Who We Are
Shining Hope for Communities is a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded in 2009 by CEO Kennedy Odede and COO Jessica Posner. Kennedy grew up and lived in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya for 23 of his 26 years. There, he saw the bleak prospects for women first-hand. After seeing many women’s lives crushed like those of his mother and sisters’, Kennedy dreamed of finding a way to change the position of women in his society.
Shining Hope for Communities is composed of an extremely diverse and experienced coalition of local community members, leaders in international development practice, university students, and grassroots supporters. Kennedy is a current student at Wesleyan University, and has combined his lived experience as a community organizer in Kibera with his elite college education to create an organization that is truly one of a kind. All of Shining Hope for Communities’ work is inspired and overseen by local community members in Kibera.
Jessica and Kennedy were awarded the prestigious 2010 Echoing Green Fellowship, which is given to the world’s best emerging social entrepreneurs. They have received support for their work from Newman’s Own Foundation, and won the international 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition. DoSomething.org and VH1 recognized Jessica as America’s “Top World Changer 25 & Under.” President Bill Clinton selected Kennedy to speak on a panel with him about effective grassroots solutions. Shining Hope has also received widespread media acclaim that includes features on NBC Nightly News, CNN and in The New York Times.
Together our students, staff, and community members are leading the way to a better tomorrow for themselves, their families, their community—and for all of us. We work hard, and think big because we believe that everyone, everywhere deserves a chance to hope.
What We Do
We combat intergenerational cycles of poverty and gender inequality by linking tuition-free schools for girls to essential social services for all through a holistic, community-driven approach. By concretely linking essential health and economic services to a school for girls, we demonstrate that benefiting women benefits the whole community, cultivating a community ethos that makes women respected members of society.
Why Our Work Can’t Wait
There is a desperate need for organizations like ours. The brutality inflicted on women and girls in much of the world is the paramount human rights issue of this century. However, for every $1 spent on development worldwide girls and women receive less than ¢2.
Although the UN estimates that there may be as many as 1.5 million people live in Kibera, Kenya’s government does not formally acknowledge the slum’s existence. The government contends that Kibera’s residents are illegally squatting on government-owned land and thus does not provide sufficent services or infrastructure to Kibera residents such as toilets, roads, hospitals, or schools. The lack of accessible resources or services hurts everyone, but leaves women devastated because men are in control of any existing resources. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty and gender inequity. In Kenya, 33% of women trade sex to survive by 16; in Kibera 66% of girls trade sex for food as early as age six. Women in Kibera contract HIV at a rate 5 times their male counterparts; and Kibera has one of the world’s highest HIV rates. 1 of 5 children do not live to see their 5th birthday. 7 of 10 women have or will experience violence. We are working everyday to change these devastating realities. Educating a girl in places like Kibera means she will earn more, invest 90% of earnings in her family, be three times less likely to contract HIV, and have fewer, healthier children more likely to live past age five.
In the face of these staggering statistics—we are making real change every single day. We asked a mother of a student at our school if she had a message that we could share about the urgency of our work and she said this: “Tell them that they have given me the best gift possible—just by caring about Shining Hope for Communities they have given me hope that tomorrow will be better than today, because today is already better than yesterday.”
*All of our governing documents, conflict of interest policy, and financial statements are available to the public.
We are in the process of updating our website and soon these documents will be accessible via this webpage. If you would like to view these documents in the interim please email firstname.lastname@example.org