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.
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. 

Dec 11, 2012

Talent Night: Boosting Confidence & Having Fun

Dance performance at the Safe House
Dance performance at the Safe House

Last month the Safe House Program held a Talent Night!

The girls regularly take part in drama and role playing activities so it was a natural idea that came to them to develop a Talent Night to showcase their talents. 

The girls, with support from the Safe House staff, spent a week preparing and practicing for the big event. They were broken up into five different teams to practice their routines.

On the big night, staff and friends gathered to watch the show, which included performing skits, reciting poems, and choreographed dances. All teams were given small token gifts for their efforts.

“We had so much fun that day,” said one participant. 

“It was nice to dance and show the girls what I learned,” said another. 

“It is a good day to come together and do what I like best: singing,” said yet another girl.

They also held a group birthday party, which are held quarterly to celebrate all the girls and their children who had birthdays in the last several months.

In addition to events like the talent show and birthday celebrations, the girls keep busy with a variety of regular activities.

One of the Safe House program's main goals is to promote psychosocial healing and a sense of community by structuring a daily routine.

For example, the girls have daily reading assignments as well as time and guidance to complete their school assignments. Reading is a big deal at the Safe House- the goal being to develop a reading culture where reading is encouraged and exciting for the girls. Thanks to supporters like you, the Safe House now has a small library of books for girls at different reading levels.  

Other activities include playing sports and spending time on communal household chores like cooking, tidying, and gardening - and for those that have babies and small children, childcare.

On the weekend, time is devoted to rest and relaxation as well as life-skills sessions on relevant topics such as reproductive health and self-esteem. Life at the Safe House continues to be busy and productive!

Thank you for your support of this project. The girls are thriving in this safe, caring environment thanks to your generosity!

Birthday party - blowing out candles
Birthday party - blowing out candles
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