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.
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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Mar 2, 2016

Feeling Alive Again!

Solange reading her favorite book
Solange reading her favorite book

Solange is a 16-year-old girl from Burundi. She lived with her parents and four siblings in Bujumbura. Her father, a political leader in Burundi, was involved in organizing political campaigns, while her mother worked as a teacher in the local school. Solange resided at a nearby boarding school, where she enjoyed studying very much. She was an excellent student; her teachers would congratulate her for excellent academic performance and loved to boast her success to her parents during their frequent visits.

However, tragedy struck - in April 2015, her parents were abducted and killed by unknown people. Solange was in school and was not aware of what was happening at home. Once she was informed, she was released from school and taken to a safe place with family friends. However, due to her father’s political ties, it was deemed unsafe for her to remain in Burundi, so she made the journey to Kenya with a group of travelers. Upon her arrival, she was helped by a Kenyan woman to settle in and later was taken in by a Burundian family in Nairobi. Life was very hard and the family could not afford to take care of Solange’s needs. She cried every day, desperate to see her parents again.

One morning, Solange was heading to her appointment at UN refugee resettlement agency (UNHCR) and she was sexually assaulted by a stranger, who threatened to hurt her further if she told anyone. She was very scared and frustrated; she felt hopeless, and felt she had no one to turn to. Without her parents and her family, she was all alone without protection. Once Solange made her way to the UNHCR, her case manager there referred her to Heshima Kenya’s Safe House. At first, it was hard for her to cope. She was always thinking about her family, and would wake up crying, believing that her parents had just visited her in the Safe House. The overall trauma and grief she was experiencing affected her emotional stability for several months. Eventually, Solange was enrolled in intensive trauma and grief counseling. She slowly began to make close friends in the Safe House, and began to trust the staff. Her resilience began to emerge; she began to think positively about her future and focused on dealing with her grief through the support of her new family at the Safe House. She now reports feeling happy in her new home, and has hope she will be able to find her siblings some day.

Solange  says: “I feel safe being in Heshima Kenya. I could not share my experience before with anyone. But in the Safe House, I found friends, it’s my second home. I feel alive again. I love studying and working hard. I hope to become a pilot in future.” 

 

Donors like you ensure that healing and hopefulness is possible for girls like Solange. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you. 

Solange loves the joy she feels from dancing!
Solange loves the joy she feels from dancing!

Links:

Jan 28, 2016

Fartun: A Survivor

Fartun and her daughter at the Safe House
Fartun and her daughter at the Safe House

Fartun was born in the Dadaab refugee camp, a large refugee camp bordering Somalia and Kenya. Life in the refugee camps can be very challenging, including security risks and threats. Unfortunately, one day when Fartun was only 15 years old she was at a neighbor’s home, when an older male living there drugged and sexually assaulted her, resulting in pregnancy. Sexual assault causes much shame in many cultures, including Fartun’s, so after discovering what happened her family disowned her, taking her to the UNHCR for services. Knowing she was unsafe in the camp, without the protection of her family and her attacker still free, Fartun left the camp with a refugee woman traveling to Nairobi.

Once in Nairobi, Fartun was referred to Heshima Kenya’s Safe House, where she was provided with food, medication, transportation, counseling and prenatal care. Fartun also received counseling to help her cope with the trauma. Finally, she was enrolled in the Girls’ Empowerment Project, where she was able to continue her education. Once she gave birth to a healthy daughter, she was also able enroll in childcare courses to learn how to care for her baby. Fartun was beginning to heal, but was still very worried about her future as a young mother with no family or resources. Still, she worked very hard in school and to care for her baby.

Now, just 2 years later, Fartun is a bright young woman with ambitious dreams. She joined our income-generating program, the Maisha collective, enabling her to earn her own income to support herself and her daughter. She is now able to pay rent and financially support her daughter. While Fartun is working, her daughter is cared for in Heshima Kenya’s ECD (Early Childhood Center), within the GEP.

Fartun dreams of becoming a journalist one day. She loves watching and listening to the news and wishes to one day report events like the journalists she sees on television. Furthermore, she hopes to be able to provide a good life for her daughter and hopes that her daughter is able to have a good education.

Prior to joining Heshima Kenya, Fartun felt abandoned, neglected and hopeless. However, the care and support she found at Heshima Kenya helped her to grow and feel safe and secure. She felt safe enough to focus on her education, and care for her baby. This allowed her to learn tailoring skills and eventually begin to earn her own income, a dream that seemed impossible just a few short years ago. Fartun is very thankful for the support she has received and the friends she has made through Heshima Kenya.

 Fartun says “I am glad that Heshima Kenya cares for my child and we know that there is a place for us, a place of safety. Maisha is helping me take care of my baby and when she needs something, I’m able to do it for her as I can provide for her instead of having to ask it from somebody or somewhere else. I feel so grown up when I provide for my child.”

It is because of supporters like you that young women like Fartun are able to feel safe and secure, and are able to receive and education, thriving as young women with ambitious dreams. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for all you have done. 

Fartun at work at the Maisha Collective
Fartun at work at the Maisha Collective
Fartun and her daughter on their way to the GEP
Fartun and her daughter on their way to the GEP

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