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 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
Mar 11, 2013

Creating Connections with the World

The girls love to write their pen pals!
The girls love to write their pen pals!

One of the best things about the Safe House is that it not only provides protection, but it also offers various opprtunites for residents to grow and heal through a sense of community. We often offer classes, events, and other opportunities allowing residents to experience new things and help them discover their passions and interests. Here we will highlight our recent pen pal program and Zumba classes connecting residents to new interests and friends in different parts of the world.

In December, the Safe house residents received penpal letters from children in Russia through our partners at Bright Future International (BFI).  The Safe House residents enjoyed receiving mail, and reading and replying to the children in Russia. The Heshima girls were warmed by their pen pals’ holiday cards wishing them a Happy Christmas and a healthy life. The Safe House girls responded, thanking them for the letters and cards, and wishing them a good year. This activity lightened up the residents’ mood, helping them feel hopeful and appreciated.

Annette stated “Having friends from the other side of the world is really good. I am glad to find a new friend in Russia. I love writing letters to my friend”

In early March, the residents had the opprtunity to learn Zumba. Zumba includes a variety of dances to music from all over the world, which is a fun, upbeat exercise for participants. The girls were thrilled to learn these new dances and sway their hips to varity of Zumba music; they loved the ability to connect each move to song and dance. A number of the girls reported that they would love to continue attending dancing and music classes.

Nadia says “I have always wanted to be a professional dancer. Now I have gotten a chance to train and exercise my body so that I become a good dancer. I am so happy. I want to start dancing classes as soon as possible.”

Halima reading her letter from her pen pal.
Halima reading her letter from her pen pal.
Rose hopes to visit her pen pal in Russia someday
Rose hopes to visit her pen pal in Russia someday
The girls getting down the Zumba way
The girls getting down the Zumba way
The girls smiling and dancing during Zumba class
The girls smiling and dancing during Zumba class
Mar 11, 2013

Elizabeth's story of Courage and Strength

Elizabeth smiling and sewing
Elizabeth smiling and sewing

 

Elizabeth is 19 years old and from the Congo, she joined Heshima Kenya in 2012 after experiencing a life of challenges and hardship. Despite this, one of Elizabeth’s main goals is education, a goal she has continued to pursue throughout her life throughout the challenges she has faced.

When Elizabeth was just five years old, violence erupted in her village and her entire family was forced to flee. During the chaos,  she was separated from her parents and her siblings; she believes her parents were killed during this time and has no knowledge of where her siblings are now. Elizabeth was captured by the militia and held in a home with other children, where the unknown militia amputated two of her fingers. When Elizabeth finally managed to escape she was able to locate her cousin, and they both fled to Rwanda. Here Elizabeth was able to enroll in school and live with the pastor of her church, she also received physical therapy for her injuries. She attended school through level 5, when she moved to Kenya with the hopes of finding additional relatives; she arrived in Nairobi in 2011, living in multiple unstable locations.  Elizabeth suffered additional incidents of Sexual Gender Based Violence after arriving in Nairobi at the hands of acquaintances of her host family. She finally managed to escape and was referred to Heshima Kenya in 2012 by Doctors Without Borders.

When Elizabeth joined Heshima Kenya, she complained of persistent pain, which was found to be psychological caused by the extreme trauma that she faced. After 2 months of counseling, she finally felt strong enough to approach the Youth Coordinator and request to be enrolled in the Girl’s Empowerment Project. Elizabeth was determined to continue her education.  Though still struggling with her trauma, she would always come to class and do her best to concentrate. She is now among the best participant in class and was enrolled in the tailoring. Elizabeth was initially very insecure about her disability and felt this may keep her from learning how to tailor, however with her hard work and determination, and encouragement from the Heshima staff, she is now thriving. Her tailoring instructor describes her performance as “superb”.  Elizabeth still has many challenges to overcome, but with her ability to focus and her impressive self-awareness, we are convinced Elizabeth will continue to make amazing strides.

Thank you again for your support and commitment to Heshima Kenya. Your generous donations make if possible for young women like Elizabeth to work persistently to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges to thrive. Please consider a donation today to ensure our young women can continue to meet their goals. 

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