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.
Jan 17, 2017

Disability is Not Inability

Sammy preparing a fabric for tie-and-dye
Sammy preparing a fabric for tie-and-dye

Sammy seemed as though she had a privileged childhood, living in a comfortable home with family. Sammy is shy and reserved and it wasn’t until she became more comfortable with staff at Heshima that she started to share her story. Sammy was born deaf but was able to learn sign language at Heshima enough to communicate with staff. She feels that it was only by the grace of God that she was rescued from the life she had back home.

Sammy was separated from her parents and brothers during the civil war in Congo, when her father was killed and her brothers and mother fled leaving her under the care of some neighbor. When war intensified, her guardian fled to Kenya as a refugee, bringing her to the country as well. The foster family rented a small house in the Eastland area of Nairobi; where they lived together until their savings ran out and they could no longer afford basic needs and rent. It was at this point that the family took her to UNHCR and left her there. She was referred to Heshima Kenya and taken to the Safe House. She was also enrolled at the Girls’ Empowerment Project at Heshima, a program that equips refugee girls with basic

Although Sammy still feels uncertain about venturing out into the world with her disability, she also feels confident that the skills and knowledge she has acquired over time will be very useful in propelling her to any heights she dreams of achieving in life. Sammy wants to strengthen her sign language knowledge in order to communicate with more people and more effectively. Sammy is optimistic and happy that she has a bright future ahead of her.

Dec 1, 2016

Rebuilding Hope

Rachel with her baby Nina
Rachel with her baby Nina

Rachel was referred to the Heshima Kenya Safe House in November 2015. She was reffered with her little daughter Nina. Rachel was 16 years old when she was raped in her native country the DR Congo. She was rescued from the Mai Mai rebels after being abducted and enslaved for 8 months. The rebels raped her, tortured her and tormented her for months. One night, the government ambushed the Mai Mai camp and rescued Rachel. They were able to run through the thick forest with other women and children until they found a truck that carried goods where the driver helped them to reach the nearest town in Congo. Rachel collapsed in the middle of the journey and woke up after a few hours only to find herself held by an old woman who had tears in her eyes.  Rachel felt very weak. She was later informed that she was three months pregnant.

Eventually, Rachel found herself in Kenya with the help of many good Samaritans. They travelled with her miles and miles until they reached Nairobi. She was handed over to a Congolese family who lived with her until she gave birth to her baby. Unfortunately, all through her pregnancy, she was sick and very frail. She did not receive any kind of immunization and medication.  The child was born with many complications by the time of her referral to the Safe House, the child was sick and severely malnourished.  Rachel was very thin as well and always seemed stressed and had low self-esteem. She used to cry all the time whenever one of the case workers tried to talk to her. It took the Case Workers a long time to make Rachel understand herself and accept the situation she was in. She had countless counseling sessions with the case workers. Her baby was assessed and enrolled to the nutritional clinic. Her baby has since been on medical follow up and undergoing occupational therapy sessions at Association of People with Disability in Kenya (APDK).  Baby Nina was also taken to Kenyatta National hospital for further review and treatment. Rachel is also attending an orthopedic clinic to assess her back which was diagnosed with scoliosis.

Rachel was very worried for the health of her baby but through the collaboration and help of the Heshima Kenya Case Workers and Safe House Staff as well as medical facilities, her baby was able to stabilize.  

It’s has almost been one year now that Rachel has lived in the Safe House. She is a happy girl now who is stable in her weight and health and has a healthy growing baby as well. She has regained her smile back. She thanks Heshima Kenya for the help she has had so far. She has learned to appreciate the help she has been receiving especially with her baby who has grown teeth and can sit on her own now. Rachel has improved in her relations with the other residents and she enjoys their company.

Rachel hopes to become a nurse in future, she wishes that her child will be well and grow up healthy and strong just like other babies.

Oct 17, 2016

A Story of Heartbreak, Courage, and Resilience

The story of Rebecca Storm is an incredible, difficult, and courageous story. Her long and perilous journey from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Kenya in 2011 was so traumatizing that whenever she recalls the memories tears start to trickle down her cheeks. Rebecca lost her parents and siblings during the war in Congo, when they were separated one night when their village was attacked. She managed to escape on a caravan full of people fleeing the Congo trying to escape the war.  She could have not predicted the next string

When Rebecca and a group of other refugees arrived at the UNHCR transit center in Nairobi, she was assessed and referred to Heshima Kenya where she was taken in and accommodated in the Safe House. There, she received psychosocial and material support from trained counselors. While in the Safe House, Rebecca was enrolled in the Girls’ Education Project (GEP), an accelerated education program that offers refugee girls an opportunity to access basic education offered in the Kenyan curriculum, where they sit for national exams and are certified alongside other Kenyans.

Rebecca would live in the Safe House for one year, afterwards she was moved to the community to live with a foster family. She was enrolled in Level 3 and vocational classes. Her life was normalizing and she was finally finding peace after the loss of her home and family, and having to flee to a strange country. However, tragedy struck one Sunday afternoon again when she was walking back from Church alone. That’s when she met one of her friends, a boy she had travelled together with from Congo who also lived in her neighborhood. When she stopped to chat with him, little did she know that the boy had been trailing her and was accompanied by other boys who were hiding nearby with a car. Out of nowhere, several boys came and carried her to a waiting car, where she was kidnapped and taken to Uganda.  She had no idea who her kidnappers were, their motive, or where they were taking her. She left behind her life, her identification papers, and her hopes for a better future which she had been building at Heshima Kenya GEP program.

For four years Rebecca lived at the mercy of strangers, who kept her as a sex slave. She would later learn that they were also refugees from DR Congo, who had lived in Uganda for many years. One of the men took her to his house and made her his wife, where she had to endure sexual and physical violence for four solid years. While in Uganda, Rebecca conceived and bore a baby boy, who is four years old now. She speaks fondly of her son, and attributes her persistence and continued hope to the fact that she always dreamt of a bright future for him, despite the circumstance of his conception and birth. As she remained submissive to her master who was keeping her a prisoner, Rebecca was at the same time planning on her escape from Uganda. She was lucky one night that her husband was so drunk he let her go out to the toilet alone. The gate keys were also attached to the toilet keys so she took the opportunity to escape.

After another long journey back to Kenya, Rebecca arrived in Nairobi, again with nothing to her name. She quickly reestablished contact with the girls she had met earlier in the GEP program, and with their help she found her way back to the Safe House with her young son. The woman who arrived at the Safe House this time around was so different from the young innocent girl who had been received over five years earlier. Her face was telling a story of suffering and despair. Heshima staff in the Safe House offered her counseling and medical assistance, and she once again found a community where she was safe and protected.

Rebecca has since moved into the community, where she lives with her son with a foster family.  Social Workers from Heshima Kenya closely monitor her life, and she receives material and psychosocial support on need basis. She has also reenrolled in the GEP program, where she did a reentry exam and was placed at level three. She has also been attending vocational classes, where her tailoring tutor praises her and describes her as studious and dedicated.

 
   

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