Heshima Kenya

Heshima Kenya is a 501(c)(3) US nonprofit and registered Kenyan charity based in Nairobi, Kenya. Heshima is the Swahili word for "respect" and we specialize in identifying and protecting separated and orphaned refugee children and youth living in Nairobi. Our innovative shelter, education and community outreach services enable and empower unaccompanied refugee children, especially adolescent girls, to live healthy lives.
Jun 11, 2014

Chance's Dreams

Chance at work
Chance at work

As we continue empowering young refugee girls and women through the Girls’ Empowerment Project, we would like to share with you a success story of a participant who was able to meet her goals through the programs at Heshima Kenya.

22 year-old Chance recalls growing up wanting to pursue an education in her home country, the Congo. Sadly her dreams were shattered when war broke out in her country, forcing her to flee. She arrived in Kenya in February 2010 through the Busia border and was taken to UNHCR, who recognized her unique needs as an unaccompanied female refugee and referred her to Heshima Kenya.

Chance was initially enrolled in the Girls’ Empowerment Program, she performed well and entered the tailoring program, then the Maisha Collective. She gradated from the Maisha Collective is now among the 12 participants who received grant to start their own business. Through the business grant she was able to purchase a sewing machine and fabric and formed a tailoring business with several of her peers.

She says she likes the life of being an independent woman. She says, “I know that I can become anything I want…as long as I stay focused on my goals and aspirations.” She feels that she found herself doing exactly what she planned and is following her dreams. Chance says “I knew the only way I could have done this was by becoming an educated woman. Education is one of the most powerful tools that anyone can have, and I knew that in order for me to succeed, I had to become more than just an average student.”

Chance shares with pride that running her business and earning income is a big accomplishment for her, and she feels that she and her peers are setting a precedent for the current students. Chance says that she is extremely proud to be one of the Heshima Kenya’s graduates and that she will become a great role model for the rest of the participants. Through the profit she has earned, she has extended her business by selling second hand clothes.

Your support has helped participants like Chance achieve their dreams – we thank you for believing in our young women!

Chance in a play about the importance of education
Chance in a play about the importance of education
Chance and her peers graduate
Chance and her peers graduate

Links:

Mar 13, 2014

Knowledge is Power - Lydia's Journey

Lydia (right) at graduation.
Lydia (right) at graduation.

As we celebrated International Women’s Day March 8th, it is especially exciting to share the amazing successes of the empowered women that Heshima Kenya serves.  This month, we will share and celebrate Lydia’s incredible journey.

Lydia and her family fled from her shattered country, the DR Congo, in the midst of the civil war.  As they escaped, walking through the bushes of the Congo to circumvent the violence, Lydia was separated from her parents and her four siblings. The separation from her family left her devastated and traumatized with no hope for the future.

In July 2011, through the assistance of good Samaritans she met on the way, Lydia travelled through the Ugandan border into Nairobi, Kenya.  At the United Nations offices in Nairobi she met a woman who became her host.  In October 2011, Heshima Kenya outreach staff identified Lydia and referred her to the Safe house due to her vulnerability.  

First, Heshima Kenya focused on meeting Lydia’s most immediate needs.  After Lydia had a safe place to stay, a loving community around her, and counseling sessions to help her begin to address her traumatic experiences, she enrolled in the Girls’ Empowerment Project (GEP).  At the age of 16, she started out at the most basic education level with a sincere interest in learning and a strong commitment to her work. She showed dedication to every aspect of the GEP including her literacy classes, vocational training, and the income-generating project, the Maisha Collective. As a part of the training, Lydia learned about financial literacy, budgeting, financial planning, saving, basic principles of starting a business, and identifying safe income generating activities.  Through the GEP and her hard working ethic, Lydia gained an invaluable education preparing her for unique opportunities in the future.  

Recently, Lydia was able to open her own bank account, where she began saving her earned stipend from the Maisha Collective. She then enrolled in college where she took training courses in hospitality and gained work experience in the field; 18 months later, she graduated and was offered a job at a hotel in Nairobi. Recognizing her for all of her success in school and work, Lydia became one of the 12 promising Maisha graduates to receive a loan and livelihood assistance for 3 months from the GEP. With the loan, her own savings, and her education, Lydia established a small business selling hair products and second hand clothes.  She is currently working with two more former GEP participants to form a group to maximize their business capital and income.

Lydia, who has become a confident leader and educated businesswoman, is also one of 7 key mentors who continue to give back to the GEP by mentoring current participants.

Your support helps girls like Lydia live lives they never thought possible. Your investment is truly investment in the life of our young women and their families. We thank you very much for your thoughtful donations. 

Lydia hard at work.
Lydia hard at work.
Mar 13, 2014

Overcoming Tribulations - Habiba's Story

Habiba carrying Annan after her nap
Habiba carrying Annan after her nap

Habiba Hamdi is a 17-year-old young Somali refugee mother.  She was born in the Dadaab refugee camp, a camp that hosts many refugees fleeing the Somali civil war.When she was just nine years old, her father went to fetch firewood for the family and was killed by hostile Somali tribesmen. Though devastated by this loss, Habiba, her mother and two siblings were able to continue their lives with a great amount of support from each other. However, one day tragedy struck again when Habiba was sexually assaulted by a young man while on her way to school.

Due to shame, she tried to hide the incident from her family and friends, however she realized 5 months later that she was pregnant.  Once her mother realized Habiba was pregnant, she forced her to leave the only home she had ever known.  Furthermore, the perpetrator threatened to kill her if she disclosed his identity. Habiba’s world felt apart, she was devastated and alone; her personal identity was deeply shaken. Habiba received help from well-wishers who lived near the camp, though her mother and tribesmen rejected her.  After she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Annan Abdi, she received a referral to our Safe House where she was sure she and her daughter would be cared for and protected.

When Habiba first entered the Safe House, she was terribly depressed, blaming herself for her mother’s anger regarding her pregnancy.  Through the support, hard work and care of the staff and counselors, young Habiba came to terms with the circumstances under which she became pregnant and realized that she could not continue to carry the burden of her clansmen’s’ rejection any longer. She bravely learned to forgive her mother and committed herself to taking good care of her baby and to exceling in her education and improving her personal life.  The strength and resolve Habiba acquired over the next six months opened doors to incredible opportunities.  She is now rated one of the best students in her class and, remembering her firm commitment to excel in all areas of her life, she strives to be a better person each and every day. She has overcome her past fears and moved beyond self-doubt.  She is now working on her exit plan with all the skills and support she acquired from Heshima Kenya. With the income-generating opportunities offered by Heshima Kenya’s programming she is working toward an independent and self-sufficient life for she and Annan.  Even with all the challenges that life threw her way, Habiba is living her dream!  She enjoys living in a safe community that provides education and exemplary care for her 1-year-old daughter. 

Thank you to our supporters like you who enable us to provide a safe home for Habiba and Annan!  Your generous contributions helps to ensure that we are able to not only meet their basic needs, but also to encourage them to work hard and dream.

Habiba showing an art piece she created
Habiba showing an art piece she created
Annan and other children playing with toys
Annan and other children playing with toys
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