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    Helping one safe haven reach its fullest potential

    Day 256

    Closing the Gap

    Unable to hide from the discrimination, violence and abuse which has followed them from their home countries to Kenya, Refugee Trans Initiative (RTI) is a safe haven for 15 trans asylum seekers from across East Africa and the Great Lakes Region. When we visited their safe house just outside the urban sprawl in August, Vanilla, their Executive Director, greeted us with a hug as she ushered us through the gates and into the house.

    “This is a place where we can just be ourselves – we can dress how we want, act how we want, and we know that we are safe inside the house,” she explains. “It’s not just a place where trans people can stay, but we also have held a few parties and events here – we want to start training programs for other LGBTQI refugees soon.”

    RTI’s safe house was nearly perfect. The price was affordable, and it was surrounded by a high security gate and tall bushes which ensured near total privacy from the ever-too-real dangers of the outside world. The only problem was the thinning of the bushes just next to the gate, which allowed their neighbors to see into their house and their garden where they keep their prized rabbit farm and grow their vegetables.

    Having lived in the house for a few months, Vanilla was growing increasingly worried about their neighbors discovering that they were trans, which could spell violence, abuse and eviction. They were growing wary of having big groups of people to visit the house and ensured that those living there stayed inside to ensure their safety.

    “We just need something – anything – to cover the gap. Then we can feel truly safe as soon as we step through the gate.”

    A quick car ride to the market later and Vanilla was the proud owner of six corrugated iron sheets and all the necessary items to build a security fence. In just days the fence was erected and the RTI members could finally sleep easy. Today the fence stands guard over the community, a beautiful metaphor for the strength Vanilla shows in protecting this highly vulnerable group in Nairobi.


    Meet Jamie! Jamie is Alight’s Global Inclusivity Advisor based out of London, UK, and works with our teams internationally to ensure marginalized communities are given the tools necessary to live lives filled with joy, meaning and purpose. He is particularly passionate about working with LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees in East Africa, who are some of the world’s most vulnerable. Need to contact Jamie? Feel free to reach out:


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    Changemakers 365

    by Alight


    The world’s tough problems can seem insurmountable. So at Alight, while we tackle those big problems we also do what’s doable. Right then. And that’s what Changemakers 365 is all about. Learn more!


    Changemakers 365 members give either $30 per month or a one-time gift of $365 (it’s free for anyone who has ever lived in a refugee camp). Join us!

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