Editor’s note: Kennedy Odede is the president and CEO of Shining Hope for Communities, a nonprofit organization that fights gender inequality and extreme poverty in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. He is a 2013 New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute.
(CNN) — I had many conversations with Nelson Mandela, although I had not met him.
In my family’s tiny shack in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, my one-way exchanges with the great man kept me going. Mandela survived 27 years of prison; maybe I would make it out, too.
Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, when I was 10 years old. In Kibera, people celebrated and talk circulated the streets about this man, but I didn’t see how his story connected to mine until much later. I was struggling too hard simply to survive.
At 10, I was on and off the streets…