An impassioned tale of how an unusual Kenyan NGO became globally galvanized by the romance between its embattled Nairobi director and a resolute young Wesleyan University student.
Hailing from the Kibera slums and facing enormous obstacles, Odede managed to start the Shining Hope for Communities program, offering support to a community in crisis. Posner, an American student from a well-off Denver family, in turn became the COO of the program. The two alternate telling this uplifting and courageous story of how they met and fell in love. Odede is truly a survivor of the worst kind of marginalization of the invisible poor in the Kibera slum (“survival was improbable”). Born to an unmarried teenage woman (a breech birth, no less, one of the many miracles in his life), Odede eventually ran away from home at age 10 after being unable to stand any more abuse at the hands of his stepfather. Years of street life, theft, and drugs drove him to seek help from the white missionaries, and he eventually received the funds for an education. Posner arrived at the SHOFCO office for a Wesleyan internship in 2007, determined to brave the appalling living conditions of the slum (open sewers, rats and other vermin, scant water, complete lack of privacy) and cohabitate with Odede in disarming chastity. The authors tell a moving love story that crosses a chasm of different cultural beliefs and expectations, culminating in Odede’s refuge at Wesleyan with a full scholarship. He had to flee his country after nearly being murdered by ethnic-driven gang violence following the rigged election of President Mwai Kibaki. Aside from the authors’ developing romance, what is so impressive is Odede’s commitment to the empowerment of young women after seeing so many rapes, violence, and indignities inflicted on the women in his own family.
A well-wrought, inspiring tale of “change and justice” in a part of the world where they are often sorely lacking.