Kennedy Odede started SHOFCO in 2004 with twenty cents—which he used to buy a soccer ball. SHOFCO began as a powerful youth-led movement. While SHOFCO started with just a soccer team and a weekly support meeting, the youth program soon grew to run the departments that are still youth-led today: Public Health, Communications, Sports, Theatre, and Gender Empowerment. Members of the SHOFCO youth group run the community center, leading initiatives that involve thousands of residents.
The Public Health Department leads large-scale education and outreach initiatives throughout Kibera on hygiene and sanitation. They also frequently lead community-wide clean ups, taking ownership of Kibera’s space, while simultaneously raising awareness about the hazards of the waste disposal methods in Kibera. The Communications Department publishes the “Kibera Mirror”—the slum’s first internal newspaper. The Theatre Department creates plays about important community issues such as rape, domestic violence, substance abuse, tribalism, and the importance of peace—performing these plays throughout the slum. SHOFCO’s soccer teams are champions, and both the girls and boys teams frequently win tournaments. The Gender Empowerment Department leads education and outreach, and provides support, surrounding gender issues. SHOFCO also has entrepreneurship training and programming—youth members, who participate in our income-generating beading project, have reported over an 80% increase in their income in 2010.
The Community Center has provided a pivotal space for each of these programs – it is a space owned by these youth, where they themselves are the ones making the decisions that affect their lives, something that is entirely too rare in Kibera.