Early Saturday morning, the pristine UN blue and white-colored buses rolled through Kibera, Kenya, one of Africa’s largest slums. These three new buses were not funded by the globally supported United Nations, but rather came from a proximate partner that works closely with UNDP, WHO, and UN Women’s organizations – Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO).
SHOFCO is a grassroots organization aimed at improving the lives of people living in the poorest, most dehumanizing conditions across Kenya’s informal settlements. For over 10 years, SHOFCO has been educating, feeding, providing healthcare, safety, jobs, and dignity to the lives of Kenya’s most vulnerable. In short, SHOFCO is bringing hope. During the Covid-19 pandemic, our SUN movement has been at the forefront in leading the fight against the pandemic.
Driven by an ethos of self-reliance, community development, and a vision to “build urban promise from urban poverty” the SHOFCO Urban Network (SUN) organization is driving the emergence of a new kind of leadership. This is not leadership from big donors and brand name aid organizations, rather it’s the organization and collaboration of 9,195 groups with over 140,000 principal members making up community advocacy platforms that empower collective action. The delivery of these shining new buses reflects a milestone in community advocacy and engagement. They embody the trust and hope for a better future as they have been purchased by and for members of these SUN community networks.
They will carry students of SHOFCO’s leadership academies in Mathare and Kibera, the latter of which just rocked the status quo by besting KCPE exam scores over “traditional giants such as Aga Khan Academy, Consolata School, Arya Vedic School, Makini School, and many others who have hogged the limelight over the years.” The buses are a welcome respite to SHOFCO schools for girls as they will enhance the girls’’ trips and participation in national curricular and co-curricular events.
They will ferry SUN welfare members as they gather for burials and pay respect to the families who have lost members. Through SUN membership, many families rely upon the Kes 50,000 bereavement checks provided through the SUN community initiative.
Apart from being used to facilitate SUN activities across urban slums, the buses will also be used to transport adult patients from slums within Nairobi for treatment in SHOFCO clinics. These clinics and the work of SHOFCO’s healthcare operations, incidentally, just received the Access to Healthcare Services Award due to their excellence in improving access to primary healthcare to the urban poor.
They will also be used to safely transport community members to and from candidate forums that have been established by SHOFCO, aimed at educating SUN members around the policies, practices, and promises of politicians, emphasizing peace over conflict during Kenyan elections.
In short, the delivery of these shiny new SUN buses reflects the evolution and success of community development across 21 sites, across 7 counties empowering over 800 beneficiaries with basic needs to enhance their lives and those of the next generation.
Hundreds of community members, observing Covid-19 protocols, gathered outside to cheer, dance, and chant in appreciation as the three buses rolled through the streets towards their coming of age ceremony. Pulling into the Kibera compound at 9:30 am on Saturday, 15 May 2021, over 30 community leaders, students, and Mr. Kennedy Odede, founder of SHOFCO, poured out of the vehicles, greeting the crowd.
By 10:00 am, Issac Gomba, the Program Officer of the SUN initiative, launched into a series of congratulatory speeches including SUN chairperson, Jakababa, and several SUN leaders. The microphone was then passed to Mr. Odede himself, who introduced several Board members and VIP guests, each marking the event as the culmination of successful community engagement over the years.
At just after 12:00 noon, proud committee members of SUN Kawangware boarded the buses, waved to friends and family, and rolled into the future aboard their chariots of hope.