Education and Empowerment for Refugee Girls

by Heshima Kenya
Chance at work
Chance at work

As we continue empowering young refugee girls and women through the Girls’ Empowerment Project, we would like to share with you a success story of a participant who was able to meet her goals through the programs at Heshima Kenya.

22 year-old Chance recalls growing up wanting to pursue an education in her home country, the Congo. Sadly her dreams were shattered when war broke out in her country, forcing her to flee. She arrived in Kenya in February 2010 through the Busia border and was taken to UNHCR, who recognized her unique needs as an unaccompanied female refugee and referred her to Heshima Kenya.

Chance was initially enrolled in the Girls’ Empowerment Program, she performed well and entered the tailoring program, then the Maisha Collective. She gradated from the Maisha Collective is now among the 12 participants who received grant to start their own business. Through the business grant she was able to purchase a sewing machine and fabric and formed a tailoring business with several of her peers.

She says she likes the life of being an independent woman. She says, “I know that I can become anything I want…as long as I stay focused on my goals and aspirations.” She feels that she found herself doing exactly what she planned and is following her dreams. Chance says “I knew the only way I could have done this was by becoming an educated woman. Education is one of the most powerful tools that anyone can have, and I knew that in order for me to succeed, I had to become more than just an average student.”

Chance shares with pride that running her business and earning income is a big accomplishment for her, and she feels that she and her peers are setting a precedent for the current students. Chance says that she is extremely proud to be one of the Heshima Kenya’s graduates and that she will become a great role model for the rest of the participants. Through the profit she has earned, she has extended her business by selling second hand clothes.

Your support has helped participants like Chance achieve their dreams – we thank you for believing in our young women!

Chance in a play about the importance of education
Chance in a play about the importance of education
Chance and her peers graduate
Chance and her peers graduate


Lydia (right) at graduation.
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.
Lydia hard at work.

Dear Supporter, 

2013 was such a wonderful year for us at Heshima Kenya! Because of your support, over 100 girls, young women and their children, were able to begin rebuilding their lives with dignity and hope through the Girls' Empowerment Project, our program that offers a safe community for girls and young women to learn about their human rights and how to access them while addressing avenues for self-sufficiency and leadership-building. By providing resources for long-term support, these girls and young women become catalysts for strengthening networks creating sustainable change within the local and global communities. Please follow the link to view a special thank you from our girls. 

Happy Holidays!

Heshima Kenya 


Angie and Faith
Angie and Faith

We have exciting news - this Tuesday, October 8th, starting at 11pm CST throughout October 9th, GlobalGiving will match each donation made to Heshima Kenya!

Your support has already helped so many of our women and girls in Nairobi. Girls like Angie.

Angie’s story began in DR Congo where her grandmother raised her after her parents and brothers were killed when she was just 2 years old. In 2010, rebels raided her village again; they killed her grandmother and held Angie captive for two harrowing years. During this time, Angie became pregnant from assault and gave birth to her daughter, Faith.

One early morning in 2012, Angie managed to escape to Nairobi where she finally found Heshima Kenya. Angie lived in the Safe House for a year before she exited to live with other girls in the Girls’ Empowerment Program. She recently graduated her tailoring course and will be joining the Maisha Collective this fall.

Angie is becoming more and more confident each day as she achieves new milestones.  With your support, more young mothers like Angie are able to reach financial independence for themselves and their families.

Will you consider a donation this matching day to help our girls achieve their goals? There is a limited amount of matching funds available so please donate early to ensure Heshima Kenya benefits from this opportunity!

  We are so grateful for your generous contributions to help us engage, support, and encourage Angie, Faith, and so many more. Thank you for your support and commitment to empowering the young women and girls of Heshima Kenya, we couldn’t do it without you.  

Thank you Global Giving supporters!
Thank you Global Giving supporters!
Mireille and her diploma
Mireille and her diploma

One very important aspect of our Girls’ Empowerment Project is the Vocational Training component. Once our young women demonstrate a commitment to the basic courses in the GEP, they are invited to join the training courses and attend each afternoon after completing their basic classes in the morning. In this seven-month tailoring course, participants gain skills in hand and machine stitching, measuring and cutting of fabrics, and sewing. Participants also learn a variety of stitch techniques like embroidery. In the latter two months before graduation, participants are enrolled to pre-production training where they learn advanced designs unique to the Maisha Collective. They also receive a small stipend to jumpstart their savings and transition into independence. These lessons have proven vital in teaching the girls valuable, marketable skills they can rely on for life, and help prepare them for the Maisha Collective, where they will earn an income and graduate to economic independence.

One of our recent graduates, Mireille, has worked very hard in her time at Heshima Kenya and is thrilled to have recently graduated from the tailoring program. Mireille is 21 years old and from Rwanda; her parents were killed during the genocide and a neighbor took her in.  The neighbor was elderly, and had a hard time caring for a child and the people who killed her parents began to look for her, so Mireille had to leave. She found another woman who was leaving Rwanda and joined her in the journey. Mireille finally ended up in Nairobi in 2007 and was fortunate enough to be enrolled in primary school – one day while she was at school, the neighbor left and Mireille was all by herself and homeless. Her neighbors allowed her to stay with them while she was in school. However, soon after she moved in, she was ordered to complete all of the chores and no longer had time to attend school. The husband of the household coerced her saying if she wanted to continue to live there, she must engage in a sexual relationship with him. Mireille refused, however the man raped her and she became pregnant. She consulted with other neighbors and decided to report the incident, at which point she was kicked out of the home.

She finally accessed the UNHCR who referred her to Heshima Kenya; she enrolled in the GEP and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Heshima Kenya was able to provide her with the life skills courses toterach her parenting skills, and child care so she was able to continue her schooling. She enrolled in the vocational training course, and graduated earlier this month. Mireille has also been registered for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and is receiving tuition.

Mireille’s dreams of finishing her education, finding a job and becoming financially stable. It is very important to her to provide for her son and give him what she never got in life. Through the tailoring skills that she acquired, she believes she will become a designer. She looks forward to participating in the Maisha Collective and continuing to learn and add to her skills. We’re so proud of you, Mireille!

Your support helps girls like Mireille go further in life than they ever thought they could. Your investment is truly investment in the life of our young women and their families. We thank you very much for your thoughtful donations. 

Mirielle's classmates
Mireille and her friends
Mireille and her friends

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Organization Information

Heshima Kenya

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Alisa Roadcup
Executive Director
Chicago, IL United States
$61,987 raised of $95,000 goal
847 donations
$33,013 to go
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