MAREPA was formed as a response to the prevailing situation of young LGBTIQ+ refugees in Kenya and a desire to continuously and sustainably support them in this crucial transition of their lives.
In this, we realized that getting a safe shelter that can temporarily host those evicted from their rentals regardless of his/her/their sexual orientation would play a big role in changing our peoples’ lives. At present, we have 11 residents at the MAREPA Safe Shelter: four gay men, one bisexual, two transgender people, two lesbians, one gender non-conforming, and one child, all of whom are refugees. Since the house started in 2019 September, we have hosted more than 40 refugees within the LGBTIQ+ community.
Many residents find MAREPA through referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/Refugee Affairs Secretariat (UNHCR/RAS), so most residents are registered refugees under UNHCR/RAS with valid UNHCR/RAS documents. However, we welcome any national (Kenyan) LGBTIQ+ member who is found disowned, discriminated against, or looking for a temporary safe space due to attacks or threats. We also prioritize those living with HIV.
We are currently applying for grant funding to expand our services beyond residents of the Safe Shelter so that we can provide special care and support to LGBTIQ+ Refugees living with HIV such as nutritional support, counseling services, linking to health facilities for medication, continuing health education and much more.
We plan to also reach out to current HIV-negative LGBTIQ+ refugees with health education sessions via outreach through our COMMUNITY NAVIGATORS, teaching them about prevention measures of HIV and STIs such as using PeP & PreP, consistent and correct use of condoms and lubricants, and VTC (Voluntary Testing and Counseling).
We also look forward to advocating for our community's rights against violence that comes from different directions and communities. We plan to provide legal support to those who are violated either by law enforcers, partners, rowdies, clients, health workers, and organization staff by linking them to legal teams from different organizations for legal service consultation.
We also plan to engage in livelihood programs for skill-building that will give our community opportunities to learn and strengthen skills they already have. In this, we hope to conduct training on business development skills and other short courses to help our own be able to financially sustain themselves here in Kenya and in the future after their resettlement.
We have already received a grant from Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America to provide trauma awareness training and we are in the grant writing process to fund the aforementioned programs. But we are currently in need of monthly support to provide consistent food and shelter to our residents.
Our Founder's Story
Hello, it is my pleasure to introduce myself and share with you about my life experience as a gay father.
I was born in 1985 in East Africa Uganda. I was born and raised in a very poor family of my mother and father who both worked as farmers, this was normal at our village since many of the residents were farmers too. I was born alone to my mother because she and my father were not married. My father later married after separating from my mother. This makes me the first and last born to my mother. My father having another wife gave me little siblings, five in total, three girls and two boys.
Life in my village was not good at all, especially to our family. Accessing education was hard however my father always tried. Drought, hunger, and dangerous cholera and Ebola outbreaks always attacked our village and it didn't leave it as it was before. Accessing medication was a very hard process since the Government hospital was far and roads and transportation means were poor. Some people couldn't make it to the hospital and even those who could make it to the hospital were not helped because there was no medication there. In these conditions I lost my younger brother when he was the age of fifteen.
At the age of fourteen and a few months I joined secondary school I realized I was a bisexual and started dating with one school mate called John*. I was still attracted to girls at this time also. John was from Tanzania though part of his family was in Uganda. He taught me how to be extra careful with dating fellow boys with the anti-homosexual society leaning in our local culture. I usually had a girlfriend while also dating John.
Two years later, when I was in class three secondary school, John and I were found having sex and things turned worse on our side. We were beaten by a group of fellow students and later teachers saved us. We thought we were saved but we were not. The teacher became more hostile than students and we were closed in the school store and beaten, kicked, and isolated. We could hear the students outside shouting loudly that we should be burnt before evening.
We were expelled from school in front of my father. Immediately my father told me he did not want to find me at home. He said I should go find my way or else he will hang me. I rushed to my mothers place since they had separated a long time back. When I arrived at my mother's place she was curious to know why I had many bruises, injuries and looked worried. I never told her anything. I just went to a room for a rest because I was in much pain. I couldn't think well at that time and my whole body was shaking...
We will continue my story in coming newsletters and introduce you to the stories of other MAREPA residents, so please subscribe to our monthly newsletter at www.MAREPA.org
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.