Friday, July 30, 2010

Progress Report: the Johanna Justin-Jinich Clinic

We are incredibly excited about the progress of the Johanna Justin-Jinich clinic! The first floor of the two-story structure is complete, and workers (many of whom are school dads) will be starting on the second floor next week. The clinic will be outfitted with a friendly waiting room, examining rooms, maternal care, a laboratory and a pharmacy.

The community health worker trainings have been going fantastically. A woman from Kibera, who has been a community health worker in Kibera for over 10 years, leads the sessions, which have covered topics ranging from HIV/AIDS and TB care to the pathology of cancer to maternal and prenatal care of pregnant women. The community health workers will provide a link between the community and the clinic, providing educational outreach, referring people to the clinic, and providing follow-up care. There will also be a specific focus on prenatal health to ensure that women have a safe and reliable place to turn during pregnancy. To learn more about the state of maternal health in Kenya, please read a recent article in The Standard (one of Kenya's national newspapers).

We are also thrilled to announce that we have hired an amazing doctor from Nairobi Women’s Hospital, who specializes in women’s health. Not only has he been helping with the development of the clinic’s programs and services, but he has been leading a few of the community health worker training sessions. We are so excited to have such a committed doctor and his expertise on board!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Research Projects

What do ostriches, pilots, water, and the heart all have in common? They are all topics our students have chosen for their summer independent research projects! Each girl has chosen a subject they will study in-depth throughout the summer, and our wonderful volunteers have been guiding them in the process. For Kindergarten and First Graders, the topics are diverse, thought-provoking, and incredibly cute. Animals are the clear favorite, ranging from lions and elephants to cows and chickens. Many are studying the environment – weather, soil, flowers, and plants. From there the topics get more abstract and zany.

Throughout the summer, students have been exploring their topics in creative and innovative ways. Students interested in pilots have been learning about flight with paper airplanes. Our animal researchers have been studying “Kaka”, the school's new kitten that will be keeping mice away from our school. Our little herbologists have been spending time in our sustainable vegetable garden, learning about the type of plants we grow as part of our feeding program.

These research projects are an essential part of the Kibera School's innovative model. By allowing the girls to explore topics on their own, we cultivate students that take an active role in their own education. Instead of forcing them to memorize requisite facts, we allow them to study what they want, which leads them to ask relevant questions about the world around them and think critically. It's also just incredibly fun!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jessica Wins the 2010 Do Something Award!

Last night Jessica Posner, Shining Hope for Communities Co-Founder and Managing Director, won the 2010 Do Something Award. and VH1 partnered to present The Do Something Awards to honor young people's commitment to social change. The final five nominees and grant recipients were announced Monday, May 24, 2010 during a star-studded event at the Apollo Theater in New York. Each nominee was honored for his or her commitment to social action with a community grant of $10,000. Of these five nominees, Do Something, Inc. selected Jessica as the grand prize winner--she received a $100,000 grant for Shining Hope for Communities during the live VH1 broadcast of the ceremony at the Hollywood Palladium.

Since 1996, has honored the nation's best world-changers, ages 25 and under. The Do Something Award is the premiere national award for social action. Nominees and winners represent the pivotal "do-ers" in their field, cause, or issue.

You can watch her victory here. We couldn't be more proud of Jessica and all of her hard work, but we can't wait to have her back in Kibera with the rest of the team.

Congratulations Jess!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Fire in Kibera

Last week a large fire broke out in Kibera right next to our school. A kerosene lamp fell over in one house, and because of Kibera's incredible density, poor ventilation, and flammable building materials, the fire quickly spread. 18 families lost their homes and all of their worldly possessions in one night. Luckily, no one was hurt in the fire, but the damage was horrific. A whole section of houses that line the path we take everyday to school was suddenly missing, leaving only a large empty field of black ash. Over the course of the week, we've watched as the determined families afflicted have struggled to rebuild their homes and their lives, despite having lost every material possession they own.

Overwhelmed by both the scope of the disaster and the resiliency of the victims, the Kibera School for Girls and SHOFCO decided to help out. George Okewa, our school administrator, and Leah Lucid, our Development Director, spearheaded a 48 hour funding drive. In just two days, we were able to raise over 1,000 dollars in private donations from the United States. With this money we were able to buy mattresses, blankets, cooking/cleaning utensils, and food for all 18 families!

This Monday we had a ceremony in front of the site to distribute the goods to the 18 families. News about the intervention had spread quickly - nearly a hundred people came to support the families and lend a hand. The ceremony was lead by the former counselor Opete, a major community leader, as well as Kennedy and Jessica. As we handed over supplies, Counselor Opete spoke about the power of working together and uniting for a good cause. As he spoke, the semi-permanent structures that serve as homes were already being rebuilt, and with our supplies each family now had a warm place to sleep and enough meals to last them a month.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Kibera World Cup

This weekend SHOFCO hosted the first annual Kibera World Cup! Twenty youth soccer teams (boys 16 and under) from all over Kibera competed in the two-day tournament. The games coincided with the final games of the actual World Cup in South Africa and mirrored its structure. On the first day, teams were placed into lettered groups where they played “round robin” style. Two fields, three referees, and forty games in one day! Winners from each group competed in the knockout rounds on the second day, including the quarterfinals, semifinals, and a big final match at the end of the tournament.

SHOFCO's 16 and under team finished 4th place, after a tough penalty shootout loss to “More Fire” in the semifinals (Other creative team names from the tournament include: “Super Disc”, “Lexus”, and “Mexico”). Eventually, “More Fire” defeated “Mexico” in an exciting final game that all of the teams stayed to watch. The top four teams in the tournament all won official World Cup soccer balls and cash prizes, handed out in a closing ceremony at the end of the game.

During the event we also enjoyed performances from the acrobatic dance troupe “Kibera Hamlets”, as well as an exuberant skit from the SHOFCO youth drama team based on HIV/AIDS awareness. We also had face painting and balloons for the younger kids, as well as juice, soda, bread, and biscuits for the players and fans all watching. Before the final match, the Shining Hope volunteers (“Team Obama”) were challenged to a friendly match against the SHOFCO girls soccer team, which was a lot of fun, but highlighted our embarrassing mzungu soccer skills. Hundreds of people came to watch the games, especially kids, and everyone had a blast!

This amazing community event would not have been possible without our amazing youth soccer director, “Coaches” (his nickname – his real name is Ken, but he's known by everyone as “Coaches” so there's no confusion with our boss Kennedy!). Not only does he organize and coach all of SHOFCO's youth soccer teams, but he organized the entire event with Leah, our incredible Development Director. All in all, it was a great weekend for SHOFCO and a perfect way for the community to celebrate the World Cup!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Power of Sponsorship

Sarah just finished her pre-school year at the Kibera School for Girls. She is exceptionally sweet, affectionate, bright, and has a smile that can make any of us melt in an instant. You simply cannot help but love this little girl who is constantly reaching to hold your hand. We originally thought Sarah had a degenerative eye disease that was causing her to go blind, but after taking her to an eyecare specialist last year, it was determined that her eyes actually had severe allergies, but no degeneration. These allergies were causing vision impairment, constant rubbing and erosion of the cornea, and pigment leaking into her whole eye, making it appear extremely dark. A recent visit from an optometrist at the school made us question Sarah's previous diagnosis. Once again, Sarah needed to see an opthamologist. Primary healthcare is covered by the general sponsorship program, which goes a very long way in Kibera. Unfortunately, specialist care is expensive and beyond what the school’s budget can afford for primary healthcare coverage of our girls.

Luckily, by some twist of fate, Sarah had been matched with an unusually generous and doting sponsor. This sponsor had previously reached out to offer any additional aid Sarah might need – especially for her eyes. When we realized that Sarah urgently needed to see a specialist last week because her eyesight had gotten worse, I contacted Sarah’s sponsor to ask for help. I got an immediate, positive response. It felt amazing to tell Sarah that we were going to help her see better. And as I held Sarah’s hand on the way to the eye doctor, I told her about Margot -- her special sponsor who loved and cared about her all the way from America, and was helping us take her to the doctor. She looked up at me and Sammy and smiled her priceless smile. Thanks to sponsors like Margot, we can get our wonderful girls the help they truly need and deserve.

This week, 25 new students will start at the Kibera School for Girls. Most of them will be in the pre-school class, and a few will be filling open spots in the three older classes. All of them are in need of sponsors (photos to be posted soon on our website). The Sponsorship Program is a fantastic way to get involved in the Kibera School for Girls. Sponsors get matched to a specific girl in need, and provide their child with nutritious food, uniforms, and primary healthcare. In return, sponsors receive bi-annual updates about the student, as well as hand-written letters from their child. Some supporters have also found that a year of sponsorship funds can make a meaningful gift for a loved one! If you are interested in sponsorship, please email me at:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kennedy and Jessica Win Echoing Green!

We couldn't be more proud of our Shining Hope for Communities co-founders, Executive Director Kennedy Odede and Managing Director Jessica Posner. The two have just been selected for the prestigious 2010 Echoing Green Fellowship.

The Echoing Green Fellowship program provides seed capital and support to some of the world’s best emerging social entrepreneurs. At Echoing Green, we know that change comes not just from a well-funded idea or an innovative model. It comes from human beings who align their heads with their hearts to become engines for social change.

Learn more, and watch their video here.