it mirrors what he does in his constituency.
“I feel privileged to be part and parcel of this noble course. I’m here not because I’m an MP, but because I fully believe in what SHOFCO is doing. It is all about helping humanity. From today henceforth, I am a member of this great organisation,” Oron said.
He added: “SHOFCO seems to mirror what I believe in; empowerment of the local communities, education as a priority, and healthcare for all.”
Mombasa County Assembly Member for Airport Ward Ibrahim Omondi Bomoa who graced the Kisumu event praised SHOFCO for what it has done in his county.
“When Dr. Odede brought his projects to Mombasa, we thought it was a joke, but right now, we have benefitted a lot.
“In my ward alone, he has empowered more than 500 youth through training in TVET and he is paying for them fully and at the end of it, he recommends them for job opportunities or give them grants to start their own businesses.”
The MCA also said SHOFCO has helped in addressing water challenges in Mombasa County.
“In Changamwe constituency where I come from, there is a very big challenge of water but Odede brought in a solution. Right now, we have bowsers all over Changamwe distributing water,” he stated.
The SUN elected leaders are trained on leadership, SUN objectives and how to perform their duties for the benefit of the network’s members from the grassroots to the national level.
SUN community programs provide resources to further economic opportunity and advance human rights, creating space for individuals to pave personal paths out of poverty.
SUN leaders also identify challenges that their communities go through and reach out to the government, the private sector and well-wishers to provide solution.
Dr. Odede has been encouraging governments, policy leaders and donors to partner with, listen to, and scale up community-led solutions.
In addition, he advocates for immediate shifts in resources and financing towards community-led solutions, moving towards a new development paradigm that promotes racial equity and recognizes deep-rooted community trust as the most powerful tool to deliver impact.
Dr. Odede’s tenacity and persistence over the subject were vindicated in June 2022 when SHOFCO’s community-driven change became a model for global NGOs following a case study conducted by Bridgespan Group which had a close-up look at on-the-ground approaches that make the Kenyan organisation tick.
His organisation, SHOFCO, stood out among the other NGOs around the world with Bridgespan concluding that their model of community-driven change has achieved an impact that lasts because the community feels a sense of ownership.