Eileen Flannigan, Founder and Executive Director
Eileen Flannigan is a global entrepreneur and investor, a creator and collaborator of solutions for poverty, education, leadership gaps, and gender equality. She challenges conventional ideas about leadership, making the case that great leaders come in many different shapes, ages and sizes, and everyone has the potential to be one. Eileen is the Founder and the Managing Director for Girls On Fire Leaders, which started from her curiosity about the disconnect between the rhetoric of leadership in girls and the lack of exposure to diverse people, skills development and opportunity to build confidence and actually participate in leadership through service solutions in the world around them.
Prior to Girls on Fire Leaders, she was a fellow for Kiva and Kiva Zip in Manipur, India and Nairobi, Kenya where she worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and nonprofits to provide financial access to the poor through micro-loans and market innovation. She’s also a business, impact and digital brand consultant leading projects for global social enterprises and impact investment firms. Prior to this, Eileen had a long career (18+ years) leading digital marketing strategy for technology start-ups and Fortune 500 companies in Silicon Valley and New York City and has demonstrated how to leverage private sector skills for greater impact in the social sector. Eileen is an advisor to many social startups, such as Nonprofit Share and sits on the boards of a nonprofit in Kenya called Rona Foundation and another in New York called Art of the Pride.
Debborah Odenyi, Director of Programs & Education, Kenya & Tanzania
Debborah Odenyi was the Headmistress of SHOFO's Kibera School for Girls and has been a teacher for 22 years. She has worked at International schools in Kenya and also worked with the Teachers Service Commission for 18 years. She headed a home with 200 physically and mentally challenged children. She ensured these students attended school and therapy, and also worked to inform the community about taking care of children with disabilities.
Why are you passionate about GOF?
Working with GoF makes me experience the effectiveness of Service learning/teaching to support the GoF leadership curriculum model and community mobilization in raising girl leaders. As a teacher l derive my pleasure in making and ensuring many girls are able to voice their feelings and demonstrate a strong sense of self-worth, l consider this critical. A girl who has a strong sense of self-worth is usually confident, a decision maker, organized with a vision and can easily motivate others to do a lot together.
My work at the GoF Camp l believe will enable girls to play an important role in their communities. I will continue to passionately empower successful girl leaders. Girls who will create a lasting social change by using any available opportunity to speak out.
Rose Akinyi Olum, Teacher-Leader in Kenya
Rose Akinyi Olum is the matron of SHOFCO's Margaret Safe House since 2010. She is the primary caregiver for the girls and takes care of all their basic, medical and spiritual needs. She attained a certificate in Early Childhood Studies and is an accomplished ECD teacher, having worked in several Early Childhood Institutions, from 2005 -2009. She was also an educator at the Centre for Disease and Control (CDC).
Why are you passionate about GOF?
Rose says, "Working with the Girls On Fire Leaders Camp has made me develop a very positive attitude towards leadership. I now know how to develop leadership in children as I delegate and organize duties for each girl everyday and integrate responsibility skills into their daily lives. Since the GOF Camp, our home has completely changed; the girls have developed teamwork skills and integrity in doing daily tasks like cleaning, cooking and helping each other out. The girls who previously had nighttime traumas (nightmares and bedwetting) are doing great and able to sleep happily throughout the night. Our home has more harmony." She also adds that her hobbies include "making friends, cooking, listening to music, reading, traveling, and the love of nature." Read more about Rose here.
Jennifer Graham, Visual Storyteller
Jennifer Graham is the Girl On Fire Leaders resident photographer! She will not only be capturing the camp moments but each girl will have a camera and Jennifer will teach, guide and create photography fun so each girl will learn a new visual language and be able to tell their personal stories.
When Jennifer looks through a lens of a camera, she is searching --for strength, beauty, grace, kindness--the true essence of the individuals who captivate her attention.
Her uncanny ability to translate that into photographs, allowing us to see the true inner beauty of each soul, is what sets her humanitarian heart on fire. While in Kenya last year, she created a project called Voices.
She also gives talks around the world, which are offered to support and inspire all girls to honor and love who they are, how they serve and their unique voice in this world.
Melanie Bergstedt, Operations
Melanie Bergstedt is a strong believer in education outside of the classroom. It all started when working for a cultural exchange organization, South African Students Travel Service for 8 years in Cape Town, South Africa where she was born. Her position opened up the doors to numerous travel opportunities worldwide and Melanie found herself learning more about different cultures and countries, than she could have imagined learning in a classroom. This belief lead her to the USA, where for the last 10 years she has been working as an operations manager for Iroquois Springs, a traditional sleepaway summer camp, while also completely her degree in Business Administration through distance learning.
Melanie met Eileen at She Creates Change while on a journey of personal development. Eileen’s drive to cultivate her passion was inspiring and when Melanie heard about Eileen’s work with Girls on Fire Leadership, it was an opportunity to reconnect with a friend and to be in service with something that she believes in. Just hearing the stories from Eileen about the girls on their leadership journey and how much they grow and develop, takes Melanie back to her own growth during the years of travel and it warms her heart to be a part of Girls on Fire Leadership and sharing in this experience in some way.
Jennifer Harris, Ambassador & Strategic Consultant
Jennifer Harris is an ambassador for Girls on Fire Leaders, an investor in the girl’s creative pursuits like expressive writing, and serves as strategic counsel in the areas of communication and fundraising.
For Jennifer, Girls on Fire Leaders embodies her longtime passion to help uplift the path of women and girls across the globe through experiential learning and self-expression. A consultant in the nonprofit and social sectors, a humanist, and a creative writer, Jennifer aspires to deepen her role with Girls on Fire Leaders – and to soon join the team in Kenya.
Jennifer subscribes to a personal and professional ethos that embraces the power of stories - that stories can serve personal growth and healing, develop organizations and businesses, and preserve communities and histories. She also believes that with the opportunity to share her gifts, she has an even greater opportunity to experience and receive the gifts of others – especially from the wisest of young girls across the globe.
While Jennifer’s daily work serves what she calls the “passion sectors,” she also facilitates writing workshops, serves as co-Chair for Bannister Family House’s Advisory Board, and designs ventures that bridge entrepreneurship, cause-minded thinking, and wellness. http://www.jhcollectiveinc.com