The Safe House: An Enclave of Peace and Hope

Mar 12, 2012

Global Giving Bonus Day- March 14th!

One of our Heshima girls  - happy and safe!
One of our Heshima girls - happy and safe!

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!

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 10, 2011

Margaret's Voice

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!

Aug 10, 2011

Finding Strength Through Community

Girls of the Safe House and children
Girls of the Safe House and children

When 16-year-old Sandrine and her two daughters were referred to Heshima Kenya’s Safe House, they had just arrived in Kenya from Congo. Sandrine was identified through Heshima Kenya’s Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Outreach program, as Sandrine and her children were experiencing homelessness and were in dire need of shelter and safety. When she first arrived at the Safe House with her daughters, Sandrine was traumatized and overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for her children in a foreign country without any means of support or income. After settling in, Sandrine received support to not only meet her basic needs, but also received counseling and emotional support, and was welcomed by a community of staff and girls who continue to provide her with encouragement.

The Safe House also welcomed a 13-year-old Somali girl who was rescued from the street after being sexually and physically abused. She is epileptic and mentally disabled, and had been disowned by her mother. She is now receiving medical care and tremendous physical and emotional support from the other Safe House girls, who are always ready to help her care for herself, prepare for field trips, and communicate with others. When she first came to the Safe House, she was withdrawn, hostile, and feared any girl who came near her. Now, she knows that this community of girls with similar and shared experiences will protect and support her.

Heshima Kenya’s Safe House would not be able to offer this vital protection and support without your generous contributions. We thank you for continuing to invest in the future of these young refugee women and girls, allowing them to seek lives of peace and dignity.


May 19, 2011

Rebuilding and Reuniting

Thanks to your generous support, Heshima Kenya continues to offer safety and shelter to vulnerable refugee children and youth in Nairobi, Kenya. In March 2011, 35 refugee women, girls, and their children received protection and care through the Safe House program, which provides residents with counseling, medical care, and education through Heshima Kenya’s Girl’s Empowerment Project.

In April, the Safe House welcomed Asho, a 16-year-old Somali girl. Asho was referred to Heshima Kenya because was unsafe in her living situation, where she had been abused and threatened by her host. After speaking with a case worker, Asho was enrolled in Heshima Kenya’s Safe House program, where she is now safe and happy.

The Safe House also saw a departure in April, when a resident named May was reunited with her elder sister. May was pregnant when she arrived at the Safe House, and during her stay gave birth to her son, David. May was initially anxious about leaving the Safe House, due to the high level of emotional and physical trauma she had faced in the past. But after receiving counseling from UNHCR and Heshima Kenya’s counseling staff, May and David exited the Safe House program and were reunited with May’s sister.

Your investment in the Safe House allows Heshima Kenya to continue to care for girls like Asho and May, giving them the tools they need to be self-sufficient and confident once they are ready to exit the program. Thank you for your incredible support!

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Heshima Kenya

Chicago, IL, United States

Project Leader

Anne Sweeney

Chicago, IL United States

Where is this project located?

Map of The Safe House: An Enclave of Peace and Hope