In 2004, Kennedy Odede founded

Shining Hope For Communities

(SHOFCO) as a grassroots movement based in Kibera, Africa’s largest informal settlement. SHOFCO’s work spans 17 dense areas in Kenya’s informal settlements, providing critical services, community advocacy platforms and education and leadership development for women and girls. In

Kennedy’s words

, systemic transformation of communities must be driven by economic opportunity, access to basic services and a belief in the dignity and self-worth of every individual.

Power of Community and Building Trust in the Face of Crisis

We know that in communities like Kibera, an effective pandemic response is jeopardized when people cannot meet their basic needs. We invested in SHOFCO because of the urgent need to support communities and families’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic — a response that recognizes the dignity of all people and the strength of communities and local organizations to lead this charge. We saw SHOFCO’s capacity to empower young people while promoting resilience in the youth at a time of crippling economic realities. Change requires trust and few organizations hold the respect and trust that SHOFCO has built in over a decade of work.

SHOFCO’s community mobilizers and health workers sprung into action launching a multi-pronged prevention and preparedness campaign focused on community health, WASH and nutrition interventions. They provided more than 7 million liters of clean drinking water, informational pamphlets and handwashing stations that have been used more than 50 million times. Incredibly, they have screened nearly 2 million residents for potential symptoms.

The Power of Engaging Youth: Why Local Organizations Matter

We recognize the importance of engaging and supporting youth, many of whom are hungry to engage and contribute to their communities. Impact-driven engagement builds connection, networks and agency. SHOFCO’s community center creates spaces for youth to come together and discover their talents. The center also hosts large mobilization and advocacy meetings around issues that affect young people such as the workforce, education, lack of opportunity and violence.

Last year, the SHOFCO Urban Network (SUN), a platform that targets youth, reached 2.4 million people over a six-month period. In Kibera and Mathare slums, the SUN community comprising of more than 160,000 young people moved door-to-door educating the community and providing vital supplies such as relief food, masks and sanitizers to families in need. “SHOFCO gives young people like me an opportunity to be part of the solution to our problems. The youth in Kibera are resilient and we can create change in the community when given a chance,” shared Justus, one youth who was part of these efforts.

As we deepen our work in engaging youth across Africa, we look forward to learning alongside and co-creating solutions with organizations like SHOFCO.

Education Safety Nets and Improving Learning Outcomes Beyond COVID-19

In addition to the immediate public health threats of the ongoing virus, learning is also at stake. During the lockdown, the majority of learners from informal settlements could not afford the infrastructure required for online learning. To cushion this, SHOFCO, which runs tuition-free leadership academies located in Kibera and Mathare slums with more than 500 students, made its community library services available to children who wanted to keep up with their studies.

As schools reopen, SHOFCO will work with families and trusted community networks to prioritize learning. Young adolescent girls are twice as likely to be out of school in crisis situations and face greater barriers to education. SHOFCO is set to launch a program that will provide 15,000 adolescent girls and young women with sexual and reproductive health information and services through a network of trusted clinics and community health workers.

There’s also a need to support parents and caregivers, so that they can prioritize their children’s education. To date, SHOFCO has disbursed direct cash transfers to more than 34,000 individuals in the SUN network. Their Sustainable Livelihoods Department works with residents ages 18-35 years and trains them on job readiness, entrepreneurship and computer skills and also provides job placement assistance services.

Moving Forward Through A Crisis

Interruptions to education can have lasting implications — especially for the most vulnerable. The crisis we’re facing is continually evolving, and with it, the decisions that communities and educators are having to make. Working with partners such as SHOFCO helps us to support communities and address the most pressing education priorities at each step of the way. At Imaginable Futures, we believe that collective and inclusive action is paramount if we are to navigate the current crisis and deliver future success for all learners, their families and communities.