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 24, 2010

A Girl's Space for Change

Girls dancing for Cultural Day!
Girls dancing for Cultural Day!


Dear Supporters,

It's been an exciting couple months and we are happy to share our progress with you!

With staff and volunteer support, participants of the Girl's Empowerment Project formed a drama group to write and perform dramas addressing issues of leadership and the importance of education.  We also developed a cultural show with the aim of the students sharing and understanding their different cultures.  The idea of cultural show was sparked by a participant because she experienced other students asking one another about their countries, clothing, food, dances, and traditions.  The cultural show helped students recognize, showcase, and appreciate their diverse backgrounds from Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda, DR Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan!

The Girl's Empowerment Projects participants have also been supporting their peers on decision-making.   For example, whereas previously the participants would divide themselves into informal groups and engage in conflict with one another relying on the Youth Coordinator and Mental Health Counselor to resolve their issues, the participants are now more patient with one another and work together toward conflict resolution. 
Team competitions have given the girls opportunities to engage in a variety of different games and sports and further facilitated interaction between students and other schools.  The GEP participants continue to engage with State House Girls Secondary School!  The inter school sports activities has also served in increased socialization and friendly relationships.
The Maisha Collective, Heshima Kenya’s income generating project, continues to be extremely successful!  We continue to experience an influx in orders, which keeps the girls busy!  Their standards of professionalism and excitement regarding their participation in the Maisha Collective is remarkable, and remains a source of inspiration for incoming girls!  Please visit the Heshima Kenya website in the coming weeks to learn how you can purchase a scarf!

Thank you so much for your support!

Oct 7, 2010

Hellos and Goodbyes

Residents in the Safe House backyard
Residents in the Safe House backyard

We are excited to report that since August, four young women have successfully transitioned out of our Safe House Program into independent living situations.  These young mothers, who are members of the Maisha Collective and do not face personal and targeted issues of insecurity, started earning a salary and wanted to try to live independently in community. Their successful relocation has encouraged other residents to start thinking of our Safe House Program as a more temporary situation in their journeys.  

Many of the girls have suffered trauma, arrive with newborns, and are continuously adjusting to their new situations. Heshima Kenya staff continue to monitor and evaluate our programs to ensure a safe and nurturing environment for all Safe House residents. Some new arrivals include 13-year-old Amina from Somalia, and 17-year-old Hope from Sudan. Amina is a new mother who was attacked when she fled Somalia to Kenya.  Hope was kidnapped in Sudan and escaped the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda to Kakuma Camp. She fled to Nairobi to escape a forced marriage and is now living in our Safe House Program.

We would like to say that these situations are unusual, but we all know they are not. Heshima Kenya’s Safe House is recognized as the safest shelter in Nairobi for refugee girls. There is a waiting list for entry and these urgent referrals come often. Our success, though welcome, has strained our resources and limited the number of girls and young women we can serve. 

That is why we need your help. It costs $500 a month and $16 a day to keep a girl in our Safe House, which includes 24-hour counselors, social workers, therapists, security guards, and medical care. All of the young women in our program have displayed progress, courage and strength in the last few months, thanks to your continued support.

Help us make more girls safe. Please make a gift today!

Jul 28, 2010

Journey to Self-Sufficiency

Scarves at the Market!
Scarves at the Market!

In our last report, we mentioned that Heshima Kenya had launched the Maisha Collective as the final transitional component of the Girl’s Empowerment Project. In just a few months, five graduates of our tailoring program have joined the Collective and have made hundreds of beautiful, unique, handmade tie & dye scarves. Members have also begun selling their scarves at a local Maasai Market in Nairobi and a store that promotes local Kenyan artisans and crafts. In addition to honing their scarf-making skills, members meet weekly to discuss important business and financial issues such as budgeting, wage payments, savings, and investing in the future of the Collective. I was impressed to learn that they had all agreed to use some of the money earned from selling their scarves to pay for childcare, as 4 out of the 5 Maisha members have small children that they must care for while working full-time.

In addition to the important skills gained in participating in the Maisha Collective, 15 girls from Heshima Kenya’s Girl’s Empowerment Program (including the Maisha members) have been meeting every Saturday morning for financial literacy trainings. Each training has been focused on different aspects of financial literacy ranging from budgeting to short term & long term savings plans. These trainings will help prepare all participants for their future independence.

Several girls at Heshima Kenya also created the most recent issue of Midnimo, where they explored what it means to be a leader and examined the important leaders in their lives. One girl, Zulekha Juma, a 15 year old refugee from Somalia, wrote beautifully about her mother, saying, “My mom is a good leader and she brought me to this world. Unfortunately, we are separated. She is good because she judges cases fairly and is kind to everyone… She has inspired me with many things like showing love to other people and helping those in need.” Other leaders that the authors wrote about included political figures, family members, and even our own Anne Sweeney and Talyn Good!

As we have said before, participants in the Girl’s Empowerment Project struggle daily with learning challenges, feelings of trauma and insecurity, and remembering a tumultuous past. Recognizing the daily stresses of these girls’ lives, we decided that it was important to give them mechanisms to deal with their stress. In addition to the one-on-one counseling that every girl receives at Heshima Kenya, we also had two life-skills trainings on stress management that focused on breathing exercises and practicing stress-release outlets such as writing and drawing. In addition, Heshima Kenya decided it was high time to take the girls out and have a little fun, so we planned an exciting trip for all of the GEP participants to visit the Giraffe Center at Nairobi National Park. The girls had a wonderful time learning about Rothchild giraffes and feeding them food pellets, but what was most important was that they got a chance to bond together and get their mind off of some of their daily challenges.

And to learn more about Heshima Kenya, you can now visit our new blog! Go to heshimakenya.wordpress.com to hear from our volunteers and interns about their observations and experiences at Heshima Kenya. And please feel free to post your comments!

Without your support, none of what we mentioned above would be possible, so from the bottom of our hearts we thank you and look forward to sharing more of Heshima Kenya with you!

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