Kennedy Odede

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Kennedy Odede is an internationally recognized social entrepreneur, a New York Times best selling author,[1] and cofounder of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a non-profit organization based in Nairobi, Kenya and New York, NY that combats urban poverty and gender inequity in the slums of Nairobi. Kennedy is one of Africa’s best- known community organizers and social entrepreneurs. Among SHOFCO's accomplishments are setting up and running a free school for girls in the slum, making clean water and medical care accessible and helping dozens of individuals start small businesses.

Early life[edit]

Kennedy, was born in an African village, and lived there until it was struck by famine when he was just two years old. Desperate for a better life, his mother moved the family to the city. But, given the lack of jobs and housing in Nairobi, they ended up in the slum. When Kennedy Odede was a kid, he foraged for food, lived on the streets of Kibera, and taught himself to read with old newspapers. He lived in the Kibera Slum for twenty- three years and experienced the devastating realities of life in extreme poverty first hand. The oldest of eight children, Kennedy became a street-child at the age of ten. Influenced by the non violence principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,[2] he imagined how he could change his community. In 2004 he had a job in a factory earning $1 for ten hours of work. He saved 20 cents and used this to buy a soccer ball and start (SHOFCO). Although he was entirely informally educated, Kennedy received a full scholarship to Wesleyan University, becoming one of Kibera’s first to receive an education from an American liberal arts institution.


Driven by the innovation and entrepreneurial spirits of the people of Kibera, SHOFCO became the largest grassroots organization in the Kibera. Kennedy was awarded the 2010 Echoing Green Fellowship, which is given to the world’s best emerging social entrepreneurs. He was named to FORBES "30 under 30 list" for top Social Entrepreneurs [3] in He won the 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition, and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. His work has been featured by President Bill Clinton, on NBC by Chelsea Clinton and Maria Menounos, and on multiple occasions by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. Kennedy previously served on the United Nations International Commission for Financing of Global Education Opportunities. He also serves on the Wangari Maathai Foundation board, chairs the Varkey Foundation Alliance for Girls’ Education, and is a senior fellow with Humanity in Action and an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.


Kennedy speaks six languages. He graduated in 2012 as the Commencement Speaker and with honors in Sociology from Wesleyan University and served on the Wesleyan Board of Trustees. He is the co-author of an autobiography, Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum that tells the uncommon love story between him and his wife, Jessica Posner, whose collaboration sparked a successful movement to transform the lives of vulnerable girls and the urban poor.[4] In August 2018, their son Oscar Garvey Odede was born.[5]


  1. ^ "Education Books - Best Sellers - November 15, 2015 - The New York Times". Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  2. ^ "How Martin Luther King Jr. Changed The Life Of A Street Kid In Kenya". Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  3. ^ Carlyle, Erin. "Kennedy Odede, 29 - pg.22". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  4. ^ "Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede Transform Africa's Largest Urban Slum | The Women's Eye". The Women's Eye. 2016-01-12. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  5. ^ "Jessica Posner Odede on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-10-22.