This is probably old news by now (seeing as how it’s been flooding my Facebook feeds, no matter how weird-looking it is now), but Pulitzer Prize-winning NYT Op-Ed columnist Nick Kristof had a piece up last night about Kennedy Odede ’12, Jessica Posner ’09, and Shining Hope for Communities.
It’s a pretty short piece, and very sweet indeed – structured loosely as a way to let readers know where their donations have been shipped of to all this time, Kristof puts in its centerpiece the converging narratives of Odede and Posner that culminates in a good chunk of love and a whole lotta hope.
On this dreary, dreary morning that threatens to get only gloomier, this was sort of wonderful way for me to start the day. (For it has, indeed, melted my cold, black heart.)
Rachel Gelman ’12 tipped me off about this more than a week ago, but due to [insert flimsy excuse here], I’m only posting this now: ubiquitous WesCelebs Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jess Posner ’09 were featured on a recent episode of MSNBC Nightly News, profiling the Kibera School for Girls! (Only not at Wesleyan would Kennedy and Jess’s collaboration be labeled an “unlikely friendship”.) Check it out for a quick summary of the successes of the Kibera School and some screen time for campus star Olin Memorial Library.
If you haven’t been stalking the university website’s front page or The Wesleyan Connection lately, you might not know that Wes philanthropist superstar Kennedy Odede ’12 is due to appear as a panelist at the fourth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting that is to be held in a couple of days. He will be joining Big Bill himself along with super-duper-activist and really-serious-actor-guy Sean Penn.
Odede, the co-founder of the “Shining Hope for Communities” non-profit, will also speak at the event’s closing plenary session entitled “A Conversation with President Clinton.”
For more info, you can go to the Wesleyan Connection article on it (click here).
Congrats, big guy, and good luck!
PS: According to the ACB, Kennedy’s jacket apparently went missing last Friday night over at Psi U. I’m not sure if it’s still missing, but if it is, help the man out, would ya? Presumably it’s not the same jacket pictured in the image up there. But I assume it too is similarly shiny. Original post can be found here.
Shining Hope for Communities links tuition-free school for girls to accessible, income-generating social services for all to combat gender inequality in places of extreme poverty. In their innovative model, girls’ schools become portals through which attitudes toward women change as community members associate essential health and economic services with an institution dedicated to girls’ education. The Shining Hope Community Center will engage community participants through its seven multi-faceted Income-Generating Service Initiatives that use innovative technology to address the most severe local deficits in health care, sanitation, food security, and computer/literacy training.
Odede, Wordsmith (Josh Smith ’11), and Mikey Ro (Michael Rosen ’11) have joined forces to create this absolutely excellent track, featuring hit lyrics like “junior status but he’s so damn B.I.G.” and “a clinic already, today he’s Odede/but give him a decade and he’ll be el presidente,” “his dance moves are crazy,” “hips seem to move like blades of a blender.”
And be sure to download the track and name your price because producer Jared Paul ’11 pledged to donate proceeds to Shining Hope for Communities. Pertinent linkage below.
Have web design skills? Want to use them to make a difference?
Kennedy Odede ’12 is looking for someone to help him make a really amazing website for the Kibera School for Girls, a girls school he started with Jessica Posner ’09 in his hometown of Nairobi Kenya’s Kibera slum. If you’re interested please email Kennedy at kodede@wes. To read more about the project go to hopetoshine.org.
A little late on picking this up, but Kennedy Odede ’12 was featured two days ago in the Courant:
Four years ago Wesleyan University student Kennedy Odede was living in the chaotic Nairobi slum where he grew up, in a 10-by-10-foot shack without running water, basic sanitation or electricity. But even there, in Kibera, a young man can get his hands on a computer.
And Odede wasn’t just any young man.
Had he been an urban American trying to lift up his neighbors, instead of a Kenyan slum dweller trying to save some lives, he might have been dubbed a “community organizer.” But Odede was, as his recollections imply, simply taking care of his poor branch of the family of man.
Amid the most desperate poverty in Kenya’s largest slum, where prostitution for girls often comes with or even precedes puberty, Odede had created a youth-based community center and was offering services for women and children with HIV/AIDS. He had made a difference, a few foes and a lot of friends.
But time was running out for the women and children, and Odede was running out of ideas. So he entered a computer search for “Kenya,” adding words like “aid” or “service” or “charity,” and eventually clicked on a Connecticut-based group called American Friends of Kenya.
Although the group was then only a year old, founding director Emely Silver of Norwich was used to receiving, and often rejecting, plaintive pleas for help from Kenyans. A former U.S. Air Force nurse and nursing instructor with a tart sense of humor, Silver has no time for dead-end modes of charity or aid. Odede, she recalls, “was the first one who didn’t ask for money.” He wanted advice about how to manage his projects in the slums.
“Teach me,” he wrote to Silver, who was immediately smitten.
What Odede got was an adopted “grandma,” as he now calls Silver, and a partnership with American Friends of Kenya that will be on full view this month in Kibera when he and his partner, Wesleyan University graduate Jessica Posner, open the slum’s first school for girls.
So how do you connect dumpster diving to Kenya to Wesleyan? Well, CNN today featured a great article about a New York chemistry teacher, Jude Ndambuki, who spends a good portion of his free time scouring local trash for scrapped computer parts to repair and send back to his home nation of Kenya. In return, he only asks that the schools that receive the equipment plant trees to help fight the massive soil erosion affecting the countryside.
The article reminded me about a friend of mine and recent alum Jessica Posner ’09. Along with Kennedy Odede ’12, the pair have been spending their summer in Kenya building the Kibera School for Girls. Jessica’s thoughtful blog has been highlighting just how desperately resources are needed over there. As she describes handing out uniforms last week:
The highlight of this week was today when we distributed uniforms to all of our students. For all of our students these uniforms were the first brand new clothes that these children have ever been given. In addition, uniforms are the only clothes that most of our children have. The excitement as 45 little girls tried on uniforms, traded sizes, swapped styles, and paraded around was incredible. The happiness from parents, students, and teachers alike was simply uncontainable.
The Kibera School gladly accepts both financial and in-kind donations. If you can salvage some computer equipment or stumble upon a box of crayons, consider shooting Jessica an email at email@example.com or checking out the Help Kenya Project. (For those going back to school, Staples has some ridiculously cheap deals like 1 cent notebooks that you may also consider donating, either to Kenya or a local school in need.)
Excellent human beings Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09 received a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant to build a school for girls in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya in which Odede grew up, during a 10-week project this summer.
Kennedy’s awe-inspiring life story was featured in a three-part series in the Argus last semester, and it’s no underoverstatement to say that he’s overcome incredible odds. Clearly both he and Posner are headed for great things.