Victor Odhiambo, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Garden of Hope Foundation, a community foundation operating in Kenya, in this feature speaks to us about creating sustainable communities. He guides us through experiences that led him into the social sector and the steps Garden of Hope Foundation is taking to build sustainable social impact in Kenyan communities.
How did the Garden of Hope Foundation begin, and how has the organization’s theory of change evolved over time?
GoHF: Garden of Hope Foundation was started in 2014 by Victor Odhiambo. Growing in Kibera slum (Africa’s largest slum) Victor faced many challenges including, but not limited to lack of school fees, access to employment among others. Victor also witnessed a high rate of crime among the youth in his community. In 2012, Victor together with a few friends started donating menstrual products to women and girls living in urban slums and rural communities. This was after Victor met a girl who had been asked to exchange sex for menstrual products. The girl’s story challenged Victor to officially register the Garden of Hope Foundation.
In 2014, Victor met Douglas Anderson who had been studying for his master’s in Kenya. Victor shared with Douglas about the Garden of Hope Foundation’s mission, Douglas continued to support GoHF and in 2017, he joined GoHF as the Co-Founder and Director of International partnerships.
Since 2014, the Garden of Hope Foundation has supported over 20,000 youth, women, children, and girls through leadership, entrepreneurship, and mentorship. Our mission is to create sustainable communities by providing opportunities for youth, women, girls, and children living in urban slums and rural communities. Since we started we have expanded from serving 1 county to 5 counties.
As a community foundation, what gaps in Kenyan Philanthropy is the foundation filling?
GoHF: The Kenyan philanthropy sector is evolving from donor-based support and dependence to organizations designing more sustainable projects. Communities are also coming together to respond to their needs by leveraging local resources. The government is becoming more aware of this and in response, they are providing a favorable environment for local philanthropy.
Garden of Hope Foundation is working towards realizing sustainable communities by equipping these communities with skills, information, and resources that can help them respond to local challenges. We are also ensuring that local philanthropists adopt specific projects in their communities. We do this by linking local organizations to willing philanthropists.
How do the initiatives you provide create opportunities for women, youth, and children and provide support for your community?
GoHF: Garden of Hope Foundation creates sustainable opportunities for youth, women, girls, and children through the following initiatives.
GoHF works with at-risk youth in rural areas and urban slums and recognizes the need to provide them with guidance and support for personal growth and development and promoting positive life outcomes. Youth mentorship is a vital component of youth development envisioned by GoHF that targets young people in schools and the communities.
Garden of Hope Foundation has prioritized entrepreneurship development in addressing high unemployment among the youth. GoHF seeks to promote a culture of entrepreneurship among the youth through training, mentorship, and funding sustainable entrepreneurship ventures. GoHF works with both in-school and out-of-school youth who are passionate about entrepreneurship and are in need of skills development and support, necessary for the establishment and expansion of viable enterprises.
Youth in the slum and rural communities are often confronted with multiple socio-economic challenges. Even in such vulnerable and marginalized environments, young people have recognized their role in mobilizing their communities to address their needs and drive social change. GoHF seeks to tap into and nurture the leadership skills and abilities of young people, with the aim of empowering them to become change-makers in their communities, drive development agendas with different stakeholders at the local and national level and actively participate in and initiate development initiatives in their communities.
How has the mission of Garden of Hope impacted the communities being served?
GoHF: Since the inception of the Garden of Hope Foundation, we have impacted the lives of over 20,000 youth, women, children, and girls. Through our mentorship program, we support 500 girls every month with a supply of menstrual products. We also mentor 1,000 adolescent boys and girls each month. The entrepreneurship project has trained and equipped 1,500 youth with sustainable entrepreneurship skills, 512 of these have started their own businesses, while the majority of them have secured sustainable employment. Our clients have started community projects which continue to support over 10,000 people per month, with the businesses generating a revenue of $50,000 per year.
Indigenous nonprofits face diverse challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what has helped sustain the vision of Garden of Hope, during this time?
GoHF: Covid-19 pandemic caught many organizations (both local and international) off guard. The organizations had to quickly adjust their initiatives to meet the health and economic crisis brought by Covid-19. I would like to recommend the following best practices.
- Ensure that the initiatives or projects you design, and implement are sustainable. This ensures the continuity of projects even in a crisis/pandemic.
- Create human-centered projects (by the people for the people). Ensure that the projects are designed to meet the people’s needs and most importantly that the people are included in the project.
- To organization leaders, one of the key things I found helpful is, to be honest with your staff and volunteers. Always assure them that ‘we are in this together’.
- Look for more strategic and financial partners as early as possible, and do not wait for only times of crisis.
- Ensure the messages you are sharing with staff, volunteers and the board is timely and accurate. In addition, ensure consistency.
Nonprofits such as Garden of Hope Foundation continue to prove integral within African Philanthropy; due to their far-reaching impact at community levels across the continent, and especially towards achieving the global goals.