Recently we did the photo a day challenge from Fat Mum Slim for the month of October.
It was a lot of fun to challenge ourselves to come up with a word for every letter along with an image and story. But we did it! We didn’t quite do the numbers at the end of the month but I am still proud that we did A-Z and didn’t miss a day!
‘A’ is for Anne Marie or as she is known by so many as ‘Anne Weeeeeee’
I have to say she is one of my idols.
I have known her for over 7 years.. first meeting her in Kenya when she wanted to help some of our badly abused children (at another home I worked at) by offering play therapy to them and training for our staff.
I have followed her since and admired her from across the ocean.
She has trained so many therapists in Kenya and helped heal so many children. She continues to travel to Kenya (self funded!) while working full time in the UK and studying as well. She rarely sleeps and has a passion like I have never seen before. She is one of the few people I have seen do this for no one but healing the children. Not for God, not for money.. just for pure love,
wanting to heal these forgotten and abused angels.
She is the founder of Play Kenya, the Annex Project and Rafiki Familia and co-founder of Rafiki Mwema. ‘A’ is for Anne Marie. My idol.
‘B’ is for Board Members!
I am so lucky to have a board of wonderful people to help me with everything Rafiki Mwema. They gave me the push to start this branch in Australia to support the home in Kenya. I feel supported and way less stressed having them to call on to help with all sorts of things.
Love you all.
‘C’ is for Court
Our sweet Mercy came to Rafiki Mwema after her lovely father came and asked us if we would take her as she kept going to court and was too scared to speak up against the monster who attacked her. Her Dad was so fearful that this man would get away with what he had done to his little baby.
Guess what? – she went to court and chatted away to the judge and told her story. She still has another court appearance to do – we believe she’ll be going home soon but will always be coming back for sleep overs I think!
Her parents are beautiful and Mercy is adorable in every way!
‘C’ is for court. Our angels attend court regularly and always show so much courage.
‘D’ is for Daughter – and all the girls are family.
Some of them come to us for a short time and others for a life time but we are all one big family forever. When they leave us they remain part of our family and we keep an eye on them from a distance.
I love the way that the girls call themselves sister and feel like they belong at RM. It is the structure that you all help us bring, of safety, love, kindness, acceptance that is the foundation of everything we do – and that makes RM so special.
Many of the girls arrive Depressed, Dejected, Disgusted and Detached but the family atmosphere helps them to heal and feel Delightful, Determined and little Darlings.
D is for the daughters of the coolest family in Kenya!
‘E’ is for Elizabeth. Our sweet Elizabeth.
Elizabeth has been prostituted since the age of two. Elizabeth has complex needs and has learning difficulties. She has no understanding of personal danger and believes that it is her ‘job’ to have sex with any man. She is monitored very closely in Rafiki Mwema and works very closely with her key worker.
Elizabeth has recently started school and is enjoying it very much. Elizabeth amazes us everyday with her strength and resilience.
‘F’ is for Faith and we have Free (3!)
Our lovely Faith’s are so very different but between them they are feisty, fierce, friendly and fearful. The house is full when they are around.
Faith is also one of the special ingredients at Rafiki Mwema – we all have faith in the way we support the girls. Faith that we can help them make steps into the horrors of what has happened to them; Faith that their smiles will become real and less forced; Faith that they will feel the love that oozes from the brickwork at Rafiki and Faith that by the time they are ready to go they will still be feisty, friendly, fierce but less fearful
I love Faith – it sums up the energy in the house!
G is for Gitonga who works in the community.
He is a central player when are girls attend court and we rely on him to keep us updated if there are changes in times etc. These small changes can really unsettle the girls when they are preparing to give evidence. Gitonga has been instrumental in tracking down abusers and takes his job as a protector of children and their rights VERY seriously!
H is for Heart!
I cannot put into words the Heart of Rafiki Mwema – what is it that makes this building a Playful, Loving, Accepting, Caring and Empathic home. I think it’s the liquid heart that beats around the world. The heart that beats in fear by our girls; is held by our staff; is shared to Sarah in Australia; who beats it in every post around the world that is written; that reminds us of the beat of our heart, the heart filled with love, it is shared in our actions and support for the girls. The heart that beats back to RM filled with love and care. Truly one heart beat shared by us all
Home is where the Heart is.
I is for Innocence
Our baby girls are innocent and yet wear the stains of what has been done to them. Those actions cannot steal their innocence but other people can make them feel it has. In a community where the girls are blamed for their abuse it is SO important for us to build and preserve their innocence with them. Being abused is the crime of those who commit it. Letting our girls know that they have no blame in this horror; that they do NOT wear the sins that have been committed is SO important. We cannot turn back the clocks, I so wish we could, but we can assure our girls that their souls are innocent and as their bodies repair they may begin to believe in themselves again. Their view of themselves is so important to us – they can rebuild themselves while we hold their hands to their future
J is for John and Janet!!
J is for John – or Johntipper (all one word) to give him his full title!
John is just fab – he holds things together in the most practical of ways. He understands the therapy behind the way we work and promotes it to all. He is the kindest of men who would never ever hurt anyone – that’s not to say he is a saint (Kenyan driving and people being rude to the girls are areas he won’t tolerate!) – but he tries to help everyone. John cannot bear to hear an injustice or a horror that has been committed without trying to fix it – he is just lovely! The girls all call him ‘John-tipper’ and we think it’s because Anne-Marie has two names they think he should too! We love hearing the girls praying ‘God bless John-Tipper’
J is also for Janet who came on her first visit just over a year ago and is about to come over for the 5th time! She embraces and supports everything RM! Being a therapist and trainer we are overwhelmed with the riches she brings!
K is for Keyworker
Which is the central part of how we work. All our girls are allocated a key worker when they arrive. That same person does their APP (Attachment Play Program), attends court with them, takes them to all hospital appointments. They are the person that the girls build a safe relationship and they are key to the success of the way we work.
L is for Lucy
who manages Rafiki Mwema. Lucy has been with us since the very beginning and she is just great. She is funny, kind, emotional, hardworking, honest and keeps everything running while the ‘bosses’ are away. She is so good at her job and we cannot imagine Rafiki without her.
M is for Mary…
Oh Mary – how could we choose anyone else. You are the most vibrant, energetic, loud, outgoing little girl yet inside you are hurting so much.. You spent years locked away like a caged animal who had been tortured beyond our wildest imagination. You are beginning to trust and love and we could not imagine Rafiki without you. You are certainly the centre of our home.
M is also for ME! Up on the wall! Ha.. One day I’ll get there in the flesh…
N is for… Naomi
Naomi took the longest time before she began to feel safe. Slowly her hand came down for short times. Slowly she offered a gentle look at another person. Slowly she smiled and we saw the beauty that had been so hidden. She was able to share her story and add her fight to imprisoning the man responsible. We were so proud of the path she had travelled.
Like all our girls, Naomi began to breathe in the healing air of Rafiki Mwema and the magic began to show. She made friends (the girls adore Naomi) and built close relationships with the warm and giving staff at Rafiki Mwema. After 14 months we began the process of Naomi going home. We all had questions about her safety but were reassured at visits with her mother. We couldn’t get close to the village because of the very difficult terrain around her remote village. It wasn’t safe for our staff to travel on their own by pick-picki (motor bike) and our van can’t get through the really bad roads. So we met the mother in the nearest town and listened to how things were fine. We couldn’t get to the school where we may have heard something different.
Naomi returned home and we did the best we could but our best simply wasn’t good enough. Our staff spoke to Naomi on the phone where she reassured us all was fine. She had a very quiet voice but we know she was a quiet child. We spoke with her mother, who told us the same story. We tried to get to visit but couldn’t pass through the road.
And then we had a party.
All the ‘old’ RM girls came for a party and we arranged to picked Naomi up in the nearest town. A shell of a child came back with us that day. Her hand covered her face. Her voice wouldn’t work – she could tell us no story of her life apart from she was fine. I will never forget her haunting face as she looked into my eyes silently pleading with me as she went home again. I was determined we would find out what was happening. Please note – we cannot just decide to ‘keep’ a child at RM – it has to be agreed through the courts and there has to be a good reason. Oh my – there was a good reason but it took us months to get her home to us.
We really really tried to visit her home but by now the family were blocking us out and without a vehicle we couldn’t just turn up – it wasn’t safe with no protection and being exposed on a motor bike. Plus we needed them to direct the pick-picki and then we were very physically exposed. After much frustration and many tears we received a phone call from Naomi that changed everything and we were able to get the court’s permission to bring her home. Her mother wouldn’t argue against the wishes of the courts.
Naomi had been living through hell. Her mother was making her sleep outside with the wild dogs, as she was unclean and bringing shame to the family. Many local men were abusing her sexually and she had no defences against them. Her own brother had taken her to a party and ‘loaned her out’ to his friends and had arranged to ‘sell’ her to pay off a debt. She was worth £4 or $7.5.
We were able to persuade the mother to let us take her on the evidence we were given and had to wait for the mother to bring her to the nearest town. I can’t describe the relief when she arrived at Rafiki Mwema – safe again and we will never let her face those horrors again.
Am I proud of the way we worked with Naomi’s community – not at all. Am I proud of the fear and horrors Naomi experienced after leaving us – I am ashamed and horrified.
Truly, I know if we had a vehicle that could have got us up to her village we could have seen for ourselves what was happening. Our staff are fearless but we cannot jeopardise their safety by arriving in a hostile community reliant on a motor bike (with the driver probably a local man). A safe vehicle means we can visit our village girls in comparative safety. It will change everything in the communities.
Can I tell you every girl is safe from Naomi’s story? Can I assure you this cannot be happening as you read this? Can I promise you a ‘happy ever after’ for every girl that leaves us? I wish I could.
I can promise you that we do everything humanly possible to ensure the continued safety of the girls but our need for a serious off road vehicle is not to travel around in comfort. It is to give the girls as much chance of safety as we possibly can. It is hard to imagine the remoteness of some of our girls.
Of course to match Naomi’s story I can give you many many successful returns to home but for me, my dreams are haunted by Naomi and the horrors she educed because we couldn’t reach her.
A quiet child driven to silence by her fear of her abusers and the seemingly impossible journey to Rafiki Mwema.
O is for… OCTOBER!
What happened in October in the land of RM? loads..
Our beautiful board member Claire from Barefruit Marketing celebrated her big 4-0!! She doesn’t look a day over 20. Lots of wine was consumed.
On the same day our Mary celebrated her 6th birthday! Lots of cake was eaten.
We raffled off the 3 Annies camera bag and raised over $450!!
We almost hit $17,000 with our fundraising for the vehicle for Rafiki!
Our sweet Mabel went on a ‘home visit’ to one of our staff members house and was so thrilled. She was very sad that she had no where to go when the other girls were having home visits.
Our darling Mercy testified in court against her abuser and spoke up so confidently.
Our very special friend and constant supporter Chantelle from Fat Mum Slim raised a whopping $4,500 for us with her Christmas Gift Exchange!!
Courtney from POPLocks has made many beautiful necklaces (naming each of them after our girls) and has listed them for sales with HALF of the proceeds coming to us!! Anyone need to start their Christmas shopping?
Thanks to everyone for your support throughout the month of October and every other month that you all continue to be awesome.
P is for Play Kenya!!
Play Kenya is our parent charity located in the UK.
They are an organisation dedicated to helping the traumatised and abused children in Kenya, through therapeutic play. They are training local staff in the benefits of play and they are taking qualified play and filial therapists out, on a regular basis, to work therapeutically with the children and staff. Early results have shown huge positive changes for the children.
Their mission is to help the children live with the horrors that have happened in their short lives and give them the opportunity to develop into well adjusted members of their society
Play Kenya’s work is spreading. They are now offering training to all orphanage staff about attachment and trauma. They have been asked by the Provincial Children’s Department to train government staff around the province. They are working with the courts to support children and young people who have experienced sexual abuse and we have some prevention projects with boys who are coming off the streets
They are a huge inspiration to me and drive me to work harder every day to help them with the work they are doing.
Q is for questions – and we have so many to ask and answer
We question how any man or woman could subject innocent children to the abuse we encounter on a daily basis
We question the sanity of some people in the villages who blame the girls for what has happened to them
We questions why they would hide and protect pedophiles and risk more young children
We question the way our girls were treated before the existence of Rafiki Mwema
We question how anyone who saw the impact of the heart and soul being ripped from our baby girls could fail to see the purity shine through
We sit with the girls and answer their heartbreaking questions – will any man want me after I have been so bad? How will I tell my husband what happened to me? What will WE say when people ask why I have been away from my village? All these questions show that they feel responsible and ashamed about the crime that was committed – the shame they live on a moment-to-moment basis – the fear that they will take into their futures.
We question why they need to worry so much about what a man they have not met yet, will think of them.
We question just how much we can change for all the potential innocent little girls – but we never question that we can make huge changes. Can we eradicate sexual violence – no? Can we educate those around in the communities to be more accepting of the girls who have been subjected to this heinous crime –yes?
We continually question what we are doing and how to make it better – We never question why – it needs to be done and that we are the vehicle that can drive change forward.
We NEVER question the love and commitment of everyone that supports Rafiki Mwema – from the staff, the board through to each and every sponsor and follower of these beautiful little girls.
R is for Rafiki Familia our brother organisation.
Having opened the girls house nearly 3 years ago, Anne-Marie was always aware of the plight of boys who lived on the streets. She knew many of the boys through Play Kenya’s football project, and had many sleepless nights, worrying about young vulnerable boys. They experienced violence and fear on a moment to moment basis. Many of them used sniffing glue, alcohol and other substances to keep their fear and hunger in check. These young boys were literally dying on the streets.
In February this year, the police ‘arrested’ many of the boys Play Kenya have known. Their crime – being homeless. they were facing many years in the tough children juvenile system – so Play Kenya stepped in and Rafiki Familia became home for 16 boys. We have been ‘warned off’ so many times about supporting boys who lived on the streets and have been told we will fail because of their previous life-styles and addictions. Maybe we will (I really hope not) but to us just ONE boy staying off the streets, into education and becoming a caring member of the community is a success – and I know we can do that! 16 boys still in education, showing love and compassion to each other after 8 months is a good start! The principals are the same as at RM – it is a therapeutic project where the boys are helped off their addictions, receive therapeutic support, have access to education, with a view of attending public schools in the future. There have been teething problems but we are still moving forwards.
R is also for Ray, the manager of RF. His passion to help the boys is outstanding and I believe we would have 200 boys at RF if we let him! This is his first role in managing and project and we back him all the way! Great job Ray
S is for STAFF!
We are so fussy about our staff and try and make sure we are the right people in place to support our girls. I think one of the most important jobs for us is staff training and support. We are like family – but in all families we have some disagreements! THE most important thing to us is that our girls feel safe an loved – so our staff need to feel safe and loved too.
I’m going to do the unforgivable and name two special staff members with very different roles
ANISHA has been with us since the very beginning of Play Kenya and is a magic therapeutic worker. She has that very special way of working with children and families that comes from ‘within’. Technically she works for Play Kenya but plays a key role at RM too. She is responsible for training all our staff at RM and ensuring they are following their APP and supporting them when needed. She is also is instrumental when our girls return home and beyond. She carries out the much needed attachment work with the family and the girls BEFORE they return home. She visits their schools, villages and churches and ensures they understand that this girl is in NO WAY responsible for has happened to them – stigma is a big thing when the girls return home. Anisha is Special, Super, SUCH-a-good-therapist and a Shiny example to the many many Kenyans who Struggle to see how to support vulnerable children in their communities. She is a SHINING STAR!
JIMMY is Simply the best! He is a director of Rafiki Mwema, a task he seems to have been made for. ALL the girls and staff love Uncle Jimmy. I remember the first time he came to RM and experienced such SHAME for what his fellow men had done to our baby girls. Instead of taking the easy way out and saying how terrible it was and doing nothing, Jimmy stepped up and supported us with his love and generosity. (If Jimmy didn’t loan us his car for example so many girls would be in more danger than they are). I don’t believe he has ever said ‘no’ if we have asked for his help. I can’t imagine RM without Jimmy. He is such a funny, sensitive, caring and Supportive man – a role model to all the young girls and boys who need to know life can be good by taking the right path. Thank you Jimmy – you humble me with your love and kindness – always – and you entertain me with your beer breaks and sense of fun – oh and did I mention he is also an amazing Safari Guide and best friend!!!!!! Smiling, Supportive and Sensitive – go Jimmy!
T is for Traumatised.
The stories we could tell you of how traumatised some of our girls are when they come to us would make you lose faith in human kind. One of the stories is over on our blog…
Picture our little one, spending her days and nights away from any form of safety at all. The mud that stuck to her body as the rains passed through. The rancid smell of the many men that forced her to believe she should have sex with them. Her ‘smile’ was saved for the many many truck drivers who passed through their village – her payment for the heinous sexual abuse these adults deemed ok to inflict on her many times a day, was a sweetie or two – many didn’t even ‘pay’ her that. She was filthy, survived like an animal and riddle with disease. She was raped, beaten and robbed of her childhood while adults in her village shared their disgust about HER behaviour. She was SIX years old and this had been her daily routine for years!
I am not sure of the details of what happened and by whom, but someone took it upon themselves to cut this little girls genitals and mutilate her – possibly because she had behaved so badly – the impact of that will live with her, her whole life. I won’t go into more details but enough to say this injury traumatised some of our staff, and I am sad to say they have seen some horrific injuries on our babies over the past two and a half years – this was appalling.
U is for Unconditional Love.
Unconditional love does just what is says on the tin – no strings attached love.
The love from a parent to a child? A love from a child to a parent? Is it given that we will all be loved? Sadly not. Many people never receive the love they deserve; they never know that others feel love and take it for granted.
When our girls arrive with us, some have been and are loved. They have that sense of belonging. Their families keep in contact and meet with the girls. They are loved.
Others have had a cold and lonely life – maybe surrounded by people but the rays of love not shining in their direction. We help them to come out of the shadows and warm slowly in our loving glow. Love is not a fast process – it is a two way affair. It doesn’t work simply for us to love our girls – but we do! It works when the children FEEL the love as it seeps into their daily lives; when they look into the darkness and feel the warmth of our arms. Some of girls have such self loathing they try and sabotage our love. We can’t let them do that because they ARE loveable.
Love is not about having no boundaries. Love is not about gifts and rewards. Love is about accepting, trying not to judge and seeing the good within. You cannot miss the good within, as along as you look with opened eyes. Don’t focus on the behaviours which our girls might use, to convince you they are bad. It’s simply not true. What is sitting behind that behaviour? Fear of rejection – better I make sure you reject me before you see my badness. I know this because the girls tell us so. Trouble is at Rafiki Mwema we use eyes that see behind the pain and we look into the souls of our babies. We let them know we are ready and waiting with them, ready for them to know we love them.
It is every child’s right to be loved. Every child deserves to be loved, wholeheartedly, unqualified, unreservedly and unlimited. We have no restrictions on our love for our girls – our biggest wish is that they feel worthy to be loved; that they feel loveable – that they can learn to love themselves unconditionally.
V is for Volunteer!
We take volunteers from all walks of life!
Playful young at heart people who will enrich the lives of the community, including Therapists, Teachers, Gardeners, Carpenters, Doctors, Nurses, Admin staff, Dentists, Accountants, IT folk, Students, you name it and we welcome the right people to Rafiki Mwema – people with love in their hearts to share with the community and our girls
W is for WELCOME or as they say in Kenya.. KARIBU!
We would like to welcome all of our new ‘House’ sponsors to our family. You have taken on the role to assist us in supporting all of the girls with expenses over and above the general day to day running costs of the house.
As a house sponsor you will be sponsoring the entire house rather than a specific girl. You will still get an update each year but you will receive an update on everyone, a photo of everyone as well as a hand drawn letter/painting from someone special..
What are some of the extra expenses that we have I hear you say??
➳ Car servicing, petrol, general wear and tear.
➳ Hospital or medical care for the children. Some of our girls have substantial injuries and need specialist medical treatment. This can be very costly but essential to their recovery.
➳ Additional court fees when taking the accused to court. Some of the girls have to travel backwards and forwards to rural areas and Nairobi, depending where the crime was committed. This can sometimes take the girls and their key worker away from Rafiki Mwema overnight.
➳ Training for families and communities for when the girls return home.
➳ On-going training for our staff. We pride ourselves on the extent of understanding and knowledge our staff have and we ensure they have regular refresher days.
➳ Staff supervision. Some of our girls manage their trauma by repeating their stories to our staff – sometimes several times a day at the beginning of their process. Others play out what happened to them in their sessions with their key workers. It is essential they have access to independent supervision to help them deal with the stories they are told. This helps keep them emotionally able to support the children.
➳ Furniture, white goods and other necessary items to make our house a comfortable, nurturing and safe environment.
➳ With 24 traumatised children living with us you can imagine the amount of bedding and mattresses that get spoilt. We have mattress protectors but some of our girls, because of injury and trauma, wet their beds many times a night when they first come to us. We want our girls to feel loved and cherished, so having hygienic bedding is one small way we can help them achieve this.
➳ Additional clothing for the girls, including clean underwear.
➳ Bedding and towels.
➳ Our guard dogs! Anything for the animals is expensive in Kenya – we have two brilliant dogs, P.K. and Malika but if they get sick – they are very expensive! They keep our girls safe at night and all the locals know we have two fierce German Shepherds. Our ‘fierce’ dogs are also a key part of the girls’ recovery. Stroking, grooming and walking the dogs really helps some of our hard to reach girls when they first arrive – pet therapy in practice!
➳ Any projects that we have on the go for Rafiki Mwema. Currently we are trying to raise enough funds to purchase a vehicle for Rafiki.
Would you like to join the family? We would love to welcome you…
Join here ➳ http://bit.ly/
X is for SARAH ROSBORG – bear with me!
(This is written by Anne-Marie)
Xtra-Ordinary – I simply cannot think of any other way to describe this walking heart of a woman! She is the most amazing person who continues to ‘go the Xtra mile’ for everyone she loves – and how lucky are we that she loves Rafiki Mwema. Who knew when I bumped into her 7 years ago just what a super friend and saviour she would become! Around a year ago Sarah stepped in with ‘Kenya Help Us’ and wow – she did! Without her auction where would Rafiki Mwema be now? I’m not sure our doors would be opened at all. ALL our girls owe their safety to Sarah – Oh how I LONG for her to meet the girls she saves!
She walks the walk and talks the talk! She goes the Xtra mile everyday. The love she radiates for RM is so heartwarming and so welcomed. But she is not just like a mother to our girls, she has her only little bundle of love at home in Lennox Head, Lovisa; she has a fab husband, and adorable Mummy and a mega business where she builds the most X-quisite web sites for us folk to who web sites are something that just happens! She has an army of friends who love and adore her – and why wouldn’t you! She deals with daily pain following her horrific accident years ago – and is one of the funniest, kindest, fiery, crazy chick on the planet. Oh Sarah – we love you!
So X is for Xtreemly amazing
Xtra loving and caring
Xcellent at web designing
Xceeds at fundraising
Xciting to have in you life
and XTREEMLY grateful for all the love, time and energy you send to the Xtra special young girls at Rafiki Mwema
As I said X is for Sarah Rosborg!
Y is for YUM!
I am tired and I have 2 letters to go and it is very hard to think of words beginning with Y and our baby MaryAnne is YUM and so is the food she is eating so problem solved.
Z is for…
what did you really think I was going to pick? Z is a very hard letter to find a word for you know!! Z is for ZEBRA.
We have plenty of them in our local game park Lake Nakuru…So when you come over and volunteer with us and stay at Rafiki Mwema you can see some cuties just like these ones
That’s the best I can do!
Thanks for reading!! That’s the A-Z of Rafiki.. We plan to join in on another month of photo taking with Fat Mum Slim soon..