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.
Feb 15, 2012

Inspiring Peace and Social Change: Miriam's Story

Miriam helping out with a Heshima friend
Miriam helping out with a Heshima friend's baby.

Miriam came to Heshima Kenya in 2009 after living with abusive host families in the slums of Kawangware, located just outside of Nairobi. With these families, Miriam was subject to abuse and was forced to work long hours to complete all of the household chores, including caring for each families’ many children. She experienced extreme poverty – living with 8 other family members in a single room partitioned only with curtains. After rape attempts by one of the sons and the father of her second host family, Miriam finally received help from a neighbor to reach the UNHCR, where she was placed with Heshima Kenya.

“Heshima Kenya has changed my life a lot!” Miriam exclaims, stating she is finally able to access education, has obtained shelter and food, and feels safe. She stresses that while living in the community she was constantly fearful, but is finally free of attacks – like rape and other assault. She feels taken care of as she would if she were living with her own parents. “The other HK girls are like my sisters,” she says, “We all (give each other advice) and console (each other) when we are stressed or have a problem. This is the only family I have and know.” Miriam also demonstrates how the environment and services at Heshima inspire peace, empowering the young women to be catalysts for social change. “The girls are very helpful and we all love each other. We now can live together in harmony in spite of our different ethnic groups and countries. We can live together as sisters who share a common goal.”

Miriam is currently working very hard in school, where her favorite subjects are Kiswahili, Science, Social Studies, English and Mathematics. “I want to excel at it all,” Miriam declares. Additionally, Miriam looks to the other young women who have exited the Safe House as role models because they are able to live responsibly on their own – paying their rent and bills, and budgeting responsibly. She is grateful for the education, language, and income generating skills she is acquiring to help her achieve these goals. Down the road, Miriam aims to become a journalist but is also inspired by the work of Anne Sweeney and Talyn Good, the founders of Heshima Kenya. She, too, would like to assist orphans from war torn countries “I would encourage other Heshima Kenya girls to live with peace, love, and understanding.”

It is your support that makes stories like Miriam’s possible – we couldn’t do it without you! Thanks again for your deep commitment to empowering and inspiring peace in our Heshima girls!

Miriam with Hamdi, a Heshima Caseworker.
Miriam with Hamdi, a Heshima Caseworker.
Feb 8, 2012

Positive Impacts from The Safe House

One of the most rewarding things about our work is realizing the positive outcomes from our young women who have worked so hard to overcome their traumatic experiences and strive for a better life. We cannot emphasize enough our pride in their resilience and endurance, and would like to thank you, the donors, for making these impressive gains possible.

Margaret’s Exceptional Strides

In November, Margaret shared her powerful story that told of the trauma she experienced before arriving at The Safe House. Margaret was forced to flee the Congo due to violent soldier attacks on her village, during which she was separated from her mother, uncle, and the rest of her family. Despite the adversities she experienced, Margaret thrived at The Safe House and in her school. We are happy to report her hard work has had extremely powerful results. Margaret has successfully exited The Safe House and is now living with two other girls also enrolled in Heshima Programs.  She is currently working as an assistant teacher with Heshima Kenya and continues to go to school at night.  Margaret is a wonderful example of the strong capabilities our young women possess.

Natalie: A Natural Leader

Natalie is 17 years old and arrived in the Safe House from the Congo ten months ago.  Despite the hardships she experienced, Natalie persevered to succeed and become a leader to others at the Safe House. Her support and assistance of her fellow peers led to Natalie’s election by the young women to be their representative – they come to her when they have issues, concerns, or questions.  She uses her role to engage the others in unique, positive ways – such as creating a cleanliness competition, where many girls were rewarded with trophies and gifts. She also acts as a liaison for staff, working to sensitively advise young women who are having trouble adjusting to the rules of the Safe House and briefing staff on the outcome.  Most recently, Natalie was elected as the President of the Girl’s Empowerment Program and received a sponsorship to pursue her education. She continues to work hard to further her education and be a strong leader to her peers in the Safe House.

Jeantile’s Courage

Courage can be defined as the power or quality of dealing with or facing danger, fear, or pain. Jeantile, 16, demonstrates courage in action.  In her very short time at the Safe House, Jeantile has shown courage to overcome her struggles and has improved immensely. Upon arrival, the horrors and trauma she and her son experienced in her recent past caused Jeantile to exhibit low self-esteem, be reserved around others, and be very possessive of her son. She constantly felt unsafe, and was anxious that she and her son would be displaced and need to make another long journey at any moment’s notice. After continuous counseling, providing assurance, and constant assessment, Jeantile has developed higher self-esteem and a sense of safety and confidence that she and her son are in a secure place. This has led to a healthy detachment from her son, allowing him to attend nursery school to further his development, as she attends education classes at the Girl’s Empowerment Program.  Jeantile demonstrates the bravery and potential that we work to uncover in all of the young women in The Safe House. 

Thank you again for your support and commitment, which makes it possible for girls like these to begin to lead empowered lives.

Nov 17, 2011

The Power of the Girl Effect!

We are posting a special report just to say thank you to everyone who participated in the Girl Effect Challenge on GlobalGiving this past month! We received contributions from 100 different donors and raised nearly $3,000 for our Girls' Empowerment Project! We can't begin to thank you enough for your continued support, and for encouraging your network to get involved in Heshima Kenya. Our Heshima girls in Nairobi are thrilled to have your support, and we hope that you will remain involved in our work with adolescent refugee girls.

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