Frequently Asked Questions
The children in Rafiki Mwema absolutely love receiving mail! We encourage our sponsors to write to them. However, there are some things you need to know:
Not all mail makes it safely to our family, so we suggest you don’t send anything of great value. Also, on occasion, we are asked to pay hefty fees to collect larger packages so this is not encouraged. If you do have larger items you would like to send please contact us as we sometimes have someone visiting, or may be able to arrange for it to go in a larger shipment.
The greatest thing you can send your sponsor child would be a letter and photos of you and your family (and perhaps photos of your part of the world!). It is so special for them to see other parts of the world and they cherish this opportunity.
Try to keep your envelope no larger than A5 size and keep the envelope plain (so it doesn’t look good enough to steal).
Letter writing tips
Your messages don’t need to be long. Short and thoughtful messages are easiest for children to understand, especially when English isn’t their first language.
You might like to include the following:
- How happy you are to be a sponsor of the Rafiki Family
- Information about you and your family – names, ages
- Information about where you live – country, city, the climate, the national sport...
- Explain some of your hobbies and interests, and ask what theirs are
- Photographs – it is a beautiful way to connect with the children and they love them.
- Please don’t say that you will visit them one day. We don’t want them to be disappointed.
Sending a letter:
- Clearly write your child’s (real) name at the top
- Keep your letter brief
- Place your letter securely in an envelope.
- Address the envelope to:
Rafiki Mwema, PO Box 4298,
Nakuru, Kenya East Africa
- Mark the item as having ‘no value’
- Apply the correct postage and mail your letter.
- Put your child’s name in the subject heading
- Write your short email keeping in mind our suggested letter writing tips – remember to include your postal address so your child can reply to you
- Feel free to attach photographs – we will aim to print at least one for your child to keep
- Email your letter to email@example.com
Emails still take time to translate and deliver, but the process is faster than postal mail.
We have no religious or political affiliations. To respect local laws and customs, please be culturally sensitive and do not reference religion, politics or other subjects that may be sensitive or inappropriate in your letters and messages to your sponsored child.
When sending photos, please ensure that every person in each image is fully and conservatively dressed. Due to the possible difference between living conditions, please do not write about material possessions.
Read more about sending letters here.
Modest gifts that fit into a small envelope may be sent to your sponsored child. Recommended gifts include stickers, postcards, books, or art & craft material. Please be aware that individual gifts can be lost in unreliable postal systems and they may upset other children who don’t receive gifts from their sponsor.
Gifts we deem inappropriate will not be forwarded to your sponsored child. Please don’t send any cash, cheques or money orders. If you wish to give a monetary donation, please visit fill out our simple donation form.
Read more about sending letters here.
By becoming a sponsor you will be making a lifetime difference to some of the world's most vulnerable children. The support for our children is lifelong and complex. It can also change from moment to moment.
You will be allocated one child as a sponsor, and receive updates on “your” child. However, there is no set number of sponsors per child and your valued donation will assist us in directly supporting ALL of our children with ALL expenses, across our entire charity.
As you can imagine, having 70 children in our care at the Rafiki houses plus over 130 children living throughout the community that we continue to assist, requires a lot of ongoing financial support. Employing and continually training the right staff to work with traumatised young people is an important part of our work and one that requires continuous funding. Rafiki Mwema is so much more than a traditional home or orphanage.
Explore the map to see all the ways you will be supporting us.
You can also browse our many projects on the website and further learn how your donation will continue to provide for the Rafiki Mwema Family, and the broader community.
In theory, the idea of making a life changing trip to Kenya to visit your sponsor child and shower them with love is beautiful. In reality, people coming in and out of a traumatised child’s life, no matter how well meaning, can be devastating for the child. 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.
We understand this may be disappointing to some, but as a matter of safety for our children, our policy is that we don’t accept visitors or volunteers at Rafiki Mwema.
Our aim at Rafiki Mwema is to provide a therapeutic safe house for badly abused girls 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 girls 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 girl’s key worker, our social worker and the rest of the Rafiki Mwema household are satisfied that the girls are ready to move home we begin a 12 week step down program and this is when we will contact the girl’s sponsors to let them know what is happening.
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 girls’ 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 daughter. 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 daughter 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 girl’s key worker (All girls have a key worker who delivers their APP and is the person they attend all court hospital and other appointments. The girls go to their key worker if they have any worries or joys to share) and as many staff as are able accompany the girl 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). She then scales down her visits over the next 4 weeks to once a week and then fortnightly, 3 weekly and then monthly.
We visit all our girls 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 her as part of their lives, in a very positive way.
Every conceivable care is taken for the girls 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 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 women.
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!
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.
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. Play Kenya 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 capitalizes 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 their 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 neede
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.)
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.