Kaitland at Heshima Kenya


Name: Kaitland

Year: Senior

Major(s): Biology

Minor(s): US History

CFS Program: Field Studies in Social Justice

When I began my search for a Spring and Winter internship, I only had a loose idea of what I wanted to do. I have always had a passion for working with non-profit organizations and have volunteered with several different organizations during my time at Northwestern. I am also passionate about women’s empowerment and education because the most valuable part of my time at Northwestern was living in my women’s residential college where I was encouraged to be a confident and outspoken leader. I have always wanted to encourage and empower women to develop the next generation of woman leaders. So I searched for an internship with a non-profit organization that could give me the opportunity to work with and empower women. I searched only for a day before I found the amazing organization, Heshima Kenya.

Heshima Kenya is a non-profit organization that protects, educates, and empowers refugee women in East Africa. The bulk of Heshima Kenya’s work with refugees occurs at their Safe House in Nairobi, Kenya while most of the advocacy and fundraising projects occur at the Chicago office. I was excited by Heshima Kenya’s mission and organizational structure and therefore applied to the position of Communications and Events Intern with the hope that I would be able to interview for the position. Two months later, I started my first day with an inspiring organization.

The Heshima Kenya Chicago office is small with three rooms shared by 6 full-time staff and four interns. The intimate office and smaller staff created an atmosphere of camaraderie and support at Heshima Kenya. From my first day, I felt that I could ask questions and voice opinions in a safe environment. My primary goal at Heshima was to turn my passions for non-profits and women’s empowerment into quantifiable professional accomplishments. After a couple of weeks in the office, I developed a few projects to work on that would not only expand Heshima Kenya’s donor network but also raise funds for the organization.

Heshima Kenya operates an income-generating social enterprise called The Maisha Collective, in which refugee women design and create unique scarf designs using an East African technique of tying and dying fabrics. The Maisha Collective develops entrepreneurial skills and financial literacy for refugee girls. In my second month with Heshima Kenya, I created a marketing and sales strategy for several of their scarves that would go unsold due their sundry-flaws. I found the flaws of the textiles to be their primary attribute as the ‘flaws’ made the scarves unique and different. The ‘One-of-a-Kind’ sale operated for a month on Heshima Kenya’s website and generated $1,300 for the organization during that time. I could not be more proud of that accomplishment nor would that have been possible without my Chicago Field Studies Internship.

Chicago Field Studies has provided me with incredible support and professional guidance during my Spring term with their program. I am currently in the Social Justice class offered by the CFS program and having the opportunity to disassemble, discuss, debate past and current institutional problems in a structured environment has been an invaluable experience. Also, I enjoy learning about the experiences other students have at their internships and how office structures depending on the different fields. Overall, CFS has been a truly special experience and I am very happy that I am able to work at my internship without sacrificing my education.