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.
Jul 19, 2016

Cecilia's Fighting Spirit

“Thanks to Heshima Kenya I now feel like I can be whatever I choose to be. When I first came to Heshima Kenya I didn’t know how to say “Good morning” because I could only speak French and my mother tongue. Heshima taught me how to speak English and how to work hard for my future.”

Cecilia is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo and came to Kenya in May 2014 alone because of the fighting in her country. She fled the Congo due to the war, where both her parents were killed by the militia and was separated from her only brother. The militia held her hostage for over a year where Cecilia was sexually assaulted and, as a result, got pregnant. Luckily another woman, who was also a hostage herself, helped Cecilia escape and together they fled to another village where Cecilia was hoping to reunite with her paternal uncle. Upon arrival, she found out that her uncle had also been killed and that his wife was living on her own. Cecilia lived with her aunt till she gave birth. The war broke out again in their village and Cecilia had to flee again, this time with her aunt. Cecilia had a very difficult relationship with her aunt and one day after they had a disagreement, her aunt left, taking Cecilia’s son with her. Cecilia was devastated but had no choice that when war started over a third time, Cecilia had to flee with a truck driver who brought her to Nairobi, Kenya. Once she was in Nairobi, Cecilia was able to find a Congolese man who took her to a woman who offered to host her for a while. The neighbors offered to host Cecilia for a short time after that. The neighbors took Cecilia to HIAS and then to UNHCR to register. At the UNHCR, Cecilia heard about Heshima Kenya through the other girls registering. Cecilia came to Heshima Kenya’s offices in October of 2014 and was enrolled into the Education and Safe House program.

Cecilia was enrolled into the Girls’ Empowerment Project where she continues to receive education. She is currently enrolled in the Level 3 Programming. She has registered to take the KCPE exams in November 2016. In 2015, she was enrolled into the vocational training, graduated, and joined the Maisha Collective in January 2016. She is able to earn her own income as part of the Maisha Collective, where she dyes and hand makes scarves. Through the stipend Cecilia earns from the Maisha Collective, she is able to support herself and even host other Heshima Kenya girls who are reintegrating back into the community from the Safe House program. Cecilia is saving up and planning on setting up her own small grocery business when she graduates from the collective in 2018.

Heshima Kenya took Cecilia to the Red Cross to help her locate her child, but the investigation is unfortunately still ongoing. To help her cope with the trauma and focus on empowering herself, Cecilia was enrolled into counseling sessions.With the support she received from Heshima Kenya, Cecilia still has hope of one day finding her child. Cecilia is very thankful for the support she has received and the friends she has made through Heshima Kenya.

“At Heshima Kenya I’ve learned to speak Kiswahili and English and also learned subjects I didn’t even know existed like social studies and science. I’m paying for my own rent and food and one day I know my child will come back to me and I’ll be proud to show her how far I have come”.

Jun 2, 2016

Finding a New Home

"I finally feel like I found a new home in Heshima Kenya.”

Aisha is a 13 year old girl from Somalia. She used to live with her family in Somalia. Her mother stayed at home taking care of her younger sibling, while her father worked in a small shop in the nearby city. Aisha always dreamt of studying hard and becoming a teacher in future. Her parents could not afford to take her to a good school because most of the schools in their area had been shut down due to security issues. Aisha was told to stay home and help her mother with house chores as her father continued working hard to fend for the family.

In January 2016, some military policemen came to Aisha’s home and took her father away. The policemen harassed her mother with a lot questions and a lot of threats. Aisha could not understand what was going on and she cried all through the night. Her mother eventually disappeared without a trace as well. Aisha was taken away by her paternal aunt, who told her that she was not safe and needed to go to a safer place. They fled with the aunt to Kenya to seek refuge. On arrival in Kenya, Aisha was left stranded alone in city of Nairobi as the aunt claimed she had nowhere to take her. As night time drew closer, Aisha felt frightened and did not know what to do. Luckily, some good samaritan assisted her by taking to a police station where she was asked a couple and immediately reffered to the Safe House for protection and care.

Aisha cried all through the nights wanting to be reunited with her family. The child was taken to UNHCR for follow ups, registration, and tracing of her family. It was hard for Aisha to express her pain but with time, she has been able to talk about her worries. She was enrolled into counselling and life planning skills that enabled her build hope that one day she will meet with her family. With the education provided in Heshima Kenya, Aisha feels that parts of her dreams are being fulfilled. She always wanted to study and learn basic literacy skills to enable her to communicate clearly in English. She has developed friendship with girls in Heshima Kenya. She likes modelling and playing games. She enjoys going for team building events and taking walks in the park with friends. When she grows up and completes her education, Aisha wants to become a teacher.

*A picture of Aisha in April of 2016, Aisha with some friends at the Safe House during an event, and Aisha and her friends going for a walk in the gardens.

Apr 26, 2016

Neema's Empowering Journey

Neema fled from war in her home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012. Earlier that same year, she was separated from her parents when war came to her village; their whereabouts remain unknown. She was therefore living with her brother in another small village when one night militia broke into her home. Her brother and sister-in-law were beaten while she hid under the bed. Unsure if her brother and his wife were alive, she fled to a relative’s house, where they immediately fled the village. She was separated from her relatives at the Kenya border, so continued the remainder of the journey to Nairobi alone.  Once in Nairobi, she was able to find her brother again, but the violence had changed him. Neema’s life with her brother was not good; he began drinking, and his wife insisted that Neema stay home and care for the house for no pay, preventing her from attending school.

Neema had no resources to escape this environment; she did not speak the local language and could not communicate. She had very few skills for employment, so was forced to remain in the bleak conditions working as unpaid labor in her brother’s home. Neema finally found Heshima Kenyain 2014 after hearing of its programs during an awareness and outreach campaign designed in her native language. She came to live in the Safe House at 16 years old, and was immediately enrolled in the Girls’ Empowerment Project for basic education. She worked hard and learned quickly, picking up English and joining the vocational courses for tailoring and straight stitching class in 2015. She graduated and joined the Maisha Collective in January 2016.

Neema continues with her education and is in level 3; she has registered to sit for the KCPE exams in November 2016, which has been her dream since she enrolled into the programs. Neema has grown, gaining self-confidence and self- awareness through the life-skills classes. She was even able to host an intervention for her brother regarding his drinking, which led him to enroll in treatment and recovery programs. Through the stipend Neema earns in the Maisha collective, she is able to contribute to her brother’s household so he may focus on his healing. Neema is looking to the future, saving her money and planning on starting her own clothing business when she graduates from the collective in 2019.

“I am happy that I’ve been able to get my education back and have earned a skill from Heshima Kenya that is focused on my future where I will have a better life for my brother and myself!”

Neema at School
Neema at School
Neema at work
Neema at work

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