The first time I talked with Jessica Posner, co-founder of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), was June 2011. Shining Hope for Communities was Dining for Women’s featured grantee, and I had asked her to Skype with my chapter. It was about 2:00 a.m. in Kenya! We were riveted as she described the school and the vision that she and Kennedy, her life partner and SHOFCO co-founder, have for their organization. We were hooked by the vision but also by the story of Jessica and Kennedy, drawn together in life and in work. Jessica is from Denver, Colorado. Kennedy was born and raised in the slums of Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya. Together they’ve established a thriving nonprofit that is changing the lives of precious girl students and also their community in Kibera.
Needless to say, when Jessica and Kennedy’s book, Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum was published in September last year, I couldn’t wait to read it, and once I started it I couldn’t put it down. It’s a jaw-dropping tale replete with intrigue and danger, but also humor, love, and a happy ending! Chapters alternate descriptions by Jessica and Kennedy describing their childhoods, their enchanting love story, and the genesis and growth of Shining Hope. Jessica is bright, curious, and determined. Kennedy’s story offers insight into daily life in Kibera and what it was like to have grown up there. He faced challenges that would have driven many to violent, angry ends, but–against all odds and with Jessica’s help–Kennedy made it to school in the U.S.–without a high school diploma. After graduating Wesleyan University, Jessica and Kennedy returned to Kibera.
Because he had seen his mother and sisters suffer abuse and degradation, Kennedy realized that the way to create change is to empower girls and women. What amazing insight from a young man! Jessica and Kennedy’s mission became to increase gender equality and decrease urban poverty by providing tuition-free education for girls linked to social services. Jessica’s focus, determination, and drive bound with Kennedy’s larger-than-life personality and charisma are a powerful combination. Together they have revolutionized life in Kibera for countless families. Today they are transforming urban slums; tomorrow they will have created a new generation of female leaders!
By 2017, DFW will have contributed $96,263 to a shared vision of increased gender equality and many fewer families living in extreme poverty. Please visit the SHOFCO page on our website to learn more about DFW’s sustained funding grant to Shining Hope and to read the final report from the featured grant for $36,263 from 2011. Jessica and Kennedy have a fascinating story. I loved the book!