The Day The Peacebuilders Came To Kenya




2018 Hilton Humanitarian Prize Awarded to SHOFCO


Umoja Community Music Therapy

Our Mission and Vision for Partnership with SHOFCO


Who we are.

Umoja Community Music Therapy is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable Music Therapy practices in underserved communities through the empowerment and training of women. With a focus on female leadership, Umoja partners with community organizations to train women as community Music Therapists, who will go on to pioneer, implement and sustain Music Therapy services as a means to unite, heal, and serve their communities.

What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy is the specialized application of supportive music intervention to address therapeutic, and global health outcomes across virtually all domains of functioning; including social, communication, emotional, physical, cognitive, sensory and spiritual needs. Music Therapists develop individualized treatment for people of all ability levels throughout the lifespan and work in a variety of health and community settings as members of an interdisciplinary team.

Within the global setting, Umoja promotes Music Therapy as an evidence-based, accessible, and cost-effective modality for individualized and group therapy, which highlights community and culture-centered approaches. Research by Stige (2016) supports culture-centered Music Therapy as a practice that highlights how humans develop their capacities through participation in society, where culture operates as a resource for action. We believe this paradigm is in alignment with SHOFCO’s mission to empower unified action. Within our partnership with the SHOFCO Women’s Empowerment Project (SWEP), we will champion music, and the Music Therapy profession as a cohesive, culturally rich and powerful tool for social change.

Our organization operates as a collective of four women who work as healthcare professionals in the United States within medical, education, and community settings. Practicing as Music Therapists, our expertise is informed by education and training in the areas of music and theory, psychology, psychotherapy, human development, group dynamics, research, clinical implementation and neuroscience with implications for rehabilitation and wellness. Throughout the past five years, Umoja has traveled throughout East Africa to provide educational in-services and sample sessions to all who are interested in learning how to implement Music Therapy services and develop programs within their communities.

Why women?

Across the world, women play a vital role in the societal and familial structure of their communities. According to the World Health Organization, one in three women worldwide are victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Within vulnerable communities, women and girls face issues such as gender bias, limited resources, and oppression stemming from prevailing cultural and societal norms surrounding the status of women. In many cases, these issues are compounded by a lack of financial security. Umoja believes in “the girl effect,” or the notion that when a girl has self-belief and is supported by her family and community, when she is empowered with skills, ideas, and knowledge, when she has access to services, role models, and other girls, when she is visible and vocal – she can demand to stay in school, to get health care, and to get married and have children when she chooses.” Through participating in therapy groups and training programs, we hope to provide others with a platform for agency and control, and to inspire community leaders to take the reigns and innovate, in order to design services from the lens of the needs of the community and to utilize Music Therapy as a healing and transformative tool for empowerment.

Plans for SHOFCO:

Cara Smith will be integrating Community Music Therapy training program with the marvelous leaders of SHOFCO while partnering with community advocacy programs, and education and leadership development efforts for women and girls. We will be designing music therapy programs for SHOFCO’s Women’s Empowerment Project (SWEP) and working with the leaders of this program as well as their women’s safety shelter in Kibera, and the Gender-Based Violence education staff.

We accomplish this by connecting local women musicians, teachers, and caregivers or enrolling community leaders interested in becoming community music therapists into our Trauma-Informed Music Therapy Training program. These individuals will participate in an ongoing training and collaboration project with the Umoja team to create the right service for the women and girls who need it and the leaders who implement it. The end goal is to help create sustainable music therapy services for the powerful survivors of violence and trauma and empower women to hone this new found skill in bringing healing and wellness to their community.

Umoja will also be working closely with music teachers at several of SHOFCO’s schools for girls in Nairobi’s slum communities – pioneering music therapy programs that provide a platform for creative emotional expression and empowerment opportunities for teachers and students to utilize music as an engine for community strength, cohesion, and leadership.


This October two executive members of Umoja will be visiting different SHOFCO sites within Nairobi to begin the collaboration process, build relationships, conduct workshops, training and demonstrate music therapy interventions for the girls and women SHOFCO serves. We hope to not only introduce an effective therapy for survivors of trauma but provide a platform for learning and empowerment for those who wish to learn this skill and provide this service.

We thank SHOFCO for their commitment to building long-term female leadership and are beyond humbled to embark in collaboration



Stige, B.(2016-01-21). Culture-Centered Music Therapy. In the Oxford Handbook of Music

Therapy. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 July. 2018, from

First Lady makes a historic tour of Kibera, commissions girls’ school

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Friday toured the interior of Kibera and commissioned a Girls’ School funded by Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a Non-Governmental Organization based in Nairobi.

The school, situated in the Gatwekera area of Kibera, is geared towards empowering the girl child through education…

Education Shines Hope for Girls in Kenya’s Largest Slum

A post penned by Kennedy on the importance of global education and SHOFCO’s role in promoting that in Kibera, Mathare and beyond.

NYT-Women in the World Praises Eunice’s Poem!

Women in the World in association with the New York Times spotlights Eunice’s powerful delivery of her heartfelt poem “My Dream” in front of thousands at the 6th Annual Women in the World Summit.


Poet, 12, from the slums of Nairobi enthralls crowd in New York City with tearful words

WNYC Feature

“Finding Love in a Hopeless Place” – an interview with Kennedy and Jessica on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Fast Company Spotlights Jessica and Kennedy’s Leadership

In How Two Broke Students Opened a Girls’ School in a Kenyan Slum Fast Company shines a light on the potential of young leaders to create positive change.

Mashable Highlights SHOFCO’s Feature in A Path Appears

In The activists working to transform Africa’s largest slum, one girl at a time Mashable celebrates SHOFCO’s journey to build urban promise and our feature in the PBS documentary, A Path Appears.

Kennedy Writes Second CNN Op-ed

Kennedy writes CNN op-ed about the promise of women and youth in Africa’s Surprising Future

NYT-Women in the World Presents Kennedy and Jessica’s Journey

Women in the World in association with the New York Times details SHOFCO’s exciting evolution.

How justifiable rage can be turned into a force for change

Forbes Features SHOFCO’s Innovation

Forbes features SHOFCO’s Ashoka Changemakers Award: 2 Innovations Bringing Simplicity Back to Health Care

Kennedy Named One of Forbes’ 30 Under 30

Kennedy Odede Named One of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs”

Kennedy Writes Op-Ed for Project Syndicate

Kennedy Odede writes an op-ed about the challenges of urban poverty for Project Syndicate: Africa’s Urban Challenge

Kennedy Writes Second New York Times Op-Ed

SHOFCO Founder Kennedy Odede writes second op-ed in the New York Times:Terrorism’s Fertile Ground

Nick Kristof Features SHOFCO in 2-Part Op-Ed

Nicholas Kristof featured SHOFCO in his weekly op-ed in a two-part series:  In This Rape Case, the Victim was 4 and How Brave Girls Helped Crack a Taboo

Nick Kristof Highlights Kennedy as Aspiring Mandela on NPR

In NPR broadcast, Nick Kristof highlights Kennedy as one of the “aspiring Mandela’s” across the world: Who Is the Next Mandela?

Chelsea Clinton Shares SHOFCO Story in Blog Post

Chelsea Clinton shares SHOFCO’s story in a blog post for MSNBC’s Rock Center: On Assignment: Couple’s love story leads to life-changing school in Kenyan slum

Chelsea Clinton Reports on SHOFCO for Rock Center

Chelsea Clinton reports on Shining Hope for Communities for MSNBC’s Rock Center: Couple’s school becomes a lifeline in Kenyan slum

Kennedy Writes CNN Op-Ed

Kennedy Odede writes CNN op-ed celebrating Nelson Mandela: In an African slum, talking to Mandela

Nick Kristof Features SHOFCO in NYT “Holiday Giving Guide”

Nicholas Kristof features SHOFCO in his New York Times 2012 Holiday Giving Guide: Gifts that Change Lives

VOGUE Features Jessica Posner

VOGUE Magazine features Jessica Posner. Read the full article on Scribd: Vogue – Up Front with Jessica Posner of Shining Hope for Communities

NBC Nightly News Features SHOFCO

The “Making a Difference” segment on NBC Nightly News features Shining Hope for Communities

Nick Kristof Shares SHOFCO Story in NYT Op-Ed

Nick Kristof shares the story of SHOFCO’s impact in his New York Times Op-Ed: Just Look at What You Did!

The Lancet Highlights SHOFCO

The Lancet features Shining Hope for Communities: Grassroots Project Shines Hope on Nairobi Slum Life

Kennedy Writes Op-Ed for the New York Times

SHOFCO Founder, Kennedy Odede, writes Op-Ed for the New York Times: Slumdog Tourism

Kennedy Odede: Kibera Man Who Fights Poverty

SHOFCO Co-founder and CEO Kennedy Odede met Business Daily‘s Jackson Biko at Serena’s Aksum Bar for samosas, tea and a stark conversation about poverty, life and things.

An ingenious way to bring clean water to a slum

The BBC interviewed our CEO and co-founder Kennedy Odede on the aerial water piping system that supplies residents of Nairobi’s Kibera slum.

Watch the film


The 431-mark Gloria Omondi from Nairobi slum who beat all odds

The daily nation published a story of Gloria Royal Otieno, the top student at Kibera School for Girls with 431 marks in the 2018 KCPE.

Read the entire story

The Day The Peacebuilders Came to Kenya

Forbes published this story, highlighting the role of SHOFCO in maintaining peace in Kibera. 

Pentair Expands Efforts To Increase Access To Sustainable, Safe Water

After a successful aerial water piping system in Kibera, with support from Pentair, we will replicate the aerial piping system to connect five water kiosks that will deliver low-cost clean water to a projected 21,000 individuals annually in Mathare. It will also provide clean water to the Mathare health clinic – a key component of SHOFCO’s holistic approach to help build empowered, healthy generations.

Read this article published by the Business Wire

How I got Beyonce to fund my war on poverty

Kennedy Odede shared SHOFCO’s story with The Standard. Here is the story.


Why A Fearless Dad-To-Be Was Scared Of Fatherhood

Our co-founder and CEO Kennedy Odede shared his story with the National Public Radio (NPR).

Read the interview


I spent 21 years of my life angry before I realised we in the slums must lead change

Kenya is on the rise. Those living in slums such as Kibera will only share in the progress if urban solutions come from our community

SHOFCO co-founder and CEO wrote an op-ed in The Guardian.

Read the op-ed


From homeless kid to hero of Africa’s biggest slum

Kennedy Odede grew up in Kibera in Kenya – Africa’s biggest slum. He thought his future prospects were either death or prison, then he read a book that would be a turning point.

Here is Kennedy’s interview with the BBC Outlook programme.

Turning the tables: global poverty conference to be held in a slum

Social entrepreneur Kennedy Odede, who was raised in the slum of Kibera, in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, has founded the event to bring world leaders and policymakers together to “change the dynamic” of the way the big global issues are discussed. He said it was about making “worlds collide”.

Read the entire article in The Guardian.

Africa’s largest slum to host inaugural world poverty forum

Kibera slum, Africa’s largest slum located in Kenya will be hosting the inaugural World Poverty Forum (WPF) in January next year. Founded by Kennedy Odede, one of Africa’s best-known social entrepreneurs, the forum is taking place on the 11th and 12th of January 2020.

Read the entire article on Africa Feeds.

Clean water a right, not luxury – Odede


Aerial piping changes narrative of water supply woes in Kibera



What will coronavirus do to one of Africa’s largest slums?


Crowded Slums Pose Challenge as Kenya Braces for Coronavirus


Group starts hygiene campaign, becomes face of virus fight in Kisumu


Women in Slum areas to benefit from a 25million grant


No water, no fear as community leaders in Kenya step up to coronavirus challenge


In Africa’s largest ‘slum,’ a grassroots movement is spearheading the fight against coronavirus


‘We’re taking matters into our own hands’: bracing for impact in Kenya


Aerial water piping saving lives in Kenya’s slum


A Kenyan COVID-19 notebook: The ‘mama mbogas’ and the path to recovery

READ THE STORY ON The New Humanitarian

Slum-based sacco banks on technology to boost revenue


Why organising communities is a cornerstone to fight poverty


Gender-based violence and defilement cases rise to alarming levels during the COVID-19 Pandemic


I live in fear of my rapists


This Organisation Is Helping Protect Kenya’s Most Vulnerable People From COVID-19


The pandemic has decimated local economies, where people are more afraid of hunger than the virus