EUSTIS, Fla., Nov. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- What began in 1987 as a mission of mercy to provide support for African nations devastated by the HIV/AIDS crisis, as well as providing practical work training skills for impoverished women in the region, has evolved into one of Africa's most prolific faith-based organizations focused on the needs of orphans, widows, and education.
Rafiki, appropriately meaning "friend" in Swahili, was founded by Dr. and Mrs. Robert Jensen whose love for Africa was forged as missionaries to Tanzania in the 1950's and 1960's. In order to put "God's Word to Work" Rafiki sent missionaries to hospitals, universities, and various church denominations, to provide practical help as well as Bible classes. In 1992, Rafiki's calling expanded to include support for the plight of the millions of orphans on the continent. During a trip to Africa that year, then-Ugandan first lady Janet Museveni asked Rafiki founder Rosemary Jensen for assistance with her country's 1.5 million orphans.
"I told her that I would pray and think about what Rafiki could do for the cause of orphans," said Jensen. "Then, in 1999, when I retired as executive director of Bible Study Fellowship, the organization was gracious enough to donate funds to build an orphanage. Later, in deference to Mrs. Museveni, we constructed one in Uganda, just outside the country's capital, Kampala."
Today, Rafiki has constructed Rafiki Training Villages in ten of Africa's poorest countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, housing 800 orphans and providing a Christian classical education to an additional 450 students from the surrounding areas.
One of the key elements of the Rafiki Villages is education, providing these children with the necessary tools to succeed as productive adults. In 2006, it became clear to the organization that to truly impact the next generation in these countries, the answer was education.
"We made a decision to develop a Christian classical school curriculum for children ages three through twelfth grade," adds Jensen. "The curriculum is being utilized by all Rafiki students - by the orphans living with us as well as the hundreds of day students that come to our Villages. This curriculum is also shared with Rafiki's partners in Africa and will ultimately allow us to positively impact hundreds of thousands of children. Education will raise the standard of living for these young people, and subsequently, their countries."
A major component of Rafiki's long-term success is their relationships with local church denominations. Fostering long-term relationships with entities who consistently focus on supporting those who are most vulnerable - orphans and widows - has been a key goal of Rafiki's.
"The service offered by Rafiki has touched lives of orphans and widows; giving them hope and success," stated the Right Reverend Bishop Dr. Erasto Kweka of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. "May the service, concern, and commitment faithfully and fruitfully shine in many years to come."
"As Rafiki enters its second quarter-century of ministry in Africa, we move forward with many exciting goals," adds Karen Elliott, CEO of Rafiki. "These include housing and raising 140 orphans in every Rafiki Village; expanding on our Widows Program to all ten countries and partner denominations so that poor women may provide for themselves; extending the Rafiki Bible Study and curriculum to all Rafiki Partner schools as well as our own Villages; and developing a three-year college in partnership with a U.S. university where students would earn certificates in teacher education and business."
"Another major goal," concludes Elliott, "is connecting with individuals who are called of God to give their lives unreservedly to putting God's Word to work in the mission field. We presently have over forty missionaries throughout the Rafiki Training Villages. Our hope is to have another forty individuals over the next five years who are called to serve in this challenging, but beyond-rewarding adventure."
In the spirit of Christmas giving, Rafiki is seeking donors for one time or regular support of its orphans, as well as contributions for the ongoing needs of its various programs at the ten Rafiki Villages. For additional information about the Rafiki Foundation and how you can help, visit our web site at www.rafikifoundation.org, Facebook, or call us at 352. 483.9131.
Cutline Information: Rafiki founder Rosemary Jensen is surrounded by some of the 805 orphans who currently live at the ten Rafiki Villages in Africa. For these boys and girls, Christmas will take on special meaning as they enjoy regular meals, security in their home cottages, education at Rafiki schools, and a bright future for all.
Contact: Ken Long
SOURCE Rafiki Foundation, Inc.
Web Site: http://www.rafikifoundation.org