Education and Empowerment for Refugee Girls

by Heshima Kenya
One of our Heshima girls  - happy and safe!
One of our Heshima girls - happy and safe!

It’s time for GlobalGiving’s first Bonus Day of the year! Starting at 12:00 AM EDT on March 14, GlobalGiving will be matching your donation to Heshima Kenya! That’s right - on March 14th only, GlobalGiving will match your donation up to $1,000 per donor at 30%! Please go to the Global Giving website on Wednesday, March 14th to continue to support the Girls Empowerment Project. Or consider a donation to our other project, the Heshima Kenya Safe House. Additionally, Heshima Kenya can earn an extra $1,000 by raising the most funds or having the most donations. Global Giving has a limited amount of matching funds available, so be sure to get your donations in early!


Thanks so much for your support and commitment to empowering our Heshima Girls!

Miriam helping out with a Heshima friend
Miriam helping out with a Heshima friend's baby.

Miriam came to Heshima Kenya in 2009 after living with abusive host families in the slums of Kawangware, located just outside of Nairobi. With these families, Miriam was subject to abuse and was forced to work long hours to complete all of the household chores, including caring for each families’ many children. She experienced extreme poverty – living with 8 other family members in a single room partitioned only with curtains. After rape attempts by one of the sons and the father of her second host family, Miriam finally received help from a neighbor to reach the UNHCR, where she was placed with Heshima Kenya.

“Heshima Kenya has changed my life a lot!” Miriam exclaims, stating she is finally able to access education, has obtained shelter and food, and feels safe. She stresses that while living in the community she was constantly fearful, but is finally free of attacks – like rape and other assault. She feels taken care of as she would if she were living with her own parents. “The other HK girls are like my sisters,” she says, “We all (give each other advice) and console (each other) when we are stressed or have a problem. This is the only family I have and know.” Miriam also demonstrates how the environment and services at Heshima inspire peace, empowering the young women to be catalysts for social change. “The girls are very helpful and we all love each other. We now can live together in harmony in spite of our different ethnic groups and countries. We can live together as sisters who share a common goal.”

Miriam is currently working very hard in school, where her favorite subjects are Kiswahili, Science, Social Studies, English and Mathematics. “I want to excel at it all,” Miriam declares. Additionally, Miriam looks to the other young women who have exited the Safe House as role models because they are able to live responsibly on their own – paying their rent and bills, and budgeting responsibly. She is grateful for the education, language, and income generating skills she is acquiring to help her achieve these goals. Down the road, Miriam aims to become a journalist but is also inspired by the work of Anne Sweeney and Talyn Good, the founders of Heshima Kenya. She, too, would like to assist orphans from war torn countries “I would encourage other Heshima Kenya girls to live with peace, love, and understanding.”

It is your support that makes stories like Miriam’s possible – we couldn’t do it without you! Thanks again for your deep commitment to empowering and inspiring peace in our Heshima girls!

Miriam with Hamdi, a Heshima Caseworker.
Miriam with Hamdi, a Heshima Caseworker.

We are posting a special report just to say thank you to everyone who participated in the Girl Effect Challenge on GlobalGiving this past month! We received contributions from 100 different donors and raised nearly $3,000 for our Girls' Empowerment Project! We can't begin to thank you enough for your continued support, and for encouraging your network to get involved in Heshima Kenya. Our Heshima girls in Nairobi are thrilled to have your support, and we hope that you will remain involved in our work with adolescent refugee girls.


“Life in Somalia was so hard for a girl because of education. They believed that you get married and have husbands, you don’t go to school. I believe I am a leader because I don’t have to be old to have my voice heard. It all depends on how much I believe and use my brain.” – Girl’s Empowerment Project participant

Because of your generous support, our Girl’s Empowerment Project participants have engaged in a variety of educational and enriching activities throughout the summer. In addition to the basic education, life-skills discussion, tailoring program and income generating project which are the core components of the Girl’s Empowerment Project, the girls are currently preparing for Cultural Day, where they will celebrate the diverse cultures represented at Heshima Kenya.

A volunteer working with Heshima Kenya in Nairobi reports that “the girls have each created symbols for themselves. We are having them made into fabric stamps, and then making a wall-hanging with all of the symbols.” Girls are also experimenting with using fabric stamps for future products of the Maisha Collective, the income-generating project for graduates of the Girl’s Empowerment Project.

At a time when the refugee crisis in Somalia and Kenya is becoming even more severe, your support of Heshima Kenya’s programs is extremely critical and makes a visible and lasting impact. We thank you for your continued support of our Girl’s Empowerment Project, which is empowering refugee girls and young women to share their voices and become leaders.  


Field trip to the GoDown Arts Centre
Field trip to the GoDown Arts Centre

The past few months have been filled with engaging and educational activities for the girls in our Girl’s Empowerment Project. In April, Heshima Kenya staff and volunteers led 42 girls on a field trip to the GoDown Arts Centre in Nairobi, which is home to art workshops, performances, exhibitions and discussion forums. The purpose of the trip was to expose the girls to a variety of artists and artwork in Nairobi and educate them about opportunities for creative expression.

During their field trip, the girls were divided into two groups and given tours by GoDown Centre employees. The tour included a look at painters’ and sculptors’ studios, a music recording studio, an art exhibit of Somali cartoons, and the dance studio of Karuka Maisha’s street performers. Each of the girls took particular interest in a different type of art. Some enjoyed the recording studio and took turns singing into the microphone in the recording booth, while others loved the dance studio and had the chance to dance with the Karuka Maisha performers.

The girls used what they learned during their field trip to create their own art back at Heshima Kenya. They made their own cartoons, complete with their own messages, written or implicit. They enjoyed the activities so much that they postponed lunch to continue working on their projects. Today, the girls’ cartoons are hanging all around the walls of Heshima Kenya’s classroom.

Other recent Girl’s Empowerment Project activities included two Life-Skills trainings in May about nutrition and reproductive health. The girls also produced a newsletter in May about the impact of HIV/AIDS on refugee communities.

To learn more about the Girl’s Empowerment Project, visit Heshima Kenya’s blog and follow us on Facebook. Your generous contributions allow Heshima Kenya to continue to offer creative and educational opportunities to refugee girls and young women in our Girl’s Empowerment Project. Thank you so much for your support, and we look forward to sharing more stories with you!


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Organization Information

Heshima Kenya

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Alisa Roadcup
Executive Director
Chicago, IL United States
$61,820 raised of $95,000 goal
843 donations
$33,180 to go
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