A man with a big heart for girls
When Victor Odhiambo, founder of Garden of Hope Foundation was working with a local organisation in Samburu he was approached by a teenager who asked him for Sh50 to buy sanitary pads. This later inspired him to start addressing issues affecting girls
By LILIAN KAIVILU @liliankaivilu
Q: Your first online campaign was a big success. Tell us about it.
After staying in Samburu for five years, I came back to Kibera in 2010 where I worked in a cyber cafe for one year. I used to earn Sh100 per day. At the time I established a good network of friends and the following was good. It was when I was at it that a friend introduced me to online promotions where I would earn commission for promoting brands on Facebook.
So how did you start your campaign to buy pads for girls?
In 2011, a friend of mine told me about the desperate lives that the children at a certain children’s home in Kibera led. At that time, I had 2,000 followers on Facebook. After a while I thought of how I could use my networks on the site to respond to the need in the children’s home. I designed a nice post and put it on Facebook.
What was the post all about and what was the feedback?
We wanted to organise a visit to the children’s home with foodstuff and clothes. We filled up two buses and all the young people carried clothes and food. That was my best moment in life. We kept in touch after the event.
So how did you meet the girl who asked for Sh50 in Kajiado to buy pads?
In 2012 December, I got a job with Swahiba Youth Network, an organisation based in Kibera that deals with issues affecting the girl-child. It was at Swahiba that I came face to face with what girls in the slums go through. One day in March, during a school visit in Kajiado, a girl came to me and asked for Sh50.
I gave her and after about a week, we went back to the same school and the girl came to me to say thank you. So a conversation started and I asked her why she needed the Sh50 in the first place.
She told me how a bodaboda operator had promised her Sh50 to buy sanitary pads in return for sex. But she refused. This shocked me and I decided to take action.
Is this what birthed Garden of Hope?
I set out on another online campaign to collect 6,000 sanitary pads for girls in such situations. But this time round, we used football tournament where we brought together local fans of major football clubs in the world. Participants were to bring along sanitary pads as they came for the match.
By the end of the day we had two lorries of sanitary pads, which we distributed in Baringo and Samburu counties. Early last year, I quit my job to concentrate on this project. And that is how Garden of Hope was born in April this year.
So what do you do now?
We are working with seven schools in Samburu, four in West Pokot, two in Kajiado, five in Kibera and five in Kitui. We have so far provided over 7,000 sanitary pads to school-going girls in those areas and over 15,000 exercise books to children’s homes, schools and rescue centres. We also have mentorship programmes in these schools.