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This is the story of a Congolese girl who, while literallly running, fleeing from the soldiers together with the rest of her town was separated in the chaos from her mother and little brother, left with a stranger while her uncle went back to look for them, and never saw any of them ever again. The stranger got tired of taking care of her, and gave her to another stranger, who took her to Kenya. Despite this, the first thing she said to me is "God has been good to me in so many ways." She stands up by focusing on the good things her mother told her and by firmly believing, despite everything she has been through, that the hand that gives is the hand that receives. And this from a girl who has been given such a raw deal by life. With indefatigable spirit, she now teaches the other girls at the safe house, passing on what she calls the privilege of education. This story is submitted by Heshima Kenya on her behalf.

Sometimes it is like a story, like it didn’t happen to me. It was 2004. It was July. I was 14. Each day in Bukavu [Congo] we would listen to the radio to see if it was safe to go to school . That day it wasn’t. It was 6 or 6:30 that night and just starting to get dark when we heard the shooting. They would shoot to scare us so that we would stay in our houses. Then soldiers would go house to house and do things like force fathers to sleep with their daughters while they watched. My mother wanted to hide in the house. My uncle said, “If you hide under the bed, they will find you! Come! We will run!” Outside the streets were full of people running to get away. Some were covered in blood. If an old lady fell, or a baby, people would run right over them because if they stopped, the people in back would run over them . There were disabled people in wheelchairs by the side of the road, crying. They couldn’t push themselves any more without getting trampled. My uncle held on to my wrist and never let me go. We didn’t see my mother and brother, but my uncle said not to worry, that they were behind or ahead of us. We ran all night. We crossed into Rwanda to a forest. My mother and brother never came. We couldn’t go back to look for them because we were afraid we’d be caught. I was crying, crying. “I want my mom. I want my mom.” My uncle took me on his back. “Don’t worry,” he said. “When we reach someplace safe, then we’ll look for them.” I tried to understand, but my heart wouldn’t let me. Eventually he left me with someone and went back to look for his wife, who had also gone missing. “I will come back for you,” he said. But he never came. That woman got tired of keeping me and gave me to another woman who brought me to Kenya. That was seven years ago. God has helped me in so many ways. I got an education. I didn’t even pay anything for it. Education is a privilege. Now I help other girls in the Safe House with their schoolwork: “ The hand that gives is the hand that receives.” I never saw my mom again, but I try and remember all the good things my mother told me.


Jan K Askin's picture

Human Resilience

Dear Heshima,

You gave this Congolese girl and all of us a gift in writing her story. The depths of the human spirit and quality of resilience can be inspiring. I will send positive energy to this amazing child every day.


Jan Askin

Frances Faulkner's picture



Isn't it amazing how those who suffer the most can then sometimes teach us the most? You captured it with your phrase "indefatigable spirit." Thank you for reminding us about our potential as humans to always be appreciative and generous in life.


sallysmithr's picture

What a story!

I could feel the emotion in the story and it brought tears to my eyes. What a positive attitude after such a horrific experience. Thank you so much for sharing such an amazing story.

Thanks again,

Sally Smith

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