Education and Empowerment for Refugee Girls

by Heshima Kenya
Jul 28, 2010

Journey to Self-Sufficiency

Scarves at the Market!
Scarves at the Market!

In our last report, we mentioned that Heshima Kenya had launched the Maisha Collective as the final transitional component of the Girl’s Empowerment Project. In just a few months, five graduates of our tailoring program have joined the Collective and have made hundreds of beautiful, unique, handmade tie & dye scarves. Members have also begun selling their scarves at a local Maasai Market in Nairobi and a store that promotes local Kenyan artisans and crafts. In addition to honing their scarf-making skills, members meet weekly to discuss important business and financial issues such as budgeting, wage payments, savings, and investing in the future of the Collective. I was impressed to learn that they had all agreed to use some of the money earned from selling their scarves to pay for childcare, as 4 out of the 5 Maisha members have small children that they must care for while working full-time.

In addition to the important skills gained in participating in the Maisha Collective, 15 girls from Heshima Kenya’s Girl’s Empowerment Program (including the Maisha members) have been meeting every Saturday morning for financial literacy trainings. Each training has been focused on different aspects of financial literacy ranging from budgeting to short term & long term savings plans. These trainings will help prepare all participants for their future independence.

Several girls at Heshima Kenya also created the most recent issue of Midnimo, where they explored what it means to be a leader and examined the important leaders in their lives. One girl, Zulekha Juma, a 15 year old refugee from Somalia, wrote beautifully about her mother, saying, “My mom is a good leader and she brought me to this world. Unfortunately, we are separated. She is good because she judges cases fairly and is kind to everyone… She has inspired me with many things like showing love to other people and helping those in need.” Other leaders that the authors wrote about included political figures, family members, and even our own Anne Sweeney and Talyn Good!

As we have said before, participants in the Girl’s Empowerment Project struggle daily with learning challenges, feelings of trauma and insecurity, and remembering a tumultuous past. Recognizing the daily stresses of these girls’ lives, we decided that it was important to give them mechanisms to deal with their stress. In addition to the one-on-one counseling that every girl receives at Heshima Kenya, we also had two life-skills trainings on stress management that focused on breathing exercises and practicing stress-release outlets such as writing and drawing. In addition, Heshima Kenya decided it was high time to take the girls out and have a little fun, so we planned an exciting trip for all of the GEP participants to visit the Giraffe Center at Nairobi National Park. The girls had a wonderful time learning about Rothchild giraffes and feeding them food pellets, but what was most important was that they got a chance to bond together and get their mind off of some of their daily challenges.

And to learn more about Heshima Kenya, you can now visit our new blog! Go to to hear from our volunteers and interns about their observations and experiences at Heshima Kenya. And please feel free to post your comments!

Without your support, none of what we mentioned above would be possible, so from the bottom of our hearts we thank you and look forward to sharing more of Heshima Kenya 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
$63,013 raised of $95,000 goal
870 donations
$31,987 to go
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