Education and Empowerment for Refugee Girls

by Heshima Kenya

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
Halima laughs with her students
Halima laughs with her students

One of our main goals at Heshima Kenya is for each and every one of the young women we serve to become influential leaders – mobilizing other girls and young women in their communities, and teaching them about their own rights. Therefore, participants and graduates of Heshima Kenya’s education programs serve as leaders and advocates through our recently launched Junior Ambassador Program. This past spring we trained 7 graduates of our Girls Empowerment Project to lead their peers,  informing them on human rights, Sexual Gender Based Violence, sexual and reproductive health, and other topics. Halima is one of our young women who recently completed this training and now is now successfully leading women in her community.

 Halima is 24 years old and came to Heshima Kenya almost 4 years ago from Ethiopia. She was forced to leave Ethiopia because of war, as her family was targeted because of their ethnicity. Last year, Halima’s father and siblings went back to Ethiopia after living in Kenya for 2 years. Once they reached Ethiopia they were caught by the Ethiopian government, who accused them of being spies. Halima then learned that her father had been detained, and was subsequently tortured and killed. She does not know what happened to her siblings.

Since surviving these tragedies, Heshima has changed Halima’s life in many ways. She has worked very hard over the past several years to successfully complete her courses in the Girls’ Empowerment Project, and learning to tailor and successfully graduating to the Maisha Collective. This spring, Halima was one of the 7 young women chosen to participate in the 3-month community leader training. She recently held a series of several trainings in her own home in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi, convening a group of her neighbors, who are also refugees. When Halima asked why the women wanted to join the group, their responses included thoughtful, empowering statements such as:

  • “I am very proud of what the women in the group are doing and learning for each other and that every women in the group has inspired her in different ways.”
  • “It’s eye-opening for me because I am 19 years old and have a new baby girl. When I see Halima waking up every morning to go to Heshima Kenya, she inspires me because of the woman and neighbor she is.”
  • “If you educate a woman; you educate a generation.”

 Reflecting on her own experience, Halima shares:“I am encouraged by our women’s group and the discussions to come.  It wasn’t easy the first time, but I met a lot of really good ladies.  I am happy to teach.  There are many times we don’t understand each other, but I’m very happy to see that they are learning and opening up.   As for Heshima Kenya, I am really blessed to be a part of this organization and it’s the best thing that has happened to me.  I am very proud to become the leader that I am.”

Thank you again for your support and commitment to Heshima Kenya. Your generous donations make if possible for young women like Halima to become a leader and visionary in her community, increasing awareness of these important issues.  Please consider a donation today to ensure our young women can continue to meet their goals and become leaders. 

Halima teaching her peers
Halima teaching her peers
Elizabeth smiling and sewing
Elizabeth smiling and sewing


Elizabeth is 19 years old and from the Congo, she joined Heshima Kenya in 2012 after experiencing a life of challenges and hardship. Despite this, one of Elizabeth’s main goals is education, a goal she has continued to pursue throughout her life throughout the challenges she has faced.

When Elizabeth was just five years old, violence erupted in her village and her entire family was forced to flee. During the chaos,  she was separated from her parents and her siblings; she believes her parents were killed during this time and has no knowledge of where her siblings are now. Elizabeth was captured by the militia and held in a home with other children, where the unknown militia amputated two of her fingers. When Elizabeth finally managed to escape she was able to locate her cousin, and they both fled to Rwanda. Here Elizabeth was able to enroll in school and live with the pastor of her church, she also received physical therapy for her injuries. She attended school through level 5, when she moved to Kenya with the hopes of finding additional relatives; she arrived in Nairobi in 2011, living in multiple unstable locations.  Elizabeth suffered additional incidents of Sexual Gender Based Violence after arriving in Nairobi at the hands of acquaintances of her host family. She finally managed to escape and was referred to Heshima Kenya in 2012 by Doctors Without Borders.

When Elizabeth joined Heshima Kenya, she complained of persistent pain, which was found to be psychological caused by the extreme trauma that she faced. After 2 months of counseling, she finally felt strong enough to approach the Youth Coordinator and request to be enrolled in the Girl’s Empowerment Project. Elizabeth was determined to continue her education.  Though still struggling with her trauma, she would always come to class and do her best to concentrate. She is now among the best participant in class and was enrolled in the tailoring. Elizabeth was initially very insecure about her disability and felt this may keep her from learning how to tailor, however with her hard work and determination, and encouragement from the Heshima staff, she is now thriving. Her tailoring instructor describes her performance as “superb”.  Elizabeth still has many challenges to overcome, but with her ability to focus and her impressive self-awareness, we are convinced Elizabeth will continue to make amazing strides.

Thank you again for your support and commitment to Heshima Kenya. Your generous donations make if possible for young women like Elizabeth to work persistently to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges to thrive. Please consider a donation today to ensure our young women can continue to meet their goals. 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Heshima Kenya

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Alisa Roadcup
Chicago, IL United States
$60,911 raised of $95,000 goal
816 donations
$34,089 to go
Donate Now
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. Learn more
Add Project to Favorites

Help raise money for this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page for this project.

Start a Fundraiser