Ambassador Robert F. Godec Remarks at Shining Hope Community Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in Mathare

Hamjambo, mabibi na mabwana!  Habari zenu.

It is a great pleasure to join everyone here today to celebrate Shining Hope’s expansion into an entirely new community.  That you have done so, and so quickly, is a testament to the help and support of the entire community: from the private sponsors who provided financing to volunteers who provided time and energy; from residents who agreed to find room for the center to all the partners who have contributed their talent and expertise.

Under its extraordinary founder Kennedy Odede and his wife Jessica, Shining Hope is providing services, from maternal healthcare to job skills training, to a whole new community, and I want to ask that we all take a moment now to applaud their great efforts.  The thing that is unique about Shining Hope is that it is entirely based in the community.  Kennedy himself grew up in Kibera, and cut his teeth as an organizer there.  Shining Hope’s approach is based on data, analysis, and shared experiences and needs.  The numbers make it clear that Shining Hope answers vital, pressing needs.  For example: women who use Shining Hope services are more likely to use modern birth control, more likely to be employed, and more likely to participate in household financial decision making.  Shining Hope members are significantly less likely to condone domestic violence, significantly less likely to be the victims of sexual and gender-based violence, and significantly more likely to champion gender equality.

Just a month ago, President Obama spoke to 500 young African leaders gathered in Washington for the Mandela Fellows program.  Among them were 46 Kenyans who are doing great things like Kennedy has done.  Young leaders in Africa were also a major focus of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, a truly historic event in which many Kenyans participated.  President Obama’s goals for Africa were very clear: the security, the prosperity, and the justice we seek in the world cannot be achieved without a strong, prosperous, self-reliant Africa.  In President Obama’s words, “even as we acknowledge the real hardships that so many Africans face every day, we have to make sure that we’re seizing the extraordinary potential of today’s Africa.”

Our partnership with Africa must be focused on African capacity to solve problems and to grow – and that is precisely what Shining Hope is all about.  The work that Kennedy is doing, the work that Shining Hope is doing, is helping people reach their potential, and working towards the dignity that we want, that the United States wants, for every woman and man, girl and boy, across the continent and around the world.  Shining Hope and its organizers are deeply responsive to the needs of their community, and deeply committed to fulfilling the promise of their name – by offering people hope.

Shining Hope is more than a program, it is a model.  One that is flexible and adaptable.  One that rests, first and foremost, on the support of the community it serves.  One that challenges everyone – individuals, companies, other organizations – to step up and play a role.

As we confront the challenge of rapid urbanization and the expansion of informal settlements, this will be the model for tapping into the energy, the enterprise, and the creativity of every member of the community.  This model can provide for the delivery of vital services, the provision of education, the development of job skills, and the opportunity to invest and build new businesses.  This model can help provide dignity and a better future for residents of informal settlements.  And we can see for ourselves, standing here today, just what that means.

We believe in the residents of Mathare and Kibera and all the informal settlements.

I believe in you.  Kennedy – you are doing extraordinary things, and I cannot wait to see what comes next.  And I cannot wait to see what the extraordinary Kenyans in Kibera and Mathare do next! I know you have a bright future ahead.

Thank you.  Asenteni sana.