Saturday, February 18, 2017

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum
by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner

Genre: Non-fiction

Synopsis:  Kennedy Odede found his first grey hair at six.  Named after John F. Kennedy, he grew up as the eldest of eight children in Kibera, a teeming Kenyan slum without sewage systems, roads, running water, or access to basic needs, like health care and education.  At ten, he was along on the streets.  Homeless and in despair at sixteen, Kennedy was given a book of Martin Luther King's speeches.  Inspired, he bought a twenty-cent soccer ball and started a youth group, determined to bring the hope he'd found into the lives of his fellow citizens.  He called it Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO).

Several years later, Jessica Posner, an irrepressible Wesleyan student, went abroad to work with SHOFCO and, despite Kennedy's incredulous objections, moved into his tiny house.  They fell in love.  When Kennedy was threatened by political violence, Jessica helped him win a full scholarship to Wesleyan and brought him to America.  Torn between his community, Kennedy, with Jessica at his side, decided to start a school for Kibera's most vulnerable population: girls.

The alchemy of their remarkable union and the small, joyful world their brilliant collaboration has made in Kibera have drawn the support of community members and celebrities alike.  With this support, Jessica and Kennedy have been able to provide water, heath care, and entrepreneurial programs, which now serve more than seventy-six thousand people, and have replicated this model in Mathare, another Kenyan slum.  Because of their efforts, hundreds of young girls have the potential to become Kenya's future leaders, and tens of thousands of people living in poverty have access to clean water, health care, and economic empowerment programs.  Their girls attend school every day in crisp blue uniforms and red sweaters.  Filled with hope and ambition for the future, they adhere to a rigorous curriculum and out-performing students from the most expensive schools in Kenya.  By elevating these girls, Jessica and Kennedy have started a subtle yet powerful revolution in each community, and have dedicated themselves to bringing the same resolve and enthusiasm to urban slums beyond Kibera and Mathare.

Jessica and Kennedy's story is many things: a tender love story, a tale of how true leaders are made, and an account of the successful melding of the best in two cultures.  Few have fought as tenaciously and ingeniously against poverty and hopelessness as these two young people.  Their story vividly illustrates the power of young, hopeful people to have an impact on the world, and stands as a testament to the transformations made possible by true loves.
to the book jacket

Review:  The authors of this book are truly amazing people who persevered and never lost hope that they could better their community.  Kennedy overcame so much in his life from abuse, poverty, homelessness, crime, drugs, lack of education, and more to become a leader in his community who works tirelessly to make everyone's situations better.  Jessica is an innocent student from the United States who has no idea to poverty-stricken area that she is walking into but she dedicates herself to helping others and eventually is accepted as part of the community.  I'm amazed by how quickly the two of them were able to build infrastructure once they were able to procure funds.    This book does not sugarcoat events that happened at Kibera and the atrocities that occur to women and girls.  There are parts that are not easy to read and broke my heart to learn about how other people are living.  This book is truly eye opening.  This book makes me think about my life and what I can do to try to help others.

Rating: 5 stars

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