Jambo’s Ahmed Obo

One of the first things anyone notices about Chef Ahmed Obo is his smile: it’s warm, sincere and frequent. His beaming goes beyond charm and optimism, however. It reflects his heartfelt desire to give of himself: everything and anything he can.

Photo by Kitty Leaken

As a child in Lamu, Kenya, his teacher told him, “Even if you don’t have money to give, you can give a smile, you can give your time. You always have something to give.” It’s a message he clearly internalized, judging from the generosity of spirit that defines him and his life. But schoolhouse lessons aren’t the only factor that has shaped Ahmed into the person he is today. His innately selfless character was forged in a crucible of hardship. He knows what it is like to struggle for the basics: as a child, he recalls poverty and adversity. Medical care in Lamu was lacking, there wasn’t always enough food, and “Going to school was hard because my family was poor,” he says, “Just for my parents to keep the kids clothed was difficult.”

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