Education and Empowerment for Refugee Girls

by 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
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 



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Organization Information

Heshima Kenya

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Alisa Roadcup
Executive Director
Chicago, IL United States
$63,209 raised of $95,000 goal
878 donations
$31,791 to go
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