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!
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.
It’s time for Global Giving’s first Bonus Day of the year! Starting at 12:00 AM EDT on March 14, Global Giving will be matching your donation to Heshima Kenya! That’s right - on March 14th only, Global Giving will match your donation up to $1,000 per donor at 30%! Please go to the Global Giving website on Wednesday, March 14th to continue to support Heshima Kenya’s Safe House. Or consider a donation to our other project, the Girls Empowerment Project. Additionally, Heshima Kenya can earn an extra $1,000 by raising the most funds or having the most donations. Global Giving has a limited amount of matching funds available, so be sure to get your donations in early!
Thanks so much for your support and commitment to empowering our Heshima Girls!
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.
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.
One of the most powerful things that Heshima Kenya does is empower girls to share their stories. As our caseworker Osop says, “We give voices to girls who were told never to speak.” Heshima Kenya's Safe House is a place where girls find hope, peace, and the strength to share their stories and speak up for other girls like them. Our work with refugee girls and young women would not be possible without the generous support of donor like you, and we thank you for your ongoing commitment to Heshima Kenya. The following is Margaret’s story, told in her own words:
Sometimes it is like a story, like it didn’t happen to me. It was 2004. It was July. I was 14. Each day in Bukavu [Congo] we would listen to the radio to see if it was safe to go to school. That day it wasn’t. It was 6 or 6:30 that night and just starting to get dark when we heard the shooting. They would shoot to scare us so that we would stay in our houses. Then soldiers would go house to house and do things like force fathers to sleep with their daughters while they watched. My mother wanted to hide in the house. My uncle said, “If you hide under the bed, they will find you! Come! We will run!” Outside the streets were full of people running to get away. Some were covered in blood. If an old lady fell, or a baby, people would run right over them because if they stopped, the people in the back would run over them. There were disabled people in wheelchairs by the side of the road, crying. They couldn’t push themselves anymore without getting trampled. My uncle held onto my wrist and never let me go.
We didn’t see my mother and brother, but my uncle said not to worry, that they were behind or ahead of us. We ran all night. We crossed into Rwanda to a forest. My mother and brother never came. We couldn’t go back to look for them because we were afraid we’d be caught. I was crying, crying. “I want my mom. I want my mom.” My uncle took me on his back. “Don’t worry,” he said. “When we reach someplace safe, then we’ll look for them.” I tried to understand, but my heart wouldn’t let me. Eventually he left me with someone and went back to look for his wife, who had also gone missing. “I will come back for you,” he said. But he never came. That woman got tired of keeping me and gave me to another woman who brought me to Kenya. That was seven years ago.
God has helped me in so many ways. I got an education. I didn’t even pay anything for it. Education is a privilege. Now I help other girls in the Safe House with their schoolwork. “The hand that gives is the hand that receives.” I never saw my mom again, but I try and remember all the good things my mother told me.
Thank you again for your continued support and commitment to helping girls like Margaret find their voices!
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