History of Rafiki Mwema

How it all began

In the begining

Anne-Marie Tipper, a Trauma Therapist and Dyadic Developmental Practitioner with a Masters in Attachment Studies from the UK, started Play Kenya in 2007 when she visited Kenya for the summer and saw first-hand the sadness and neglect experienced by children in the many orphanages and institutions.

Overwhelmed and frustrated that the money she had donated in good faith towards helping these children did not seem to be reaching them, Anne-Marie looked for an alternative way to help, and Play Kenya was born.

In its essence, Play Kenya was instrumental in delivering an Attachment Play Program which focused on building a connection that heals – aka an attachment, for traumatised children with one key person in their lives who could be relied upon to provide kindness, love and stability.

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, establishing and strengthening the bond between them and their key workers. This program had a hugely positive impact and many children began to feel more secure, better able to learn and have confidence to explore the world more.

But before long Anne-Marie noticed there were some girls being housed in orphanages and remand centres for their own care and protection while they waited for their court hearings, that were so deeply traumatised and 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 enabling 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) and within one week of opening the house was full, and has been ever since.

One year later, all of the girls were responding to their therapy, showing remarkable progress and growing in the safe and protective arms of Rafiki Mwema, and the house (and Anne-Marie’s dream) was becoming successful in every way, except one. We had run out money and closing our doors was a very real possibility unless we could find further funding.

Enter Sarah Rosborg

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 eight years. Sarah held an online auction and raised enough funds to keep the home open for another three months!

With her heart stolen by the girls of Rafiki Mwema, Sarah established ‘Rafiki Mwema’ as a charity within Australia to help fund our home in Nakuru which is now home to both boys and girls, and with the support of her friends and colleagues the Board of Rafiki Mwema was formed and the charity was officially registered in Australia.

Our successes are many. We have grown from a rented house with 22 girls, to four therapeutic houses that are home to 70 children (two girls houses and two boys houses) as well as 180 children who have left our care and returned to a safe family member in their community through our Outreach Program (as of June 2020).

We have:

  • installed two video links in local courts in Kenya which is massive because a) they are the first in Kenya EVER!, and b) it protects our children from having to sit meters away from their perpetrators; acquired a farm for our growing family upon which we grow our own crops which allows us to feed all the houses, sell the excess at the market and take crops to the outreach families who live in extreme poverty;
  • built “Queens Castle”; the girls’ house and “Kings Castle”; the boys’ house;
  • built Rafiki Jasiri, a school on our farm for our smallest girls for whom are in too much danger to leave our farm due to current court proceedings;
  • delivered hundreds of hours of training in Kenya, the U.K and Australia; and
  • launched two new programs called Rafiki Social (Break the cycle. Build the future) to help our children who leave us or graduate to move into adulthood and back into the communities where they will build their futures, and our Rafiki Feeding Program where we currently provide one meal each day and valuable human connection through games of football and sharing food

Sarah believes Rafiki Mwema has found its calling. Working together to change the lives of these children in Kenya with the love, respect and empathy and they deserve.


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