As we continue to build our Girl's Empowerment Project, we like share our impact through the eyes of our volunteers. Joe Steele has been passionately working with Heshima Kenya for the past four months:
I had been in Nairobi for 85 minutes when Amina laid the groundwork for what has been a humbling, inspiring lesson in strength and perseverance. I’m a NYC public school teacher come international non-profit volunteer searching for an understanding of the issues facing our world. I found it in Amina, an Ethiopian refugee, who participates in Heshima Kenya's Girl's Empowerment Project.
Amina's story and struggle—flight, abandonment, exploitation, violence—is one that the HK staff have taken on with incredible passion. At HK, a safe house provides the security, structure and consistency that allows each girl to focus on their future, an education program that gives them the tools to define and defend their rights and pursuits and a tailoring and dying course that harnesses the unquestionable skill, drive and dedication that each girl possesses.
But Amina is relentlessly hard on herself for her past and present struggles. She carries the burden of those experiences and the responsibilities of raising two young children in every classroom lesson, every trip to the UNHCR and each beautiful scarf she labors to create. I began to understand in my first few hours here in Kenya the entrenching psychological effects that an unequal and indifferent social system creates—crying, stupid, useless—but also witnessed firsthand efforts to heal those wounds. Each day Amina and the other girls are given the tools they need to control their futures, even if they can’t control their pasts. Each day they help a group of our society’s most vulnerable girls wake up in a safe place, learn skills that demand both respect and recognition and show them that their dreams have value.