Supporting Our Clients On Their Self Reliance Journey

Christina proudly displays some of the wares at her salon

My name is Muli, and I work as a social worker at RefugePoint. Social workers are the coaches in the case management process here at RefugePoint. Our roles include assessing, planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating actions required to meet our clients’ health and human services needs.

One of the most significant moments in my work recently has been supporting Christine*, a 34-year-old mother of four, on her self-reliance journey. On January 10, 2020, I met Christine for the first time to collect information about her and her household. At the time, she was in her third trimester of pregnancy with twins, and she was sad, angry, frustrated, stressed, and worried. Her self-esteem was also down because she lived with a hostile husband, which affected both her and her 14-year-old daughter’s mental well-being. When she was still at home in Burundi, Christine had specialized in hairdressing and worked at a salon.

My goal as her social worker was to stabilize Christine to be in a better frame of mind to make major decisions about her marriage and the way forward. In February 2020, Christine began receiving individual counseling and food support from RefugePoint. When Kenya announced its first COVID-19 case, my social work sessions transitioned to remote tele-sessions, as did Christine’s counseling sessions. Christine was anxious about giving birth during the pandemic. Christine began receiving rent support, and we arranged for delivery of non-food items, like mattresses and blankets, to her house. RefugePoint’s social work and counseling teams consistently maintained contact with Christine and assured her of our support. In May 2020, Christine gave birth to a baby boy but sadly lost one of her twins due to a complication during delivery. RefugePoint’s counseling team helped Christine cope with the loss, and she was taking it day by day to heal physically and emotionally.

Over the following months, Christine continued to receive food assistance, rent support, and counseling support, and during our regular follow-up call in June 2020, she sounded happy and relaxed. This was the best feeling ever! In July 2020, Christine exited counseling support. Counseling enabled Christine to gain more confidence in herself, be more aware of the choices she had to make to protect herself and her children, and develop healthy positive self-talk and self-validation. Christine remained on rent and food support and received a $350 business grant from RefugePoint in September 2020. This grant allowed Christine to open her own salon, where she is specializing in hairdressing and beauty. Christine has also set up a vegetable stall outside her salon. Starting up a salon of her own amid the COVID-19 pandemic is such a beautiful accomplishment. Now Christine has a smile on her face.

From the day I met her and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have coordinated Christine’s support and ensured that I referred her to different support services at RefugePoint. Christine is now a mentor in her community and works with other entrepreneurial women to buy wholesale products. When I recently visited her, she told me, “When I came to Kenya, I felt like I was low. Right now, I’m a proud woman, and I can now advise other women. If I see anyone who is in trouble, I can now step up and assist them.” I also met her friend, Mama Carol, who helped Christine start the salon. Mama Carol told me, “All women should raise each other. If any woman in the community is suffering, let them speak out and share with their fellow women. If we work together, one for another, we will all move forward as women.”

It is personally so rewarding to know that I made a difference in Christine’s life and that she is no longer stressed but full of positive things to say whenever I call her. Christine’s journey has also proven that collaboration and collective support is essential because the social work team, counseling, medical and livelihoods teams within RefugePoint all worked together to bring about such a positive and beautiful story.