Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum– Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner
I loved this book. I just have to start out by saying that.
Find Me Unafraid is the story of Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner, how life brought them together, how they learned from each other, and how they started a school for young girls in one of the worst slums in Kenya.
Kennedy grew up in the Kibera slum and faced being homeless and consistently without food. Instead of turning to crime and violence, like so many others, he wanted to help his community become stronger and more prosperous. So he started his own organization: SHOFCO or Shining Hope For Communities. Now let’s Enter Jessica Posner, a study abroad student from Denver. Jessica decides she wants to be totally immersed in a culture she knows nothing about while working with SHOFCO’s theatre department. Over time, the two fell in love and expand SHOFCO into a school for young girls.
This book is so inspiring. The things Kennedy and Jessica have done, and the way the’ve given back is amazing. There were so many different hardships they faced that even had me wondering what they were going to do. However, they persisted. I’ve been wanting to do a mission trip for a while now, and this desire is only amplified after reading this. Giving back, in your home country and around the world, is so important.
This book connected so many pieces of the way I see the world and related to different experiences I’ve had. One example is the scene when Jessica’s family comes to Kibera and her parents are shocked to see what she’s done. I feel like I understood the worries she felt about her parents coming and seeing where she was going as it pertained to when I told my parents I was going to Cuba. Another part of the book I related to was when Jessica talks about how her privilege is inescapable. This is something I constantly think about. Although I wouldn’t consider myself privileged by America’s standards, I’m still very fortunate. And compared to some people in this country, and many others around the world, I am privileged in ways I don’t even realize.
The most fascinating connection for me in this book is what makes this SHOFCO successful. It’s the partnership between Kennedy has “local knowledge and charisma”, but Jessica is a “policy wonk foreigner who could open overseas wallets.” This, combined with using their own community members to spur growth is the basis of the organization, and it’s most powerful asset. I admire this concept so much! For the past few years, I’ve been studying engagement, and this concept isn’t new to me, even though the example is. I mostly focused on engagement between citizens and their government in the United States. Now, in my own career, I’m working in Community and Youth Engagement. SHOFCO’s success is something I’m going to store in the back of my brain as one of the best applications of my studies. I already know I’m going to have to come back and keep reading this book.
So, a little shoutout to my mom for recommending this book! She told me she thought of me when she read it and I can see how there’s parts of Jessica that remind her of me. Over the past few years my mom has told me time and again how much my adventurous, flexible, and nonjudgemental personality has inspired her. What she doesn’t know is the reason I can be who I am is because I watched her be be such an independent woman growing up.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! In fact, I already have to my good friend, Liz. Does this book make me want to go to Kenya? Yes, it really does. I need to see the place described in the book, talk to the people that have good hearts, give back to ones who are less fortunate than me, and experience this part of the world.
Note: Please check out the links page for SHOFCO’s website. (And, donate if you can. I’m pretty broke but I scraped together some coffee money.) SHOFCO’s women empowerment program also has an Etsy page with some cute homemade stuff, so check that out if that’s more your jam.