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.
Nov 10, 2011

Margaret's Voice

One of the most powerful things that Heshima Kenya does is empower girls to share their stories. As our caseworker Osop says, “We give voices to girls who were told never to speak.” Heshima Kenya's Safe House is a place where girls find hope, peace, and the strength to share their stories and speak up for other girls like them. Our work with refugee girls and young women would not be possible without the generous support of donor like you, and we thank you for your ongoing commitment to Heshima Kenya. The following is Margaret’s story, told in her own words:

Sometimes it is like a story, like it didn’t happen to me. It was 2004. It was July. I was 14. Each day in Bukavu [Congo] we would listen to the radio to see if it was safe to go to school. That day it wasn’t. It was 6 or 6:30 that night and just starting to get dark when we heard the shooting. They would shoot to scare us so that we would stay in our houses. Then soldiers would go house to house and do things like force fathers to sleep with their daughters while they watched. My mother wanted to hide in the house. My uncle said, “If you hide under the bed, they will find you! Come! We will run!” Outside the streets were full of people running to get away. Some were covered in blood. If an old lady fell, or a baby, people would run right over them because if they stopped, the people in the back would run over them. There were disabled people in wheelchairs by the side of the road, crying. They couldn’t push themselves anymore without getting trampled. My uncle held onto my wrist and never let me go.

We didn’t see my mother and brother, but my uncle said not to worry, that they were behind or ahead of us. We ran all night. We crossed into Rwanda to a forest. My mother and brother never came. We couldn’t go back to look for them because we were afraid we’d be caught. I was crying, crying. “I want my mom. I want my mom.” My uncle took me on his back. “Don’t worry,” he said. “When we reach someplace safe, then we’ll look for them.” I tried to understand, but my heart wouldn’t let me. Eventually he left me with someone and went back to look for his wife, who had also gone missing. “I will come back for you,” he said. But he never came. That woman got tired of keeping me and gave me to another woman who brought me to Kenya. That was seven years ago.

God has helped me in so many ways. I got an education. I didn’t even pay anything for it. Education is a privilege. Now I help other girls in the Safe House with their schoolwork. “The hand that gives is the hand that receives.” I never saw my mom again, but I try and remember all the good things my mother told me.

Thank you again for your continued support and commitment to helping girls like Margaret find their voices!

Sep 8, 2011

Girls Leading the Way

“Life in Somalia was so hard for a girl because of education. They believed that you get married and have husbands, you don’t go to school. I believe I am a leader because I don’t have to be old to have my voice heard. It all depends on how much I believe and use my brain.” – Girl’s Empowerment Project participant

Because of your generous support, our Girl’s Empowerment Project participants have engaged in a variety of educational and enriching activities throughout the summer. In addition to the basic education, life-skills discussion, tailoring program and income generating project which are the core components of the Girl’s Empowerment Project, the girls are currently preparing for Cultural Day, where they will celebrate the diverse cultures represented at Heshima Kenya.

A volunteer working with Heshima Kenya in Nairobi reports that “the girls have each created symbols for themselves. We are having them made into fabric stamps, and then making a wall-hanging with all of the symbols.” Girls are also experimenting with using fabric stamps for future products of the Maisha Collective, the income-generating project for graduates of the Girl’s Empowerment Project.

At a time when the refugee crisis in Somalia and Kenya is becoming even more severe, your support of Heshima Kenya’s programs is extremely critical and makes a visible and lasting impact. We thank you for your continued support of our Girl’s Empowerment Project, which is empowering refugee girls and young women to share their voices and become leaders.  

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Aug 10, 2011

Finding Strength Through Community

Girls of the Safe House and children
Girls of the Safe House and children

When 16-year-old Sandrine and her two daughters were referred to Heshima Kenya’s Safe House, they had just arrived in Kenya from Congo. Sandrine was identified through Heshima Kenya’s Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Outreach program, as Sandrine and her children were experiencing homelessness and were in dire need of shelter and safety. When she first arrived at the Safe House with her daughters, Sandrine was traumatized and overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for her children in a foreign country without any means of support or income. After settling in, Sandrine received support to not only meet her basic needs, but also received counseling and emotional support, and was welcomed by a community of staff and girls who continue to provide her with encouragement.

The Safe House also welcomed a 13-year-old Somali girl who was rescued from the street after being sexually and physically abused. She is epileptic and mentally disabled, and had been disowned by her mother. She is now receiving medical care and tremendous physical and emotional support from the other Safe House girls, who are always ready to help her care for herself, prepare for field trips, and communicate with others. When she first came to the Safe House, she was withdrawn, hostile, and feared any girl who came near her. Now, she knows that this community of girls with similar and shared experiences will protect and support her.

Heshima Kenya’s Safe House would not be able to offer this vital protection and support without your generous contributions. We thank you for continuing to invest in the future of these young refugee women and girls, allowing them to seek lives of peace and dignity.

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