One of the most powerful things that Heshima Kenya does is empower girls to share their stories. As our caseworker Osop says, "We give voices to girls who were told never to speak." The following is Margaret's story, told in her own words. 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 the back would run over them. There were disabled people in wheelchairs by the side of the road, crying. They couldn't push themselves anymore without getting trampled. My uncle held onto 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 teh 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.
Today is th GlobalGiving Girl Effect Challenge Bonus Day. To support more girls like Margaret and help Heshima Kenya receive critical funding from the Girl Effect Fund, visit our fundraising page. Even a donation of just $10 will make a tremendous difference.