“I wanted to be independent - to take care of my baby, and feed him with my own money. At first I was so scared of the unknown - I was scared that I would be out there with my child as a refugee in a city that is still very foreign to me. Then I finally said, let me try. Now, I'm proud of myself - and it’s not scary, because I'm not alone - I still have Heshima Kenya.”
Elizabeth fled Rwanda in 2008 after her parents were killed. She became pregnant as a result of sexual assault while staying with a host family in Uganda. Upon learning of her pregnancy, her host family forced her to leave. Elizabeth gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Kevin, who was born with an array of complications – he is partially blind, deaf, and requires regular therapy because he has cerebral palsy and is epileptic. Caring for Kevin made it difficult for Elizabeth to find a safe home, receive an education, or earn any income. Her situation seemed hopeless.
Then Elizabeth and Kevin found Heshima Kenya. They moved into the Safe House and received support from the case management services that Heshima provides. When Elizabeth was ready, she joined the Maisha Collective, the income generation component of Heshima Kenya. The Maisha Collective is a 14-month apprenticeship where the young women learn to manage a business collective that designs and produces a line of unique tie-and-dye scarves. Participants gain life-long business and marketing skills that develop their confidence and prepare them for future independence, which will in turn improve their communities. While enrolled in the Maisha Collective, Elizabeth earnestly saved her earnings so she could live independently.
Elizabeth’s hard work proved successful: in March, she and Kevin moved to their first home as a family, a challenge Elizabeth assumed she would never achieve because of her son’s disability. She will continue to participate in the Maisha Collective and Heshima Kenya will support Kevin’s medical care.