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I admire Rooney Mara for the inspirational work she does with girls in Kenyan communities.
Last year, I invited Academy Award nominated actress Rooney Mara to travel with me to visit Oxfam programs. I knew very little about Rooney, other than she was a great actress and that she had a passion for work she had done in Kenya. When I arrived in Kenya, she invited me to come over to the home she was staying in to meet "her girls." I was blown away by what I encountered. Off a country dirt road was a driveway that lead to a modest but beautiful compound of homes, surrounded by land lush with animals and vegetables and singing and delighted girls. These were Rooney's girls.
Approximately 50 girls lived in these homes and were cared for by a number of women who were providing them a safe place away from the Kibera slums where they once lived. None had family that were capable of raising them, so these women took them in. Not only do the girls live here year round, they are supported in going to school and in their various after school programs where they learn important life skills, including how to grow their own food. Rooney and family friends from her mother's native Pittsburgh raise the funds to make this all possible for these girls.
The next day, Rooney took me into Kibera to meet the Kenyans who run the organization she founded in 2007, Faces of Kibera. In 2011, Faces of Kibera joined forces with another organization, Uweza, to work more efficiently and effectively. Uweza focuses on community based empowerment programs and gives the community, specifically children, a safe place to go after school to focus on their homework and enjoy extracurricular activities such as football, dance and art. The older members spend time at Uweza learning about gardening, cooking, small business development, and microfinance (very similar to Oxfam’s Savings for Change program). It's through this organization that some of the girls are able to live outside of Kibera and in the beautiful setting where I first met Rooney.
Rooney doesn't often speak publicly about the work she does and the impact it has on the people in the communities around Kibera, but she is a woman who deserves recognition. A woman I greatly admire and have the honor to call my friend.
This story was submitted as part of Oxam America's International Women's Day initiative to honor women working to right the wrongs of poverty and hunger. Honorees are selected independently by Oxfam supporters. Selection does not imply endorsement or other support from Oxfam America.
Do you know a woman who's making a difference in the fight against poverty, hunger, and injustice? Share her story with the Oxfam community as inspiration on International Women's Day!