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 12, 2013

Mireille Graduates

Mireille and her diploma
Mireille and her diploma

One very important aspect of our Girls’ Empowerment Project is the Vocational Training component. Once our young women demonstrate a commitment to the basic courses in the GEP, they are invited to join the training courses and attend each afternoon after completing their basic classes in the morning. In this seven-month tailoring course, participants gain skills in hand and machine stitching, measuring and cutting of fabrics, and sewing. Participants also learn a variety of stitch techniques like embroidery. In the latter two months before graduation, participants are enrolled to pre-production training where they learn advanced designs unique to the Maisha Collective. They also receive a small stipend to jumpstart their savings and transition into independence. These lessons have proven vital in teaching the girls valuable, marketable skills they can rely on for life, and help prepare them for the Maisha Collective, where they will earn an income and graduate to economic independence.

One of our recent graduates, Mireille, has worked very hard in her time at Heshima Kenya and is thrilled to have recently graduated from the tailoring program. Mireille is 21 years old and from Rwanda; her parents were killed during the genocide and a neighbor took her in.  The neighbor was elderly, and had a hard time caring for a child and the people who killed her parents began to look for her, so Mireille had to leave. She found another woman who was leaving Rwanda and joined her in the journey. Mireille finally ended up in Nairobi in 2007 and was fortunate enough to be enrolled in primary school – one day while she was at school, the neighbor left and Mireille was all by herself and homeless. Her neighbors allowed her to stay with them while she was in school. However, soon after she moved in, she was ordered to complete all of the chores and no longer had time to attend school. The husband of the household coerced her saying if she wanted to continue to live there, she must engage in a sexual relationship with him. Mireille refused, however the man raped her and she became pregnant. She consulted with other neighbors and decided to report the incident, at which point she was kicked out of the home.

She finally accessed the UNHCR who referred her to Heshima Kenya; she enrolled in the GEP and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Heshima Kenya was able to provide her with the life skills courses toterach her parenting skills, and child care so she was able to continue her schooling. She enrolled in the vocational training course, and graduated earlier this month. Mireille has also been registered for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and is receiving tuition.

Mireille’s dreams of finishing her education, finding a job and becoming financially stable. It is very important to her to provide for her son and give him what she never got in life. Through the tailoring skills that she acquired, she believes she will become a designer. She looks forward to participating in the Maisha Collective and continuing to learn and add to her skills. We’re so proud of you, Mireille!

Your support helps girls like Mireille go further in life than they ever thought they could. Your investment is truly investment in the life of our young women and their families. We thank you very much for your thoughtful donations. 

Mirielle
Mirielle's classmates
Mireille and her friends
Mireille and her friends
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

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