Kennedy Odede

2 minute read
By Salma Hayek Pinault
Updated: | Originally published:

I have done fieldwork all across the world—in South America, Central America, North America, the Middle East, India, and Africa. Even after working in Mother Teresa’s hospices in Calcutta, I can tell you the person who has most impressed me with their ability to make change is Kennedy Odede.

Kennedy is living proof that individuals can lead themselves, and their communities, out of poverty. His background—a refugee growing up with no formal schooling in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Kenya—gives him a deep understanding of his community and others like it. And his work has earned him the trust and admiration of all those around him. Kennedy finds ingenious solutions: schools for the most vulnerable girls, training programs for men to combat domestic violence, safe houses for survivors, community libraries, employment programs, innovative clean-water kiosks, a community cooperative bank. There is no challenge he will not take on. He is an unstoppable force for justice. This dream of hope that started more than 20 years ago in his home in Kibera has now reached more than 3 million Kenyans and is rapidly becoming a blueprint that will one day, hopefully, reach the world—a movement for change led by the people themselves.

Hayek Pinault is an Oscar-nominated actor, and a producer, and activist

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at