Rafiki Mwema

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is play so important?

You might see a lot of photos with our children playing, swimming, dancing and there is a really good reason for that!

There are so many benefits!

Exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain. The blood delivers oxygen and glucose, which the brain needs for heightened alertness and mental focus. Because of this, exercise makes it easier for children to learn.

It is well known that stress damages children’s brains. Exercise reduces stress by balance of the body’s chemistry. Its effect is similar to taking anti-depressant medications.

It improves your mental wellbeing, alertness, relationships, leadership qualities – no wonder sports will live long in our houses – and it’s fun!

How much does the co-founder/CEO earn each year?

Our co-founder earns zero despite multiple trips to Kenya to deliver training, supervision, therapeutic support, as well as daily contact around the upkeep and running of the charity.

Our CEO earns less than the minimum wage for a 35 hour week, but works around 80 hours each week.

How much of donated funds go directly to the children?

Since Rafiki Mwema began back in 2012 everyone involved in the fundraising side has done so on a 100% voluntary basis.  In addition to this, our CEO’s personal business funded the running costs and other expenses. This spirit of generosity allowed 100% of funds raised to go straight into the on-the-ground operations in Kenya, directly benefitting the children in our care.

This model has become unsustainable, as we have an increasing amount of costs to pay, such as bank fees, printing, postage, office expenses – all of the usual expenses associated with running an enterprise like Rafiki Mwema. To cover these costs, we’re selling a small range of branded merchandise. Income from the sale of this merchandise supports the business-end of our charity, leaving 100% of all donations, auctions and event income going straight from you to our children. Not 55%, not 90% - 100% of your contributions go directly to them, all the time.

This is a result of the dedication of our team. Our founder earns nothing from Rafiki Mwema, not a penny, not ever. Her passion for the children in our care means she makes multiple trips to Kenya to deliver training, supervision and therapeutic support, as well as the daily contact needed to maintain and grow our support services – and she does it because it’s important to her. Our CEO works around 80 hours each week, and only recently have we started to compensate her, and even then, it’s below minimum wage for a standard working week. The value of their commitment and contribution of time and effort can’t be overstated, and like the rest of our volunteers, they do it to help make a difference.

What is Play Therapy?

In Play Therapy children have an opportunity to understand their lives through play. By using various media (sand, paint, small world play, puppets, clay, music, drama, storytelling and movement) children begin to understand muddled feelings and upsetting events that they haven’t had the chance to sort out properly. Rather than having to explain what is troubling them, as adult therapy usually expects, children use play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace.

Play is vital to every child’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical, creative and language development. It helps all children and young people including those for whom verbal communication may be difficult.

Play Therapy can help children in a variety of ways. Children receive emotional support and can learn to understand more about their own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes they may re-enact or play out traumatic or difficult life experiences in order to make sense of their past and cope better with their future. Children may also learn to manage relationships and conflicts in more appropriate ways.

Read more about Our Methods here.

What is Filial Therapy?

Drawn from Van Fleet. R. (2000). ‘A parent’s handbook of filial play therapy, Boiling Springs, PA: Play Therapy Press.

More and more, people are realizing the power of play and humour in promoting positive relationships and mental health. This is a family intervention that is designed to strengthen families through the use of play. It is called filial therapy, and it can be used by families who wish to strengthen their relationships, or it can be used by therapists working with families who are experiencing difficulties. In filial therapy the parents are true partners with the therapist in bringing about positive changes in their family’s life.

To use this process in Kenya we have adapted it slightly to involve the children’s’ carers in ‘loco-parentis’.

In filial therapy, under the therapist’s guidance, the carer learns to conduct a special type of play session with the children in their care. The carers are considered true partners in the entire therapeutic process. Rafiki Mwema has adapted the several advantages to parents being the ones to conduct the play sessions with their own children to ensure that the relationship is built with the carer with whom the child has the best relationship

  • Carers have an intimate relationship with their children and already know their children better than a therapist would.
  • Carers are very capable of learning to conduct these special play sessions.
  • Carers are the most important people in their children’s lives. This method of strengthening the family capitalises on this fact, and children need not develop a whole new relationship with a therapist.
  • When carers are involved in play therapy as they are in filial therapy, the changes are usually positive and long lasting.
  • When involved in filial therapy, carers usually learn how to understand the children better through their play. This understanding can help parents as they make childrearing decisions.

Filial therapy strengthens the parent-child relationship directly, and everyone in the family benefits. Usually children and parents alike really enjoy their special play sessions together, and using play to help children with their feelings and problems can make the change process easier for everyone.

This approach is more efficient. As parents learn to do this, they can eventually hold these play sessions at home. The therapist teaches and guides the parents, but eventually they hold these play sessions independently, ultimately reducing the number of therapy sessions needed.

This type of family-oriented play therapy is relatively short-term, but it does require some commitment and work on the part of the parents. Most parents report that this effort is well worth it in terms of the positive outcomes they’ve experienced.

Filial therapy has been around for quite some time–since the early 60s, in fact, when Drs. Bernard & Louise Guerney developed it–but it has really been growing in popularity among parents and therapists during recent years. The primary reason for this is that it works. There has been a great deal of research and clinical experience with filial therapy done over the past 40 years, and those studies show that it consistently helps reduce children’s problem behaviours, helps parents to feel less stressed and more confident, and improves the understanding parents have for their children.

(The term “filial therapy” comes from the Latin words meaning “son” or “daughter” and essentially refers to the parent-child relationship.)

What happens when it's time for a child to return home?

Our aim at Rafiki Mwema is to provide a therapeutic safe house for badly abused girls and boys to help them make sense of what they have been through. We support them through all medical treatments, the court system and therapy with the ultimate goal of returning them to a safe and loving environment when they are ready.

Once we are satisfied the children are doing well in the house, accessing what they need from their therapy and able to concentrate and learn in school, we have a meeting about them moving home.

A lot depends on their individual home situations and whether they have a caring, loving family to return to.

We always veer on the side of caution but have tragically learned that we cannot anticipate all variables.

When the child’s key worker, our social worker and the rest of the Rafiki Mwema household are satisfied that the child is ready to move home we begin a 12 week step down program.

During this 12 week period our outreach team will visit and work closely with parents and/or family members to train them in our Attachment Play Program (APP). Our outreach team will work with schools, churches and village elders to ensure they understand the impact of the children's situations and help educate them around the subject of sexual abuse.

We then invite the parents to come to the house for one day a week (staying in our volunteer accommodation if they live a long distance away) and they participate in the APP sessions with their child. Only when we have observed their sessions and can see they are being conducted in a safe manner we are and are satisfied that they are responding to their parent will they take their child home.

Children are aware from the beginning of the 12-week step down program that they and we are working towards them being able to return home to a safe and loving environment.

On the night before they leave, we have a celebration for them where all the staff and girls say goodbye. This can be a very emotional time but is a very important part of the process.

Our Outreach team and the child’s key worker (All children have a key worker who delivers their APP and is the person they attend all court hospital and other appointments. The children go to their key worker if they have any worries or joys to share) and as many staff as are able accompany the child to their home to hand them over. We will visit the home twice a week and telephone daily for 4 weeks (or longer if needed). We then scales down the visits over the next 4 weeks to once a week and then fortnightly, 3 weekly and then monthly.

We visit all our children monthly unless they live in the remote villages where we cannot get our transport to.

We will keep in telephone contact forever really and we find that the families come to think of the child as part of their lives, in a very positive way.

Every conceivable care is taken for the children when they leave Rafiki Mwema but even then there are times that we are reminded just how much stigma can be attached to our little girls and boys and the consequences of their abuse.

This is why we NEVER stop being involved in their lives. We look to the day when we can guarantee their safety and have them therapeutically educated with us until they are 18 – a new generation of strong, able young people.

Can we send letters to the kids?

Our children at Rafiki Mwema love receiving mail and we welcome you to write to your sponsor child.

Read more about sending letters here.

Can I sponsor a child?


By becoming a sponsor you will be making a lifetime difference to some of the world's most vulnerable children.

Sponsorship will cost you $50AUD per month and your valued donation will assist us in supporting ALL of our children with all expenses across our entire charity.

Read more and sign up here.

Can I volunteer to help in Australia?

Firstly, you rock! Thanks so much for expressing an interest in helping Rafiki Mwema here in Australia.

Everyone involved in this charity is a volunteer who is passionate about helping others, and the fact that you’ve found this page is proof that you too want to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable girls and boys in Kenya.

Our team is always looking for motivated individuals to help with our wonderful charity here in Australia. While we don’t have specific jobs to fill as such, there is a whole range of projects and tasks that we need your help with, in order to keep our charity moving forward and raising money.

Obviously, we can’t pay you, but the joy you’ll get from knowing you are making a difference to the lives of dozens of young children who would otherwise have an uncertain future will be payment enough, trust us.

If you’re interested in becoming a valued member of Rafiki Mwema then we want you! To help us find a position or role where you can thrive and put your incredible skills to good use, we’d love you to fill out the form over here in as much detail as you can.

Remember, don’t be modest, we’ve all got talents and we’re excited about helping you unlock and use yours to help provide a safe and happy future for disadvantaged children in Kenya.

Tell us how you want to help and we’ll find a way to make it happen!

Apply Now

What therapy model do you use?

We care for children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. They are therapeutically parented by our key workers, who use the PACE (Playful, Accepting, Curious and Empathic) model and an Attachment Play Program, which are specialised ways of caring for children that help to build attachments with their key workers.

These models are used in conjunction with therapeutic parenting, an all-encompassing approach to parenting children who have suffered significant trauma. Our key workers and other staff members receive ongoing training to help them provide the very best care they can.

It can be challenging to care for a child with complex and sometimes scary behaviours as a result of their trauma. These models help our key workers understand these behaviours, and during very difficult moments, remain emotionally available to the child and stay calm and emotionally regulated. This helps the child to calm down and feel loved and accepted.

It’s our mission to heal our children from the physical and psychological abuse they’ve suffered, and reboot feelings of safety, trust and love. We do this so they can grow to be balanced, resilient and loving adults. That’s the key to breaking the cycle of abuse.

Please visit our website to learn more about our therapeutic methods and ‘meet’ our amazing key workers.

Where can I find promotional material for Rafiki Mwema?

You can find our logo, flyers. posters, facebook cover images etc. on this page.

My business would love to help Rafiki Mwema, how do we do that?

Thank you for your interest in helping us at Rafiki Mwema with the help of your business!

Read more and register here

What are your child protection/child privacy policy?

All volunteers at Rafiki Mwema must have a current police check and Working With Children Card, blue card or the equivalent. No volunteer to Rafiki Mwema would not be left unattended with the children at any time. This helps ensure the safety of all of our children at all times.

To protect their privacy and confidentiality, volunteers and visitors should not discuss the children’s trauma histories without express permission of the Rafiki Mwema staff. Full details of the children’s trauma may not be disclosed if it is deemed not necessary in order to work and live around the children. When discussing the children’s stories online, their real names are never used. If an accompanying photo is used, it will never match the story being discussed. These measures help to ensure that the child’s safety and confidentiality is protected.

Is Rafiki Mwema a religious based organisation?

Rafiki Mwema is not a religious based organisation. However, many of our Kenyan staff identify as Christian, and this is the dominant religion in Kenya. It is important that we continue to support the children’s beliefs and ensure that they are able to attend a church if they wish to do so. Other children may also choose to accompany them or their key worker to church.

What is Rafiki Mwema's mission and vision?

You can read our Mission Statement and Vision on this page.

Can I come to Kenya and volunteer at Rafiki Mwema?

We appreciate the desire to get involved and help the children at Rafiki Mwema, however, we don’t accept visitors or volunteers at Rafiki Mwema as a matter of safety for our children. People coming in and out of their lives, no matter how well meaning, is not always as beneficial as people may hope. Our children require continuity of care and routine which is provided beautifully by our local staff. Any disruption to this can create setbacks in their emotional progress and healing process.

There are many other meaningful ways you can support Rafiki Mwema and our children. For a fraction of the cost of a trip to Kenya, you can make a one time donation to our running costs, or organise a fundraiser in your home town. On a longer term basis you can sponsor one or more of our children to ensure they have all they need day to day. If that cost is prohibitive you can sponsor our outreach team who continue to monitor and keep our children safe if they are able to return to their family for as little as $5 per month.

Our children love receiving mail, feel very welcome to send small packages, or letters, just to make contact or even encourage local school groups to write to our children.

Rafiki Mwema Registered Charity
FIA Organisational Member - Code Compliant