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 4, 2015

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Lucie and Her Daughter
Lucie and Her Daughter

Lucie is 17 years old and from Democratic Republic of Congo. She was the third and only girl in a family of three children, living with her parents in a small village in Congo. Early in 2013, as they were preparing to eat their evening meal, her village was attacked by Mai Mai rebels. They heard their neighbors screaming and running for safety. Lucie narrates “Two soldiers came to our house. They had guns and they stole all the money my parents had, they then killed my parents and brothers, and demanded I go with them to serve as a wife in their camp. I couldn’t do anything because the soldiers had guns. I was so scared. They walked me in silence into the bush. When we arrived, I found many other girls there they had kidnapped. We were held hostage there and abused for many months.”

Fortunately, one day, Lucie managed to escape, however she had already given birth to a baby girl born as a result of abuse. She was assisted to travel through Uganda to Kenya, where she was reffered to Heshima Kenya in February 2015. She was immediately provided with safe, protective shelter in the Safe House for herself and her daughter, medical care, and trauma counseling. At first, Lucie exhibited many signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. She would constantly hold her daughter close, not wanting to let her go due to fear. She did not want her daughter to play with other children or be out of her sight. She would begin to cry when staff or residents would approach her. Lucie participated in regular, intensive counseling, she was also enrolled in life skills courses to help her build parenting skills, cope with her emotions and build positive self-esteem.

As months went by, Lucie showed great improvement with her relationship with her baby and other residents. She is now able to allow her daughter to attend baby classes conducted by the Heshima Kenya Early Childhood Program, resulting in her baby expressing more confidence and social skills, frequently playing with other children. Lucie has built her own self-confidence as she slowly recovers from the extremly challenging situations she faced. She has even begun to accept leadership roles assigned to her within the Safe House. She hopes that one day she will be able to change other young girls’ lives in her community by participating in youth mentorship programs. She says, “When there is conflict, women and girls suffer a lot. I suffered a lot but now I feel happy because am in a safer place. I always pray for peace in our countries. I now see light at the end of tunnel.”

Lucie and her baby on their way to class
Lucie and her baby on their way to class

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Oct 27, 2015

I Now Have Hope In Life - Irene's Journey

Irene looks forward to exams next month!
Irene looks forward to exams next month!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” Nelson Mandela.

Heshima Kenya strongly believes in the power of education, and continues to provide opportunities to many vulnerable refugees, like Irene. Irene is a young and energetic girl who is determined to fulfill her dreams of becoming a journalist, so she can fight for justice including equal treatment, fairness and peace for all. Being a journalist has been her dream and aspiration ever since she was young.

Just this past spring, at 16 years old, Irene fled from her country of Burundi due to political conflicts that resulted in the loss of her parents. She escaped the fighting and met another refugee in Rwanda who offered to take her to Nairobi, Kenya. After a long journey, Irene arrived at the UNHCR in Nairobi, where she was referred to Heshima Kenya. She was immediately given a safe place to live in our Safe House; she also received food, medication, transportation, counseling and medical services. This summer, Irene enrolled in our education services, where she began her basic literacy education. She plans to continue through the primary levels in order to pass the exams and enroll in high school; she plans to eventually attend college where she can study to become a journalist. Reflecting on her time at Heshima Kenya so far, Irene says, “I feel good about my education, I believe that I will move forward in my higher level of education.”

In a few short months, Irene has been able to advance in reading and writing in English, which was initially one of her biggest challenges. “My English has really improved ever since I joined Heshima Kenya, I have been able to read and understand the meanings of different words in English,” she says.

Today, Irene loves reading English storybooks and the Bible as part of her hobbies. She is now able to participate in class, compared to her first day at Heshima when she was still traumatized and afraid because of her past. She feels safe and happy; she attends school every day and has made many friends in school and at the safe house.

Irene will be sitting for her final examinations for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (K.C.P.E) in November 2016, passing this exam is required to enter High School. She says that Heshima Kenya has helped her with many things; “Heshima Kenya has offered me education, food, shelter, medication, transport and mostly a place I can call home because I find hope for my future through the support Heshima Kenya has offered me. Heshima has started the family tracing process for my two sisters who are still missing after the political fights and am hopeful they will be traced so that we can reunite,” she says.

“I feel like I have found a family in Heshima Kenya since I lost my parents, I have also found people who sympathize and empathize with me despite them being from different backgrounds and this makes me feel better and I have hope in life,” she says.

 

Thanks to supporters like you, girls like Irene are able to find hope and strive to acheive their dreams everyday. We thank you for your support. 

Irene in class
Irene in class
Zumba class at the GEP
Zumba class at the GEP

Links:

Sep 10, 2015

Maria from South Sudan

Maria after coming to the Safe House
Maria after coming to the Safe House

Maria is a 15 year-old-girl from Southern Sudan; she fled her village after war broke out and her parents were killed by the militia. Tragically, Maria was abducted and forced to live as a house wife of the militia for one year. Finally, Maria and another woman manged to escape from their captors.

Maria ended up at a nearby church that was able to arrange for her to come to Nairobi, where she was taken to the UNHCR offices, who referred her to Heshima Kenya for care and protection. Initially, Maria was incredibly traumatized – she cried frequently and could not communicate as she only spoke the Dinka language and Arabic. Heshima Kenya brought in an interpreter for her so that the program staff would understand and be able to provide for her immediate needs. She was placed in the Safe House so she would have a safe place to stay; she was also enrolled into special counselling services, received immediate medical attention, and began to slowly work to build her hope and confidence.

Today, Maria has started to learn English; she works with a volunteer teacher daily who teaches her to speak and write. She loves spedning time with her new friends in the Safe House - plaiting other girls’ hair, crocheting and dancing. She also participates in peer support activities organized in the Safe House. Though she acknowledges that she still very much misses her family and her sense of belonging; she states her life has been transformed. “I finally feel like I have found a family again, a mother and a friend in Heshima Kenya. I would love to continue with my studies and become a nurse just like my new found mother in the Safe House”, says Maria.

Thanks to your support, Heshima Kenya is able to continue working hard to ensure that Maria’s best interests are determined and all of her needs are met. With ongoing support, we can continue to care for Maira and the many young women like her. Thank you again!

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