After ten years of being on the board of Rafiki Mwema, I finally met the children and staff in Kenya, whom we work so hard to give a voice to.
Rafiki Mwema is a safe house for traumatised children in Nakuru, Kenya. It has been my passion to help these children in any way I can since my close friend Sarah Rosborg asked me to start a charity with her ten years ago.
In November 2022, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya and witness the fantastic work being done by Rafiki Mwema first-hand. I joined Sarah Rosborg, the founder of Rafiki Mwema, on this journey – one she has done many times.
Wow, just wow!
I have been talking about our children at Rafiki for the last ten years. I was involved in the fundraiser to buy our land and build new homes. I’ve met some of the children and staff over Zoom, and I read the heartbreaking stories of the children every day.
Yet nothing (nothing) could have prepared me for this visit. I was expecting to be a blubbering mess. I am a crier (with a not-very-nice cry face) and expected to be surrounded by sadness.
Happiness everywhere, despite such sadness
From the moment we arrived at Doyle Farm, all I experienced was happiness. The children and staff are all so happy and playful. Of course, the stories behind the children are beyond sad, but you can feel their happiness on the farm because they are safe here. They are loved, protected and secure.
There was non-stop laughter, playing and dancing. And music! All day long. We stayed near the big girl's house, and the music and dancing started around 6 am and finished long after us nanas went to bed.
Thanks to our incredible supporters, sponsors and donors, our children are happy, safe, well-fed, well-clothed, well-educated, and appreciative of things our children take for granted.
The older children are involved in the cleaning, cooking and running of their houses. The smells coming from their kitchens were delicious – thanks to the fresh produce direct from our own farm.
We grow most of our own veggies to feed the children and staff – potatoes, carrots, cabbages, onions, beans, kale and tomatoes, as well as bananas and strawberries. We have cows for milk, chickens for eggs, and we will soon get goats and geese.
We spent a lot of time with the children at the farm – playing, doing crafts, sports and activities.
The farm is so big when you see it in real life! We have really created a little village for our Rafiki family. Our 14-acre property is safe as - surrounded by bushes that have the longest and most vicious thorns I have ever seen. It is also surrounded by an electric fence that’ll give you a good warning if you tried to get through it, and then you’d have to contend with our pack of German Shepherd dogs and our Maasai guards, who are armed with deadly, snake-venom tipped, arrows.
There is a lot of space for the children, the staff and the animals. There’s a football pitch at the boys end, where the boys and girls train in fitness daily. There’s a playground for the smaller kids, a school, therapy rooms, staff offices and then there are our houses, where the children live.
Our Rafiki Girls
The girls live between two main houses. The big girls are in the Queen’s Castle, a house built thanks to a big fundraiser with Constance Hall in 2016. We have 16 big girls – from 12 to 19 years old. Some of our young ladies have been with us since they were little girls, and the changes we see in them are amazing.
The small girls are in another house on their own secure ‘compound’. 26 small girls, with seven of them being under the age of five. They are so adorable and so squeaky! They love you unconditionally – all they want is to feel loved and protected – and they so are. The staff are excellent – like their mamma, aunty, and big sister rolled into one. And they genuinely care for the children as if they are their own. All the little girls want to hold your hand. It’s funny, they grab a finger each, and you have 3 or 4 girls on each arm.
Our Rafiki Boys
The boys are in their own big house (The King’s Castle) – 22 of them – from 4 to 19 years old. The boys are SO different to the girls. The girls squeal and want to hug, touch and be with you. The boys are way too cool for school – until you get to know them. We had a movie night with the boys, and they were all up and dancing – I even had one of the little ones fall asleep in my arms. The boys love their sport, their music and looking ‘cool’ – and they do all of these things so well! We are collaborating with the Northern Rivers Football Academy to bring our kids at Rafiki closer to our children here with a shared passion. While in Kenya, we Facetimed the academy, and they saw our boys playing, wearing their NRFA-sponsored kits, and demonstrating some awesome skills. This collaboration will grow with the setting of football challenges and skills sessions.
Our Street Children
I was looking forward to meeting our street family at Rafiki Mtaani, and I will admit to a little (big) cry. Rafiki Mtaani means ‘a friend on the street’ in Swahili. It is a program established by our children at Rafiki Mwema to ensure their street brothers and sisters receive a nutritious meal every day. To say it was heart-warming to see this program's impact on these children's lives is an understatement. Every day, we provide 100 children on the streets of Nakuru with a nourishing meal, a safe place to sleep, and an opportunity to wash themselves and their clothes. We play games with them, provide books and basic medical attention. Additionally, thanks to the awesomeness of our program managers, the children receive daily education on self-care, gender-based violence, self-respect and respect for others, along with maths, reading and physical exercise.
Most of the children sniff glue – it is an escape from the reality of life alone on the streets. It is sad to see, but also understandable. I didn’t feel unsafe at all. They are so loving and grateful – and some are so young, which is heartbreaking. So yes, I did fall in love with them, and I did want to put them all on the next plane to Australia. But that isn’t what they need. These kids must be brought up as Kenyans, the Kenyan way – not as Australians. What we can do is give them the tools they need to stay safe, look after themselves, learn and help them edge closer to independence.
You can’t go to Africa without seeing the wildlife. Our good friend and owner of Boro Kesha Safari Tours, Jimmy, took us on a safari tour to Lake Nakuru, where we saw some of the most incredible wildlife in their natural habitat. The size of the lake and the number of flamingos that call it home leaves you breathless – and there are only a fraction of the flamingo population there now compared to a few years ago. We saw giraffes, zebras, baboons, monkeys (nick-named blue balls, thanks to their… blue balls), gazelles, rhino and water buffalo. Despite a good look, we didn’t see Simba – next time…
We can all Make a Difference
Seeing the impact of the work that we, and so many volunteers, do at Rafiki Mwema was life-changing. It reminds you of the importance of giving back and making a difference in the world.
At Barefruit Marketing, we are committed to positively impacting our community, and others. We believe that by working together, we can make a real difference in the world. We are proud to support Rafiki Mwema, and I am honoured to be a part of the Rafiki family on this journey.
In summary, my trip to Kenya was a powerful reminder of the incredible impact humans can make when we put our minds to something and pull together. I am grateful for the opportunity to witness the amazing work we all do for Rafiki Mwema and for the chance to support these children on their journey towards a brighter future.
Supporting Rafiki Mwema, as with most causes, doesn’t just have to be financial, although that is what keeps the lights on. But donating your time, your skills, and even the odd social share also makes a big difference.
It doesn’t have to be huge but imagine where the world could be if we all did something.
I hope to see the children and staff again soon – but they are firmly in my heart until we meet again.
Find out more about Rafiki Mwema and the work we do, here
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