Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner Odede
Kennedy is one of Africa’s best-known community organizers and social entrepreneurs. He is a New York Times best-selling author and the Co-Chair of the Youth Panel for the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. He was raised in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa, where he experienced the devastating realities of life in extreme poverty. Still, he dreamed about changing his community.
While working at a factory in 2004, Kennedy saved 20 cents, purchased a soccer ball, and started the Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) movement. Driven by the innovation and entrepreneurial spirits of the people of Kibera, SHOFCO became the largest grassroots organization in the slum.
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. He graduated in 2012 as the Commencement Speaker and with honors in Sociology. Kennedy was awarded the 2010 Echoing Green Fellowship, which is given to the world’s top emerging social entrepreneurs. He won the 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition, wrote two Op-Eds that appeared in the New York Times, was named one of Forbes’ 2014 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs, and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. His work has been featured in the PBS documentary Half the Sky, by Chelsea Clinton and Maria Menounos on NBC, by President Bill Clinton, and on multiple occasions by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. Kennedy speaks six languages, is a senior fellow with Humanity in Action, and an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow. He splits his time between Nairobi and New York City.
Jessica Posner Odede:
Jessica is an internationally recognized social entrepreneur, a New York Times best selling author and the co-founder and COO of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO).
Upon first meeting Kennedy Odede in 2007 when working with SHOFCO in Kibera as a study abroad student, she became one of the first outsiders to live inside the slum and was deeply moved by the struggles facing the Kibera community. During Kenya’s 2007 post-election crisis, Jessica urged Kennedy to apply to U.S. universities. When Kennedy joined Jessica at Wesleyan University, fulfilling his own dreams of an education, they co-founded Shining Hope for Communities in 2009. That year, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honors in African-American Studies. She won the 2010 Do Something Award and was named “America’s top-world changer 25 and under” live on VH1. Jessica also received the prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship. She is the youngest alumnae in the history of the institution to receive Wesleyan University’s “Distinguished Alumni Award.”
Jessica and her husband, Kennedy, recently released their New York Times best-selling memoir, Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in An African Slum. Jessica's story and work has been featured on over six occasions by Nicholas Kristof in his column and in his most recent book and documentary A Path Appears. She has also been featured by President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Beyonce, and in Vogue Magazine, Good Housekeeping, NBC Nightly News among others. She recently received the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award.