Hosting a true change-maker

We hosted a memorable interview at Box recently with Kennedy Odede, Founder and CEO of Shining Hope for Communities.

I could not believe I was sitting in the presence of the man who just a few weeks ago was merely the protagonist in a book I was reading. Find Me Unafraid is the true story about Kennedy Odede, an individual who grew up in the urban slums of Kibera, Kenya, and his vision to organize people for change. Growing up in extreme poverty, war, and homelessness, his vision to change not only his future, but the community around him, continued to grow stronger. Today he is helping change over a quarter million lives through healthcare, water sanitation, business opportunities, and most of all, education for young girls.

This dream visit started during my 1:1 meeting with Paul Chapman, CIO at Box, about how I always had a dream to build an orphanage in Ethiopia (my birth home). He recommended that I read Find Me Unafraid, a book that could give me inspiration and ideas through some amazing work being done in Kenya, which neighbors Ethiopia. He mentioned that he and Bryan Breckenridge, executive director of Box.org, knew the authors Kennedy Odede and his wife, Jessica Posner Odede, personally! This one conversation triggered some East African nostalgia and a download click later (thanks, Amazon!), I was reading the book.

Kennedy Odede and Chandni Shah

I could not sleep for days after reading the book. The story brought laughter, tears, and most of all, hope for change. Kennedy, born in the slums, having experienced abuse, poverty, and homelessness, never gave up on hope. He knew he wanted a better life for himself and the people around him. He built his vision through books and a thirst to get an education, no matter what he went through to get it. Later, with only 20 cents to buy a soccer ball, he started executing on his vision by inviting his community to play. This play became the mechanism to engage his community in hard conversations on how to get people out of daily struggles focused on survival. This passion traveled all the way to the US where Jessica Posner, a student at Wesleyan University, got wind of this grassroots organization and wanted to volunteer her time. Off she went to Kibera where she stayed in the slums with Kennedy as a house guest not knowing the love story and impact that would result and trickle beyond the two of them. With that, SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities) was born!

It's amazing what can come together in just a few weeks when you channel your passion into a plan, make that plan known, and have advocates you can bring along the journey to turn that plan into a tangible action. Here, taking a selfie with me, was Kennedy Odede after sharing his story of hope with 20 Boxer colleagues. 

This is just the beginning of my plans for SHOFCO. The Box Belong ERG (a network of foreign nationals and their allies) is honored to partner with them for the upcoming fiscal year, and we're excited to see how this partnership will grow.  We're proud that SHOFCO keeps their US and Africa teams on the same page using a heavily discounted Box subscription and can't wait to help them optimize their deployment and much much more.  We proudly donate and discount Box for nonprofits at Box.org.  Join Belong and Box.org with this initiative by donating so we can support 5 bright young minds to get a tuition free education for a whole year. They are our future Box engineers, marketers, and ERG members. 

See a video recording of the full interview here!

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