In the African country of Kenya, not far from its capital city Nairobi, the Kibera Slum is said to be Africa’s largest slum.
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Many residents of the slum live without running water, electricity and other basic services. But a young man by the name of Kennedy Odede, a former resident of Kibera, has the chance to enjoy much more. Last weekend, Odede earned a degree from Wesleyan University.
Odede delivered the “Senior Class Welcome” to his graduating class and shared his incredible journey from the slums to collegiate glory, all while remaining humble and hardworking. He reminded students that his upbringing did not hamper his ambitions and that his mother’s love and devotion sustained his resolve to earn a college degree. Odede recalled a story about his mother saving $3 dollars over a course of months to enroll him into a proper school. Unknown to her, the school fees were $10 dollars, crushing Kennedy’s dreams.
WATCH Odede Talk About His Work In The Kibera Slum
“When we reached the school, I was smiling from ear to ear, so excited about the bright future ahead,” shared Odede in his speech. “The principal told us that while they did have open spaces, the school fees were $10 per year—not $3. My mom, a woman of great pride, begged and pleaded but had no luck.”
Odede’s fortunes would change dramatically after working at a factory that only paid $1.50 per day and a two-hour walk each way. He would purchase a soccer ball and began a movement in Kibera to fight for social justice thorough his organization, Shining Hope For Communities (SHOFCO). Through his efforts in Kibera and SHOFCO, Odede met a Wesleyan student who urged him to take his talents to the U.S.
“While I was growing this movement, I met a Wesleyan student studying abroad in Nairobi. She thought I should apply to a school I’d never heard of, and without knowing what would happen, I said yes! I was awarded the Bob and Margaret Patricelli Scholarship,” he told the students. “My mom was so sad to see me leave, but then I translated the cost of a scholarship to Wesleyan into the numbers of cows that you could buy for the same amount. As you can imagine, it was a lot of cows. Then, she almost picked me up and put me on the plane herself.”
Kennedy continued his inspirational tale, urging his fellow Wesleyan grads not to squander the opportunity laid out before them. He ended his by asking the graduates to join him in a mantra: “Today I promise…To use my Wesleyan education…To champion hope throughout the world.”
To learn more about Shining Hope For Communities, click this link.