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At The Kibera School for Girls (KSG), we believe in hands-on interactive learning, utilizing the imagination and creativity that every child possesses. While the KSG teachers take an interactive, creative approach to lessons, there is currently no teacher on staff with expertise in the arts. This project would bring in a resident of Kenya with experience in arts education to periodically teach the girls, with the goal of eventually hiring a full time arts teacher. The arts teacher would conduct separate lessons to each class on different rotating topics, including drama and theater, movement and dance, music, and visual arts. Other types of art could also be included, like photography, sculpture, or performance poetry. Students would also take cultural field trips in Nairobi to museums, galleries, theaters, native dance companies, and more. This program would help KSG gain access to beneficial resources for arts education. At the school, the floors are often too dirty (from mud tracked in off the street) and too hard to dance on. The funding for this program would allow us to buy sturdy mats for the girls to take dance class. A stereo, musical instruments, and art supplies are other important resources for this program. With these resources, students will have the ability to pursue artistic interests at all times, regardless of the presence of an arts teacher. Through hands-on experience with dance, theater, music, and visual art this program will give our school an exciting and inspiring enhancement to the current curriculum.


At our pilot site, Kenya’s Kibera slum, the UN estimates that as many as 1.5 million people live in the informal settlement. However, Kenya’s government does not formally acknowledge the slum’s existence. The government contends that Kibera’s residents are illegally squatting on government-owned land and thus refuses to provide any services or infrastructure to Kibera residents such as toilets, roads, hospitals, or schools. The lack of accessible resources or services hurts everyone, but leaves women devastated because men are in control of any existing resources.

Kennedy Odede is the co-founder and Executive Director of Shining Hope for Communities. Kennedy lived in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya for 23 of his 25 years. There, he saw the bleak prospects for women first-hand. Kennedy’s father abused his mother, Jane, and kept the family hungry, spending what little money they had on alcohol. Subsequently, Jane taught Kennedy about gender equality. The eldest in a family of eight, Kennedy sold peanuts on the road starting at age seven to put himself and his siblings through school. Despite his efforts, two of Kennedy’s sisters had to drop out after becoming teenage mothers—one impregnated as the result of a gang rape. After seeing many women’s lives crushed like those of his mother and sisters’, Kennedy dreamed of finding a way to change the position of women in his society.

The first time Kennedy had extra money—20 cents in 2005—he bought a soccer ball and started the first youth group in Kibera founded and run by slum residents. He ran this group for 4 years with no funding. Through his faith in people’s abilities to change their own lives, he expanded this group into one of the largest organizations in the slum, working with 3,000+ people on AIDS education, female empowerment, microfinance, sanitation, and community health work. Because of this work, Kennedy is often called the “mayor of Kibera.” Kennedy combines his intimate understanding of Kibera’s daily challenges with the skills he is gaining through an education at Wesleyan University. As one of very few people from Kibera to attend an accredited four-year college, Kennedy knows what it takes to get out of poverty, and what is needed to transform his community.


Arts education is a vital aspect in the life of any child, no matter where they are from. At The Kibera School for Girls, we are committed to providing our students with a holistic, hands-on education. It is critical for the girls to develop the creative skills made possible from arts education: encouraging imagination and thinking outside the box will bring success to all aspects of our students’ difficult lives.

The Kibera School for Girls is not only educating its students, but also changing the value society places on women. For a woman to be valued in Kenyan society, she must first be able to value herself. This is hard in a place like Kibera, where women are seen as inadequate, experience sexual violence, and many are even forced to enter prostitution by age 16 (some as early as 6). At KSG, our girls have been given the rare chance to learn to value themselves. The confidence they have already gained is apparent through their enthusiasm to use their voices and speak up during class. One could only imagine the gain in self-confidence that would come from each girl participating in an arts program; the ability to express ones self with self-assurance has no better practice than in the arts. Students will be taught the importance of collaboration and working together with others in order to create; that sometimes process is just as important as product. In addition, they will be able to perform in class, with the possibility of a larger performance at the end. Being able to do this is an experience the girls will be sure to be proud of themselves for. These girls were never taught that their voices should be heard, and it is now time for their voices, movement, ideas, creativity, imaginations, and creations to be heard, seen, and experienced. Encountering the arts through theater, dance, music, visual arts, and performing, will help KSG students gain the self-confidence necessary to find value in themselves as women.

Team Credentials

Shining Hope for Communities has had widespread impact and support. Shining Hope provides resources and social services to the entire community, including a health clinic, sanitary toilets, water, gardens, gender violence support groups, microenterprise for HIV positive women, literacy/computer training, and hundreds of jobs. Because of the support Shining Hope gives to Kibera, the Kibera School for Girls is seen as essential to a community that does not usually value women’s education. In only 2 years of existence, the Kibera School for Girls has grown tremendously. Currently, construction is preparing a new school building for the incoming class, carrying out the plan to add a new grade to school every year.

Our impact has mitigated local deficits in education, sanitation, health, food security, and technological job skills. Kennedy and Jessica were recently awarded the prestigious 2010 Echoing Green Fellowship given to the world’s best emerging social entrepreneurs. They have received support for their work from The Newman’s Own Foundation, and Shining Hope also won the international 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition. Jessica was recognized as America’s “Top World Changer 25 and Under” by Do Something and VH1. Kennedy spoke as a panelist at Clinton’s Global Initiative Conference, and was recently invited to become a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. Our students, staff and community members are leading the way to a better tomorrow for themselves, their families, their community—and for all of us.


  • An Update from Kibera!

  • Arts Education Update from Kibera School

    Our students at Kibera School of Girls recently participated in a National Theater competition and a Poetry and Elocution festival. Check out the pictures and video! Performing a song and dance about a bus crash. Here's a video of the students performing the poem, "Wings to Fly" at the Poetry and Elocution Festival. [url=][/url] And here are some pictures of the students in a clay class: