Vania Legall ’16 already knew that after graduation she wanted to help others in her native country of Guyana and, after meeting University of Hartford Undergraduate Commencement speaker Kennedy Owiti Odede, she is more inspired to do so. Vania, an international studies and economics major in the College of Arts and Sciences, grew up in a poor neighborhood in Guyana, but was fortunate enough to attend good schools and come to the United States to continue her education. While following through on her future plans of going to law school, she will also be thinking about how she can help her country, just as Odede is helping his.
Odede, who lived most of his life in a slum in Kenya, founded Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) with savings from his $1-per-day childhood factory job. SHOFCO combats extreme poverty and gender inequality by linking free schools for girls in Kenya to a set of high-value, holistic community services for all.
“It is so inspirational to me that he went back and gave people a sense of hopefulness,” says Vania. “We need education to break the circle of hopelessness.”
Odede will speak at the University of Hartford’s Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 15. He gave a preview of his remarks to a small group of University students in April.