In March 2005, the Collective for Orphan Care and Education (COCE) was created after a small group of friends from Columbia University gathered in New York City to explore ways to respond to continued social, economic and educational needs of youth in western Kenya. We were moved, each in our own way, by the lack of opportunity for the youth and risk for HIV/AIDS exposure. Led by Kenyan native, Eusebius Small, our commitment continues today.
In its short history, COCE has had a number of organizational successes. We have obtained non-profit status 501(c)(3) in the United States, received our first project funding, and registered as a community-based organization with the Kenyan government. We are in the process of building collaborative partnerships with NGOs, faith-based organizations and academic institutions working on health and development issues in the region. In addition to supporting the education of local youth, we have conducted a comprehensive needs assessment in conjunction with community leaders to identify needed resources and services. Finally, in 2015, COCE began raising funds for the construction of the Center for Hope, which will serve as a cornerstone of our efforts to improve the education, safety and well-being of the community's women and children.
Dr. Small is a Kenyan national, born and raised in Busia County, Western Kenya. Throughout his graduate studies at Columbia University, where he received his Masters of Science in Social Work, he worked with the United Nations Office of Emergency Programs through an internship with UNICEF. Dr. Small has focused his research on reducing the incidence of sexually transmitted infections among vulnerable populations of youth with a particular emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa. His objective is to understand the underlying mechanisms (e.g. high risk sexual behaviors, drug use, etc.) and the contextual factors (e.g. culture, neighborhoods, community, government policy, etc.) that influence disease incidence. A secondary objective is involving students in research and study abroad where they interact and share ideas with local communities to address global social challenges of HIV/AIDS and poverty. After he received his graduate degree at Columbia, he went on to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Houston. Additionally, he was a National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) post-doctoral fellow at both the Washington University in St. Louis, Brown School of Social Work and School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Small's recent work has focused on addressing the intersection of gender, violence and HIV. He has worked on immigrant and refugee issues, particularly issues related to the mental health of newly arrived refugees who often experience serious mental health symptoms due to past trauma. Dr. Small is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington where he is the advisor of Students of International Social Work (SISW).
Candace Overlie, MSW, Director of Operations, Center for Hope
Ms. Overlie joined COCE in 2015 in a collaborative effort to expand the mission of the organization to include services targeted toward vulnerable women. Ms. Overlie received her Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW) from The University of Texas, Arlington with a concentration in Children and Families. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Pepperdine University and a TEFL/TESL Teaching Certificate from San Diego State University. As Director of Operations for Center for Hope, Ms. Overlie hopes to serve the needs of vulnerable women and children by providing a place of safety and learning in a setting where violence against women and children often occurs without any recourse for survivors.
Larry Hill, PhD, Board Member
Dr. Larry Hill recently completed the doctoral program at the University of Houston's Graduate College of Social Work where he focused on disaster research, green job development, and university-community engagement. Throughout Dr. Hill's academic experience he has maintained a strong commitment to working with the community. He consistently worked on innovative university-community engagement projects that focused on building capacity of community-based organizations and local communities. As a result Dr. Hill has almost a decade of experience working with city governments in California and Texas, churches, small and large non-profit organizations, as well as corporate entities. Dr. Hill's current position as a Research Professor at the University of Houston allows him the flexibility to work within the university and community simultaneously with a goal of connecting university resources with community-identified needs.
Ms. Velez is an Assistant Professor in Practice and received her BSW and MSW from Texas State University. She has worked as a Social Worker for over 15 years in the criminal justice setting, school system and with the homeless population. She has worked in direct practice, as a community organizer and as an executive director. Ms. Velez's research and practice interests are in wellness, homelessness and addiction. Of particular interest is the role of physical activity in the addiction recovery process.
Ms. Warren is a graduate student and staff member at the University of Texas at Arlington. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Texas at Arlington. And is now pursuing her Masters of Public Administration. Ms. Warren plans on learning more about community development and enrichment through research and her efforts with COCE. Her main goal is to improve the lives of individuals in third world countries one step at a time.
Mr. Omondi is a Kenyan native and a professional basketball player who has dedicated much of his time to COCE. Throughout his academic and sport's achievements at the college level he has a strong commitment to work with the community. Mr. Omondi has been actively involved with East West Ministries and plans to continue striving to improve the lives of those in poverty. Mr. Omondi received his Bachelor of Business Administration at Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas. He is currently pursuing his Masters at the University of Texas Permian Basin to develop research techniques on urban planning and development.
We want your help! There are a variety of local events we participate in to raise funds for our projects in Kenya, including COCE's Center for Hope.
We're continually working hard to improve the health, education and well-being of vulnerable women and children. If you're interested to see what we've been doing, check out what we have accomplished.
Inspiring global partnerships to improve the health, education and well-being of vulnerable populations. We support women and children in gaining the knowledge, power and tools necessary to lead healthy, safe and productive lives.
The Collective for Orphan Care and Education