Heshima Kenya

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Communicating Beyond Language

This post was written by Alexandra Corazza, Founder of Finding Roots & Wings. Finding Roots & Wings is a multimedia storytelling project, facilitating communication with and between refugee women as they seek to rebuild their lives. FRW focuses on stories of hope and seeks to hold up a mirror, showing women their strengths and resilience. Workshops are designed to not only share ideas and skills of multimedia promotion and storytelling, but also to find a way to facilitate communication, to process experiences beyond language and beyond cultural barriers. Holistic healing through storytelling.

I first met Furaha on a cloudy morning--winter-in-July in Nairobi. I had been given a bit of background about all the young women and girls from Heshima Kenya that would be joining my workshops. But, what I learned about Furaha stood out to me. She had lost her hearing not too long ago from loud explosions caused by war and violence in her home country, Burundi. I was told that she was able to communicate in English through writing, which she learned, thanks to the gentle folks at Heshima. I was also told that she spent most of her free time off on her own—finding it difficult to join in on casual conversations with friends.

Furah modeling the newest Maisha Collective designs. 

I got to work, writing out the lesson plans with as much detail as possible on slips of paper that I would give to Furaha each day before class. She would respond in writing with any questions or an “OK” and a smile! Then, the cameras came out. There were two cameras that the class could share for the assignments each day. When Furaha got her turn, it was like the shades were lifted and the world was in color again. It was hard for her to give up that camera. She would come running over to me, showing me shots she had taken. And her photos are good—she is a talented photographer and storyteller. She found a way to communicate with me beyond language and cultural barriers.

Our final video project.

I have since left Kenya, but Furaha and I are still communicating regularly through social media messages and photos.  She is working as a seamstress with the Maisha Collective and hopes to find a way forward when her time with Maisha comes to a close. And so, the collaboration with Heshima Kenya continues. FRW is launching a cellphone collection and fundraising campaign to return to Kenya in 2017 and hold further workshops, not only with the girls in the Safe House, but also with the women who are off to build their lives in Nairobi.

You can find Finding Roots & Wings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.