Education and Empowerment for Refugee Girls

by Heshima Kenya
Claire at GEP class with classmates
Claire at GEP class with classmates

The participants of the Girls Empowerment Project need your support. For the month of May Heshima Kenya is asking for contributions to help our GEP participants by providing them clothing and shoes. Your donation can provide for girls like Claire. 

Claire, a 15 year old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo who fled Congo as a child. During her departure, she lost her mother, two sisters and a brother. With the support of community members Claire and her remaining sister fled to the Congo-Rwanda boarder and were later brought to Nairobi by a family friend. While in route to Nairobi, Claire and her sister met a Congolese man who brought them to a Congolese church. The Pastor of the church took them in, and later a church community member volunteered to support Claire and her sister, provide them housing, and food.

Adeline, one of Heshima Kenya’s participant encouraged Claire to visit Heshima Kenya. Claire joined the Girls Empowerment Project and is learning English and Swahili as well as basic math skills. But Claire still needs support for basic necessitates such as clothing and shoes. This May, with your support, we can raise funds to provide Claire and other GEP girls new clothing and shoes. 

Thanks to supporters like you, Claire can have dreams of a better world for herself through education and skill. We thank you for your generous contribution

Divine (left) and a fellow member
Divine (left) and a fellow member

In an effort to increase the participant’s self-esteem and practice life skills, the Girls Empowerment Project staff and students recently created an elected Student Council. Members of the council were elected through a democratic process and were selected to represent the four countries, which participants originate- Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Congo. GEP students voted for candidates based on their confidence, achievements in class and critical thinking skills. The Student Council serves as a space where members can feel empowered to participate in the decision making process and functioning of the GEP. Members explore questions regarding the educational process, layout and structure of classes, how they may improve the courses for students, and address any issues that may arise.

Divine came to Heshima Kenya in 2012, she was pregnant and alone after losing her parents to the Rwandan genocide. After fleeing war in Rwanda, Divine and her sister migrated to the DRC – sadly, Divine and her sister were separated and her host parent passed away, prompting Divine to leave for Nairobi. Upon entering Nairobi, Divine was exploited and experienced assault. Finally, a community member referred her to UNHCR, and she was brought to Heshima Kenya.

At Heshima Kenya, she received psychological care for her trauma and was soon enrolled in the Girls’ Empowerment Project, where she began her education. Divine worked hard and excelled in school, quickly progressing and enrolling in our tailoring program. She is currently enrolled in the Maisha Collective, where she is earning an income to support herself and her baby boy. Divine now serves as a positive role model for all of our GEP girls, offering support and kind words. She leads by example, showing the young women they can achieve anything and that they have each other’s support in succeeding. Divine was recently elected to the Student Council, where she has been proudly serving and representing her fellow students. Currently, Divine and the other members are working on creating a fund for the women who need emergency funds, or need loans to start their own businesses.

Divine continues to serve as a leader in education; she recently registered for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Exams (KCSE), the formal test offered by the Kenya Ministry of Education that is required to graduate from high school. Divine is very focused and determined to continue with her education to university level. During an interview, Divine stated: “No matter the terrible circumstances that one goes through in life, just sitting down and jotting down your dream and Making It Happen is the biggest achievement in life. I know that 4 years to come I will be able to complete my University education and get a good job. I want to educate my child and see him reap in future”.

Divine is thrilled with her success and is looking forward to leading and supporting her fellow classmates. Thank you for helping Heshima Kenya. By helping us, we are able to support Divine, her child and many other girls who have similar stories to re-write their future and Make it Happen.


Heshima girls performing together.
Heshima girls performing together.

 Dear Supporters,

Since 2012, Giving Tuesday has been providing donors like you an opportunity to show support and jumpstart the giving season. It is a growing global movement to celebrate generosity and give to organizations to multiply their impact. With the holidays upon us, we can share in our thanksgiving through sustaining organizations that invest in the future, like Heshima Kenya.

How can you get involved? This Giving Tuesday, consider donating to one of Heshima Kenya’s programs that supports the most vulnerable of our global society, unaccompanied refugee girls and women. Share why you chose Heshima Kenya using #GivingTuesday and #Unselfie on social media.

Thanks to your continued support, Heshima Kenya has already been able to provide protection, education, and opportunity to nearly 650 refugee women and their children. We were able to safeguard the human rights of girls and young women who have experienced, and are at continued risk of homelessness, gender-based violence, and other protection issues. Since 2008, nearly 500 girls, young women and their children, were provided with safe shelter in a unique environment where they began to regain their physical and mental health, built important life values, created a network of peer support, and built self -sustaining skills through life-skills training and support through Heshima Kenya’s other programs. But we have a lot more work to do and that’s where you come in. Thank you for supporting refugee girls and women; thank you for your continued support of Heshima Kenya.

Thank you from all of us at Heshima Kenya
Thank you from all of us at Heshima Kenya
Chantal and James
Chantal and James

Chantal, 17-years-old, is a student at Heshima Kenya’s Girls’ Empowerment Project. Looking at her confident and determined smile, one would never guess the hardships she experienced as a young girl fleeing from the war torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Chantal was referred to Heshima Kenya by our partner agency, HIAS Kenya, in 2012. After fleeing from violence in her home country in 2010, she was captured by rebels and held in a forest; she became pregnant as a result of abuse she suffered there. After escaping and being referred to Heshima Kenya, she was placed in the Safe House where she received psychosocial support and was also enrolled into the GEP program. Heshima Kenya covered her maternity and delivery expenses, ensuring Chantal delivered a healthy bouncing baby boy she named James.

Upon enrollment into the Girls’ Empowerment Project, Chantal was assessed and placed in Level 1 of the program. At the time Chantal could not communicate in either English or Kiswahili. She attended classes to improve her language skills and six months later she emerged as one of the top performers in the adult education proficiency test administered by the Government of Kenya. In Level 2, Chantal was a top student and took on a leadership role in her class; she also enrolled in the vocational training where she received tailoring skills. At the completion of the second level, Chantal entered Level 3 and was registered for the national Kenya Certificate of Primary Education Exams, which she will take this November. Passing the exams is necessary for admittance to secondary school. In addition to completing her classes, Chantal received a certification as a skilled tailor. She is now a member of the Maisha Collective (our income generating project), the final component of the Girls’ Empowerment Project. In the Maisha Collective, she earns a stipend that helps pay rent and allows Chantal to live independently with her son.

Chantal’s son also receives support from Heshima Kenya. He is enrolled in the Heshima Kenya’s Early Childhood Development Program, which provides daycare and parenting classes. This allows Chantal the ability to focus on her education and involvement in the Maisha Collective. James learns numbers and shapes in the program, and his social interaction and ability to communicate with his peers, teachers and other adults are constantly improving.

Chantal plans to continue with her education through college, and plans to educate her child. She is extremely thankful for her education and for the counseling she has received that has helped her deal with her traumatic past and has allowed her to focus on her future. Chantal has big dreams for herself and her child for the future, she states “I would like to rewrite my life and the future.”

Thanks to supporters like you, Chantal is able to receive the support and education she deserves, investing in herself and in the future of her family. We thank you!


Heshima children sing a song together
Heshima children sing a song together

Bonus Day is here! Today, July 16, Global Giving will match every donation made to Heshima Kenya! When you donate today between 9 am-11:59 pm EDT, every dollar’s impact will be multiplied.

Thanks to your support, Heshima Kenya has already been able to provide protection, education, and opportunity to nearly 500 refugee women and their children. After fleeing war-torn countries, these families have found safety and hope through Heshima Kenya. With your help, we can reach even more. 

Your support has helped young women like Fatuma. Fatuma fled from Somalia in 2009 when a grenade attack killed her parents and brother. After reaching Nairobi, Fatuma enrolled in the Girls’ Empowerment Project at Heshima Kenya, where she learned to read and write. Today she is thriving as a worker in the Maisha Collective and a member of the Heshima Kenya community. Fatuma says, “Before my education at Heshima Kenya, my world was limited. I am ten times happier today than I was yesterday. My family would be very proud of me.” 

Please consider donating to Heshima Kenya today to multiply your impact, improving the lives of vulnerable young girls and women like Fatuma. From the girls and women of Heshima Kenya, thank you for your support!

Proud graduates of the Girls
Proud graduates of the Girls' Empowerment Program

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Organization Information

Heshima Kenya

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Alisa Roadcup
Executive Director
Chicago, IL United States
$61,740 raised of $95,000 goal
840 donations
$33,260 to go
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