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Kennedy Odede, NYT bestselling author and CEO of Shining Hope for Communities, explains how to counter the emptiness, despair and lack of meaning that fuel violence and terror

Kennedy Odede

July 15,2016
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Kennedy Odede knows a thing or two about falling into the clutches of a terror group.

Raised in devastating poverty in Africa’s largest urban slum, Kibera, Odede fell into a violent street gang as a child, drawn by the sense of belonging to a community united in its struggle for survival.

Now founder and CEO of the acclaimed nonprofit Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) and co-author of the New York Times bestselling book Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum, Odede understands that similar to street gangs, terrorism is fueled by emptiness, despair and a lack of meaning.

Messages such as “Join the fight for freedom,” and “The western world is ruining us,” resonate with and attract people when their own communities, government, parents and social networks have nothing to offer.

The only viable solution, Odede says, is to attack the root cause — social disconnection — by engaging vulnerable individuals in their communities through activities such as sports, clean-up projects and education.

This is exactly what Odede and his wife Jessica Posner Odede did in founding SHOFCO, which transforms poor, urban communities in Kenya through tuition-free education for girls and holistic social services for all, filling the dangerous void created by despair with supportiveness and hope.

There’s much more on SHOFCO’s story and the outcome in Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum, which Odede and Posner wrote together.  It releases in paperback on July 26 (Ecco / Harper Collins).  The book has received glowing praise from Chelsea Clinton, Gloria Steinem and several Nobel Prize Winners.


About Kennedy Odede
One of Africa’s best-known community organizers and social entrepreneurs, Kennedy Odede the co-author with Jessica Posner Odede of the New York Times bestselling book Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum. Founder and CEO of the nonprofit Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) based in Kenya, he is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and was awarded the 2010 Echoing Green Fellowship, which is given to the world’s top emerging social entrepreneurs. He also won the 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition and was named one of Forbes’ 2014 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs.

Kennedy speaks six languages, is a senior fellow with Humanity in Action, and an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.   His work has been featured in the PBS documentary Half the Sky, by Chelsea Clinton and Maria Menounos on NBC, by President Bill Clinton, and on multiple occasions by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times.

SHOFCO combats extreme poverty and gender inequality by linking schools for girls to a set of high-value, holistic community services for all. In 2016 it will reach 100,000 people.