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 11, 2012

The Doli Healing Project

Margaret and Alex playing at the Safe House
Margaret and Alex playing at the Safe House

This past year Heshima Kenya piloted The Doli Healing Project, a doll making art therapy program offered to Heshima girls who are survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). SGBV is defined as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman, or violence that affects women disproportionately.” Of the 295 girls and young women Heshima Kenya has served since 2008, one-third of Heshima’s cases are SGBV related.

The Doli Healing Project was held in May of this year and consisted of 16 classes held over an 8-week period. All participants were Congolese mothers between the ages of 15 and 20 who were struggling with the demands and responsibilities of motherhood. Participants were also seeking higher self-esteem and support for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

Margaret participated in the Doli Project and demonstrated some very positive outcomes.  Margaret was 18 years old when she fled violence and war in DR Congo. Her harrowing trek took her from the forests of Congo, to Uganda, and finally coming rest in Nairobi, Kenya. When she arrived, Margaret was able to locate her maternal uncle and began living with his family. While there, she became pregnant after being sexuality assaulted by a neighbor. Forced to leave her uncle’s house because of the shame her unwed pregnancy would bring to her family, Margaret was devastated and without a home.

All this changed when Margaret found Heshima Kenya. She was referred to Heshima Kenya’s Safe House and began to receive counseling, support, and medical care. She found safe and supportive community with the other girls and staff. And on November 11th, 2011 Margaret gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Alex.

Margaret shares that her participation in the Doli Project was a challenging and an exciting opportunity. With the assistance of a consulting art therapist, she learned how to make the doll step by step, teaching her to be patient with the learning process. Margaret expresses that the Doli Project provided relief from thinking and worrying about her problems and her son Alex, and that she felt safe and supported surrounded by the other girls in the program. “Working on my Doli released stress and anxiety from my mind. I am so grateful, “ she states.

As the Doli Project progressed, Margaret began to feel more confident and better able to relate to the other Heshima girls and to her child. Margaret also has gained new parenting skills, saying that she knows how to better hold and love her baby. Currently, Margaret is engaged with Heshima Kenya staff to prepare her for transition back into the community. Soon she will be reintegrated back into city and community life with her 10 month old son.

Margaret is very independent-minded and says she now has the confidence to pursue her dreams of becoming a very successful business entrepreneur.

It is support like yours that enables Heshima Kenya to provide therapy and other services to our young women in need. We thank you for your crucial support!

Jun 11, 2012

The Maisha Collective

Annette and her son, Lucky, hard at work.
Annette and her son, Lucky, hard at work.

The Girls Empowerment Project has helped our young women in so many ways. We are very proud of our young women who overcome many struggles to successfully complete the income generation component of the Girls Empowerment Project. The Maisha Collective is a 14-month apprenticeship that serves as the final component of the GEP. The Collective not only teaches the young women financial literacy and management skills, but also provides them with an income for their work, with the goal of living independently and providing for themselves and their families. Euphrozine’s story perfectly displays the outcome we aim for with all of our Maisha Collective participants. 

Euphrozine fled Rwanda in 2008 after her parents were killed. She became pregnant as a result of sexual assault while staying with a host family in Uganda. Upon learning of her pregnancy, her host family forced her to leave. Euphrozine gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Kevin who was born with an array of complications – he is partially blind, deaf, and requires regular therapy because he has cerebral palsy and is epileptic.  Caring for Kevin made it difficult for Euphrozine to find a safe home, receive an education or earn any income. Her situation seemed hopeless.

 Then Euphrozine and Kevin found Heshima Kenya.  Upon entering, Euphrozine and Kevin were supported in the Safe House, and utilized a variety of case management services that Heshima provides. When Euphrozine was ready, she joined the Maisha Collective, the income generation component of Heshima Kenya. While enrolled in the Maisha Collective, Euphrozine worked extremely hard to earnestly save her money so she could live independently. 

 Euphrozine’s hard work proved successful - on March 9th, she and Kevin moved to their first home as a family, a challenge Euphrozine assumed she would never achieve because of her son’s disability. She will continue to participate in the Maisha Collective and Heshima Kenya will support Kevin’s medical care. Reflecting upon the joys and challenges of her recent independence, Euphrozine shares “I wanted to be independent - to take care of my baby, and feed him with my own money.  At first I was so scared of the unknown - I was scared that I would be out there with my child as a refugee in a city that is still very foreign to me. Then I finally said, let me try.  Now, I'm proud of myself - and it’s not scary, because I'm not alone - I still have Heshima Kenya.”

Euphrozine laughing with friends.
Euphrozine laughing with friends.
Jun 11, 2012

The Power of Recovery: Candide's Story

Residents of the Safe House relaxing.
Residents of the Safe House relaxing.

Recently, we received a written testament to the power of Heshima Kenya from a young woman who moved through our program and is now resettled in the U.S.

Candide’s background is one of many struggles – filled with war and loss. She was born in 1992 and lost her entire family to the genocide in Burundi at only 10 months old. She was moved to a refugee camp, where she remained for 6 years of her life until she was able to move in with a foster family. Candide was forced to leave this home when she found her life was in danger and moved around from country to country seeking shelter, safety, and any distant relatives that may have remained. She entered Kenya by bus, all alone with nowhere to go, until she was referred to Heshima Kenya.

When Candide arrived, she was tired and her spirit was broken, however she was welcomed into the Heshima Kenya Safe House with open arms; Candide felt the staff and residents of the Safe House were truly happy to have her there. Candide reflects upon her entry: “The people of Heshima Kenya warmly (welcomed) me and all the Heshima Kenya officers continued to work with me to make my life better.  The Heshima counselors helped me to accept my past and begin building my future. At Heshima Kenya my life was good and quiet.  I felt safe.  It was a wonderful place for me to live.” Candide began a new life at Heshima – in the Girls Empowerment Program she learned Swahili, English, Math, and life skills – such as cooking, cleaning, and other household responsibilities.

Finally,  Candide was able to be resettled in the United States. While she was thrilled because her life would no longer be in danger, and she could continue school to pursue her dream of becoming a criminal lawyer, she was greatly saddened to leave her Heshima family. She reflects upon her last night saying, “That night I celebrated with my wonderful Heshima Kenya girls, but everyone there was crying. I loved them. They loved me, too. Heshima Kenya was my safe place, my home because I was living with family who understood me and I understood them. Through our pain we reached out to each other. Together we began rebuilding our lives.”

Candide is currently living happily in the U.S., while it’s not easy to be in a new place with new people she loves her family here and is looking forward to graduation next year. She states why she feels it’s important to tell her story: “I’m sharing my story with you to show you how much Heshima Kenya has positively impacted my life. Please continue to help other young women who are faced with what appears to be insurmountable challenges and an uncertain future. With Heshima Kenya at their sides, miracles will happen and dreams can come true.”

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

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