Lydia (right) at graduation.
As we celebrated International Women’s Day March 8th, it is especially exciting to share the amazing successes of the empowered women that Heshima Kenya serves. This month, we will share and celebrate Lydia’s incredible journey.
Lydia and her family fled from her shattered country, the DR Congo, in the midst of the civil war. As they escaped, walking through the bushes of the Congo to circumvent the violence, Lydia was separated from her parents and her four siblings. The separation from her family left her devastated and traumatized with no hope for the future.
In July 2011, through the assistance of good Samaritans she met on the way, Lydia travelled through the Ugandan border into Nairobi, Kenya. At the United Nations offices in Nairobi she met a woman who became her host. In October 2011, Heshima Kenya outreach staff identified Lydia and referred her to the Safe house due to her vulnerability.
First, Heshima Kenya focused on meeting Lydia’s most immediate needs. After Lydia had a safe place to stay, a loving community around her, and counseling sessions to help her begin to address her traumatic experiences, she enrolled in the Girls’ Empowerment Project (GEP). At the age of 16, she started out at the most basic education level with a sincere interest in learning and a strong commitment to her work. She showed dedication to every aspect of the GEP including her literacy classes, vocational training, and the income-generating project, the Maisha Collective. As a part of the training, Lydia learned about financial literacy, budgeting, financial planning, saving, basic principles of starting a business, and identifying safe income generating activities. Through the GEP and her hard working ethic, Lydia gained an invaluable education preparing her for unique opportunities in the future.
Recently, Lydia was able to open her own bank account, where she began saving her earned stipend from the Maisha Collective. She then enrolled in college where she took training courses in hospitality and gained work experience in the field; 18 months later, she graduated and was offered a job at a hotel in Nairobi. Recognizing her for all of her success in school and work, Lydia became one of the 12 promising Maisha graduates to receive a loan and livelihood assistance for 3 months from the GEP. With the loan, her own savings, and her education, Lydia established a small business selling hair products and second hand clothes. She is currently working with two more former GEP participants to form a group to maximize their business capital and income.
Lydia, who has become a confident leader and educated businesswoman, is also one of 7 key mentors who continue to give back to the GEP by mentoring current participants.
Your support helps girls like Lydia live lives they never thought possible. Your investment is truly investment in the life of our young women and their families. We thank you very much for your thoughtful donations.
Lydia hard at work.