Shining Hope for Communities | Co-Founder and Executive Director | Middleetown CT United States
I believe that the world is a mirror. In the face of terrible injustice and inequality, we must reflect to the world the change that we would like to see. Whatever we do in this world will be reflected back to us, and so we must fight and fight hard for what is right. If the world is going to change, we must recognize that we must all play our parts. It is not sustainable to live in a world where 20% of the population consumes 80% of the world's resources.
I am from Africa's largest slum - Kibera, Kenya. The oldest in a poor family of eight, I watched my three sisters fail to get an education. My father abused my mom and kept our family hungry by spending our little money on alcohol, refusing to send my sisters to school. Resisting, my mom taught me about gender equality. Starting at age seven, I sold peanuts on the road to put my siblings and myself through school. Despite my efforts, two of my sisters had to drop out after becoming teenage mothers. This is an alarmingly common story for families in Kibera.
Growing up in Kibera for 23 years, I saw the lives of many women crushed, including my mother’s and sisters’, and I dreamed of changing the position of women in my society. Survival is the first concern for those in extreme poverty, not gender equality. The biggest barrier to sending girls to school is not always gender discrimination, but resource priorities. Boys are simply more culturally valued. Made to choose, families send their sons to school. Our model intertwines survival and gender equity: Attitudes do not just shift, people change based on perceptions of personal benefit. We build a lasting community incentive structure, interrupting the objective conditions of poverty that hold old attitudes in place. Free schooling makes educating girls not a question of resources, but of desire. With a clinic adjacent to the school, parents want to access its resources themselves, motivating them to educate their daughter. If these services are available to anyone, regardless of whether they have a child at the school, tangible personal gain is associated with the presence of a school for girls. This has a ripple effect in the community: Women are valued because they attract needed services. Our incentive system challenges current thought parameters, linking survival to gender equity, thus raising the societal value placed on women and girls.
I recently received the 2010 Echoing Green Fellowship, the Dell Social Innovation Competition people's choice award and grand prize, and had an op-ed published in the New York Times. The first time I ever had extra money, 20 cents in 2005, I bought a soccer ball and started SHOFCO, a community organization. I ran SHOFCO for 4 years with no money, but with faith in the ability of people to change their own lives. I am currently the first person from the Kibera slum to attend a four-year college (Wesleyan University), and while at Wesleyan I co-founded the non-profit organization Shining Hope for Communities to continue expanding services to my community in Kibera. In summer 2009, I co-founded the Kibera School for Girls, the first entirely free school for girls within the slum. In summer 2010, we opened a Community Center and a Bio-Latrine Center with services for all. This fall, we are opening a highly accessible health clinic adjacent to the school.
PatientPower is an innovative model elevating standards of care in places of extreme poverty by bridging gaps between patients and the healthcare systems that serve them. By committing to 1) executive-level community control, and 2) integration of primary-care clinics with holistic services, ...