GSMP 2015 Site Visits: Cynthia Coredo at Saatchi LA

By Brian Canever October 29, 2015

There are two women sitting across a table from one another in a conference room at one of the largest advertising agencies on the West Coast. One woman is from the urban slums of Nairobi, Kenya; the other from rural Kentucky. And they share the most unexpected, but fascinating thing in common: a love for mashed potatoes.

“They’re so delicious,” said Cynthia Coredo, programs manager for Boxgirls Kenya. “Whenever we go out, that is the first thing I order. I love the way you make them in the United States.”

After a fit of laughs and the sharing of recipes, Cynthia and her mentor, Gwen Conley, group media coordinator for Saatchi LA, settled in for the final Site Visit interview of the 2015 U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program. Alongside Drs. Sarah Hillyer and Ashleigh Huffman, co-directors of the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sport, Peace, & Society, and I, Cynthia and Gwen discussed how an emphasis on education changed the course of their lives and what the global sisterhood created by the GSMP means to them.

From a very early age, Cynthia was confronted by tragedy. By 13 years old, she had lost both her parents and moved away from the slums to live with her grandmother in a nearby village.  There she was enrolled in a school for orphaned children, where she had a powerful revelation: Cynthia Coredo would become “a global woman for global change.” The Catholic nuns at the school had invested in her and gave her the opportunity to learn. Now she would invest that back into others, beginning her quest for education to empower herself and girls like her throughout Kenya.

“School was a chance to realize my dreams,” Cynthia said. “It was a place to read and understand myself better. It was the start to a great journey to see what lies ahead. The perseverance and the hope that was burning so strong in me made me see there was something good coming ahead, and I wouldn’t stop hoping until I saw it come.”

Gwen also had big dreams as a child. She wanted to be the first woman in her family to attend college; to show that the poverty and female dependency that was so normal in her rural Kentucky community wouldn’t claim her.

“When I was 10, I was probably thinking that I’d be the CEO of a big company like Hewlitt Packard or IBM one day,” Gwen laughed. “That’s changed a little bit as I’ve gotten older. But I always saw education as a way to better myself and change my situation and my circumstances.”

For Cynthia, the three-week mentorship experience with Gwen was a source of personal and professional fulfillment. From their time together, and even more so the moments she has spent with her 15 international “sisters” from Nga Le in Vietnam to Carla Bustamante in Mexico, and fellow Kenyan Veronica Osogo before and during the program, she witnessed an unbreakable web of connection that she is convinced will never cease to exist.

“You know sisterhood is not all about your genetics, where you come from and who you are,” Cynthia said. “It is about embracing people in the new hope of life, and seeing their dreams in your own two eyes. The GSMP creates this moment where even when we’re together we miss each other so much and we cannot wait to embrace each other in our arms again. It is the sisterhood spirit bubbling inside of you and tying people together in one chord.”

Listen to the Center’s podcast conversation with Cynthia and Gwen at the link below