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.
Dec 11, 2012

Journalism Club: Girls Learn Writing & Reporting

The Latest Newsletter from the Journalism Class
The Latest Newsletter from the Journalism Class

Newsletter Published

This week, the eight intrepid reporters who make up Heshima Kenya's afterschool journalism club produced a brand-new edition of Midnimo, the Heshima Kenya program newsletter, all about human rights. You can flip through and read the articles here.

“Sometimes the girls say that they cannot be journalists because they are refugees,” says Imgard, the wonderful volunteer who has headed up the class for the last three months. “And I simply tell them that they have gone through great adversities to be where they are, and nothing can bar them from achieving their dreams."

Journalism Augments Traditional Curriculum

“I don’t see the class as only about journalism," she adds. "It’s also about building self-confidence and learning to understand the world around them.”

The class is held after the regular Girls' Empowerment Program schooling and is optional for the girls to take part in- but the interest so far has been great and the students who signed up for it rarely miss a class.

The class was started to augment what the girls learn in their regular curriculum including reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills.

The girls are also learning about human rights issues that affect them and about current affairs. For example, Imgard says that from day one the students were yearning for information on their home countries like DRC and Somalia, and that reading and discussing the newspaper together was not only good for reading comprehension skills but provided lessons in geography, history, and politics.

Learning Photography

The girls have also been learning to use cameras and the art of photography. For most, this is their first exposure to even holding a camera - and they are very excited to learn more skills.

Just the other week they had their first photo "exhibition" at the offices where a few of each of their photos were printed and hung on the wall. The other students from Heshima Kenya gathered to view their photographs on display and it was a proud moment for both the photographers and everyone in attendance.

Saying Goodbye and Giving Our Thanks

And sadly, this week marks Imgard's last week of volunteering. Thankfully, we have two new volunteers - a photojournalist from Canada and a communications volunteer from the US- here in Nairobi who have offered their time and expertise to take over the class.

On Imgard's last day, each girl read aloud a letter of thanks for her instructive lessons and kind mentorship. It was very heart-warming to hear as many girls in the class had not been able to even write their names before joining Heshima Kenya.

"You'll never be far from my mind, and you'll always be a part of my family," said Imgard.

By leveraging the pro-bono support of volunteers- and your generous donations - a huge difference is being made in the lives of girls who would otherwise not have the opportunity for an education. Thank you!

Learning about photography
Learning about photography
Saying goodbye to the jouranlism teacher
Saying goodbye to the jouranlism teacher

Links:

Sep 11, 2012

The Benefits of Childcare at the GEP

Safe and happy at our nursery
Safe and happy at our nursery

This summer, Heshima Kenya was honored to receive a grant from our long-time supporter, the Manaaki Foundation, to support our nursery, an initiative of our Girls’ Empowerment Project.  

As conflicts continue to intensify throughout the region, Heshima Kenya has received an increased number of cases involving girls and young women who have experienced sexual assault and as a result have become pregnant. Other girls arrive with infants and toddlers who are frequently malnourished or suffer from other illnesses or afflictions. In response to this growing need of mothers and their children entering our programs, Heshima Kenya has developed an on-site childcare program at our education site, in addition to a parenting curriculum that teaches new and expectant mothers about topics such as child nutrition and development, post-partum depression and emotional wellness, breastfeeding, and hygiene. The presence of this childcare program enables mothers to attend their education courses on site while also attending to their children throughout the day.

17-year-old Cledestine joined Heshima Kenya in January after fleeing Congo.  After making the courageous journey to Nairobi, she was assaulted after finding shelter at a local church. Pregnant and alone, Cledestine was referred to Heshima Kenya and gave birth to Patrick, a healthy baby boy one month after arriving.  She joined our Girls’ Empowerment Project where she is learning to read and write. Patrick is able to stay in our nursery while Cledestine is attending class. This allows her to focus on her learning, while being only steps away when she is needed for feeding, changing, or playing with Patrick.   

A strong foundation has been built for our childcare program, however, additional resources are required to accommodate the increased number of infants and toddlers and their development needs as they grow. Currently, Heshima Kenya is supporting 25 infants and toddlers of young mothers in our programs, two children whom have serious physical and mental disabilities, including cerebral palsy and cystic fibrosis. Your generous support helps to provide for competing needs including, including food, supplies, and additional resources for young children supported through our Girls' Empowerment Project.

Thank you again for your support and commitment to Heshima Kenya, which makes it possible for young families, like Clendestine and Patrick to begin to lead enjoyable 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!

 
   

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