Today the Hilton Foundation announced that an organization with deep roots at Wesleyan received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize for 2018. Shining Hope for Communities won the $2 million prize, “the world’s largest annual humanitarian award presented to nonprofit organizations judged to have made extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering.” The foundation website puts it this way: “A distinguished panel of independent international jurors selected SHOFCO, which catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing critical services for all, community advocacy platforms, and education and leadership development for women and girls.” SHOFCO was started by two recent Wes alumni, Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09—the two were married a couple of years ago and recently added baby Oscar to the family.
I remember vividly when Kennedy, Jessica and a group of their Wesleyan friends came to my office to describe the women’s health clinic they were opening to complement the school for girls they had started in Kibera, Kenya. The clinic is named for Johanna Justin-Jinich, their fellow Wes student who had been murdered not long before. Kibera is Kennedy’s home, and it was there that he and Jessica met when she was studying abroad. Kennedy enrolled at Wesleyan and the two had long had the intention of returning to Kibera to help future generations of Kenyans receive a quality education and have access to health care.
Many of us at Wesleyan have been involved with SHOFCO and are deeply moved by this recognition from the Hilton Foundation, which will further strengthen this great organization. Congratulations!!