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 learnt 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 one 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. This is unfortunately where we have experienced two sad stories (Even after our step down programme and all our follow ups which were still on-going one of our little ones was raped by her father. He had never shown us any worries or concerns and this little girl was previously raped by a neighbour. Heartbreaking)
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. I look to the day when we can guarantee their safety and maybe have them therapeutically educated with us until they are 18 – a new generation of strong, able young women.