Anne Marie started Play Kenya nearly 10 years ago when she visited Kenya for the summer and saw first-hand the sadness and neglect experienced by children in orphanages and institutions. She was overwhelmed by the impact of corruption within organisations and realised, after sinking loads of money into one home, that the children didn’t benefit at all. The managers got richer and the kids more neglected!

She sat with her friend Debbie Pearce on their last few days of their first trip, and talked about what they could do that wouldn’t be taken away from the children and Play Kenya was born. They developed an Attachment Play Programme to build connections for traumatised children who were living in institutions.

In the early days Play Kenya worked in orphanages, children’s remand centres, schools, and communities to train the staff to play therapeutically with the children. This helped the children to have a connection or attachment with one key person in their lives. The impact of this programme was brilliant and many children began to feel more secure, better able to learn and have confidence to explore the world more.

It wasn’t long before Anne-Marie noted there were some girls so deeply traumatised being housed in orphanages for their care and protection yet they were being left in these institutions, often for years, isolated from their families with no hope of receiving the support and care they so desperately needed.

In 2011 a generous trust donated money to enable Play Kenya to set up a therapeutic home for sexually abused girls under the age of 12 in Nakuru, Kenya, called Rafiki Mwema (Swahili for loyal friend). Sadly within one week of opening the house was full and has been ever since.

A year after Rafiki Mwema opened the girls were all doing really well and responding to their therapy. The house (and Anne-Marie’s dream) was becoming successful in every way, except one. We had run out money and sadly it looked like we would need to close our doors unless we could find enough funding to keep going.

Enter our guardian angel in the unlikely form of Sarah Rosborg – this tattooed metal head literally saved our souls and gave a future to all the girls and boys we have supported over the last 6 years

Anne-Marie had met Sarah several years previously in Kenya and they had kept in touch ever since. Sarah had, until this point, resisted coming on board due to many other commitments. However, all that changed after she organised an online auction to raise funds for Rafiki Mwema to keep them open.

Sarah raised enough funds to keep the home open for 3 more months but her heart was already stolen and she was unable to walk away from the children. She decided to commit to opening ‘Rafiki Mwema’ as a charity within Australia to enable her to help fund our girls home in Nakuru. With the support of her friends and colleagues Sarah formed a board and was successful in registering the charity with in Australia.

There have been many successes since starting Rafiki Mwema in Australia and too many to list here, but as of writing they now have 4 therapeutic houses that are home to 70 children (2 girls houses and 2 boys houses) as well as 180 children who have left their care and returned to a safe family member in their community, still under the watchful eye of Rafiki Mwema’s Outreach Team.

Anne-Marie and Sarah believe that they have found their calling. Working together to change the lives of these children in Kenya with the love, respect and empathy and they deserve.

As part of our CPP we will never mention our children’s real names online. They have all been given Pseudo names. No picture and story will ever match.