I AM HESHIMA
Eleven YEARS AGO,
I took a journey that would forever change the course of my life.
I was 19 years old, I got on a plane and went to Kenya for what was meant to be a 3 month contract teaching English in an orphanage with a big international organization. After paying way too much $ to volunteer, with no one to pick me up at the airport for hours, being dropped off at a someone's house in a slum with no water, food or blankets, I realized very quickly that I fell into a lucrative voluntourism trap. After that 3 month stint, I went back for another 7 months, leading to the unexpected creation of a team and the birth of I am Heshima.
You see, every single volunteer promises to go back when they leave the first time. The reality is, very few ever do and their words fall onto the deaf ears of children who are used to broken promises.
Well, I kept my promise and went back. In full confidence, a child, followed by many others, whispered to me: “Lex, get me out of this hell”. Those words from that child’s mouth are those that led to the creation of I am Heshima.
This ‘hell’ the children spoke of looked like this: These children were products to sell the very profitable image of the typical ‘African child’ to a national and international market. Their everyday hell: Having rooms full of food and not being fed well leaving them hungry, having bags full of clothing but wearing rags, being sick and not getting the care they need. Being sold to locals for sex. Being raped, impregnated, and abandoned by the owners meant to protect them. Packing in children at triple their capacity. Being physically tortured and verbally abused with varieties of “You are here because nobody loves you”. The orders to the children were simple: if you tell anyone the truth, we are going to kill you.
We had 2 choices, to go home to our freedom with pretty pictures and go on to live our individual lives, or to help lil’ ones find their freedom.
We chose the latter of the 2.
After tracking down families, children started to be rescued through escape plans and brought back home. There was a price put on my head, we were spied on and had to run for our lives constantly. I was 19 and fearless. Led by the ONLY 3 investigators ‘un-bribable’ by the orphanage, when enough children were rescued and safe, they started speaking out & exposing the truth. The community protested in the streets to shut down the orphanage and protect their children. After 4 years, with enough evidence, the orphanage was finally shut down and justice was served.
The worst part? These vulnerable children were successfully recruited by the orphanage with one unanimous selling point “Your child will get an education”. These children suffered all of this irreversible damage because they wanted to go to school.
This is WHY I AM HESHIMA was born. To protect and empower vulnerable children & youth by actualizing their biggest dream & their basic human right: providing EDUCATION & LOVE.
We started with ONE child in 2008. Today, our family comprises 600 children. Scroll down and meet the amazing team!