Kennedy Odede


Kennedy is an internationally recognized community organizer. Kennedy was born and lived for twenty-three of his twenty-six years in the Kibera slum, the largest slum in Africa. As the oldest of eight children, he assumed responsibility for his family at the age of ten.  The first time Kennedy ever had extra money—20 cents in 2004—he bought a soccer ball and started Shining Hope for Communities. As President & CEO of Shining Hope, Kennedy started The Kibera School for Girls, the slum’s first tuition free school for girls.  Under Kennedy’s leadership Shining Hope has also opened a community health clinic, built eco-friendly toilets, and currently operates a community center from which we run extensive community programming such as health care and education outreach, gardens, gender violence support groups, microenterprise for HIV positive women, literacy/computer training, and hundreds of jobs.  Kennedy is a 2010 Echoing Green Fellow, won the 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition, wrote an Op-Ed that appeared in the New York Times, and was recently honored by President Bill Clinton.  He is a senior fellow with Humanity in Action and a senior at Wesleyan University.  Kennedy is twenty-seven-years-old and speaks six languages, and is one of very few people from Kibera to ever attend an accredited four-year college.


What inspires you? What do you believe in?

“I believe that the world is a mirror.  In the face of terrible injustice and inequality, we must reflect to the world the change that we would like to see.  Whatever we do in this world will be reflected back to us, and so we must fight and fight hard for what is right.  If the world is going to change, we must recognize that we must all play our parts.  It is not sustainable to live in a world where 20% of the population consumes 80% of the world’s resources.  I hope that one day no other child will have to suffer as I did and I believe that as a global community we must come together to make this possible.  We must never give up.  There were many times in my life that I was sure I would die, that there was no hope for me, but I never allowed myself to be daunted by the great odds I faced.”