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.
Sep 6, 2013

This Summer at the Safe House

Malyun writing her evening daily journal
Malyun writing her evening daily journal

This summer, our Safe House residents had the opporuntity to participate in several programs to aid their healing and help them succeed in life: 

1.) Jounrnaling at the Safe House

Our Safe house residents have been working diligently on their writing skills as a method to assist with the healing process after experiencing trauma. They have become accustomed to writing personal stories in their journal each evening. After working hard, the majority of the girls report they are able to reflect and write out  what is going on in their minds, and express their hopes and future desires. The girls were excited to discuss their thoughts, plans, challenges, successes and goals in life. Jennifer, 16 years old from the Congo,  shared that she loves going to school. She wrote that she works hard in school so that she could attain the highest grade to be admitted into a University. Jennifer plans to become a  pilot; she dreams of flying airplanes all over the world. Writing has served as a great motivator to help girls look forward to brighter futures; helping the girls believe in their capabilities and set goals for their lives. Alsongside of the journal writing, Heshima Kenya staff provided a number of counseling sessions to uncover the tramas faced and ulimately work to improve their emotional well-being. The individual counsleing plans, coupled with the journal writing, has helped the residents reduce their levels of anxiety and fear.  The girls very much enjoy the writing exercises and appreciated thinking through and sharing their future goals. 


2.) Life skills Courses

Parenting can be very challenging for teenage mothers, especially for teenage mothers missing their own families who have undergone significant trauma, such as our girls at Heshima Kenya.  Simply understanding on how to take good care of a baby is an incredible task for all mothers. This past month, 10 life skills sessions were held to equip the young mothers with baby-care skills. At the course’s completion, 95% of the residents demonstrated  improvement in taking care of their babies. The Life Skills program has recorded less medical referrals this month and shown that residents have gained healthy eating habits. The residents were also taken through transformational breathing techniques facilitated by “TIBA Africa” as a method of stress and tension  relief . They were encouraged to continue with the breathing exercises at home and after the course’s completion to remain mentally healthy and strong. Adele, who is a survivor of sexual gender based violence (SGBV) also gave a session on “getting through trauma”. Five years ago, Adele was gang raped on her way home from the market; her perpretrators are unkown. She received counselling and proper care that to help her heal and work past the assualt the best she could. She shared her personal experience with residents and  encouraged them to seek help and support to aid their healing. Currently, Adele works as a radio presenter at a popular radio station in Nairobi.; she is also the  founder of an organization called NO Means NO which advocates for the rights of children and women. Adele serves as a strong, brave role model for our women and girls. 

Your support makes it possible for our Safe House residents to receive such specialized care, including the counseling and courses they need. Thank you again for your generosity. 

Janet writing her personal journal
Janet writing her personal journal
Marlene and Latu completing their assignments
Marlene and Latu completing their assignments
Safe house residents in a discussion group
Safe house residents in a discussion group
Residents listening to life skills presentations
Residents listening to life skills presentations
Jun 7, 2013

Adventures at the Safe House

The babies having a great time at the park
The babies having a great time at the park

Our girls and young women at the Safe House, and their children, have been through so much. They work so hard every single day to overcome the trauma they have seen - working with our counselors and case management team to heal; attending classes at the Girls' Empowerment Project to obtain an education; learning about life skills and human rights; and looking forward to achieving their goals of independence and empowerment. We are so happy that we can provide our girls with the opportunity to have fun and feel safe as well! Just like all girls and boys - our girls in Nairobi deserve the right to grow and thrive in a safe, happy, and warm environment.

Just last week we were thrilled to take our girls and their children on a special field trip to the Nairobi National Park. Many have lived in Kenya as refugees without ever seeing animals or the beauty of the country. The girls were elated to look at the wild animals, including lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalos and they very much enjoyed completing the 2.5km safari walk with the game park guide. Everyone loved spending the day outdoors with their Heshima Family, walking around the game park very freely with their children and friends. A group favorite was feeding the monkeys yellow bananas inside their cages, as they laughed and played in the park. All of the Heshima girls appreciated the nature and wish to visit the game park again. Yvonne, 15 years old said "I always wanted to see animals. In Congo, I hardly saw animals. I am glad I have been able to visit the game park. I enjoyed it and I will never forget this day in my life." It was a special day filled with joy and free of stress! Another trip has been scheduled for later this summer.

The Heshima girls cross the expansive bridge
The Heshima girls cross the expansive bridge
The Safe House residents admiring the monkeys
The Safe House residents admiring the monkeys
The girls and their babies viewing animals
The girls and their babies viewing animals
Jun 7, 2013

Heshima Kenya girls are leaders

Halima laughs with her students
Halima laughs with her students

One of our main goals at Heshima Kenya is for each and every one of the young women we serve to become influential leaders – mobilizing other girls and young women in their communities, and teaching them about their own rights. Therefore, participants and graduates of Heshima Kenya’s education programs serve as leaders and advocates through our recently launched Junior Ambassador Program. This past spring we trained 7 graduates of our Girls Empowerment Project to lead their peers,  informing them on human rights, Sexual Gender Based Violence, sexual and reproductive health, and other topics. Halima is one of our young women who recently completed this training and now is now successfully leading women in her community.

 Halima is 24 years old and came to Heshima Kenya almost 4 years ago from Ethiopia. She was forced to leave Ethiopia because of war, as her family was targeted because of their ethnicity. Last year, Halima’s father and siblings went back to Ethiopia after living in Kenya for 2 years. Once they reached Ethiopia they were caught by the Ethiopian government, who accused them of being spies. Halima then learned that her father had been detained, and was subsequently tortured and killed. She does not know what happened to her siblings.

Since surviving these tragedies, Heshima has changed Halima’s life in many ways. She has worked very hard over the past several years to successfully complete her courses in the Girls’ Empowerment Project, and learning to tailor and successfully graduating to the Maisha Collective. This spring, Halima was one of the 7 young women chosen to participate in the 3-month community leader training. She recently held a series of several trainings in her own home in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi, convening a group of her neighbors, who are also refugees. When Halima asked why the women wanted to join the group, their responses included thoughtful, empowering statements such as:

  • “I am very proud of what the women in the group are doing and learning for each other and that every women in the group has inspired her in different ways.”
  • “It’s eye-opening for me because I am 19 years old and have a new baby girl. When I see Halima waking up every morning to go to Heshima Kenya, she inspires me because of the woman and neighbor she is.”
  • “If you educate a woman; you educate a generation.”

 Reflecting on her own experience, Halima shares:“I am encouraged by our women’s group and the discussions to come.  It wasn’t easy the first time, but I met a lot of really good ladies.  I am happy to teach.  There are many times we don’t understand each other, but I’m very happy to see that they are learning and opening up.   As for Heshima Kenya, I am really blessed to be a part of this organization and it’s the best thing that has happened to me.  I am very proud to become the leader that I am.”

Thank you again for your support and commitment to Heshima Kenya. Your generous donations make if possible for young women like Halima to become a leader and visionary in her community, increasing awareness of these important issues.  Please consider a donation today to ensure our young women can continue to meet their goals and become leaders. 

Halima teaching her peers
Halima teaching her peers
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