Marafiki Trusts builds on friendships in Kenya

Africa has a way of casting a spell over its visitors, and for many, Africa has become something much more important than safaris in its pristine wildlife reserves.

Liz Turnbull first visited Kenya on a project co-ordinated with Oundle School and has spent the last few years supporting the Gilgil Special School for disabled children, initiating fundraising campaigns that have upgraded facilities and funded physical therapy for the children. She is also a trustee of the Kivuli Trust, which supports the school.

Nicola Guise first went to South Africa 15 years ago as a teacher, and their journeys to Africa converged on an extended “adventure with purpose” through east and southern Africa with an international charity, where they forged their dual ambitions to return.

After working with another large charity, they decided to set up on their own. Their focus on Kenya led to a new initiative, the Marafiki Trust. “It seemed crazy to go through a big organisation when we could do it directly ourselves,” Mrs Guise said.

Managing their own charity ensures that all the money donated to the trust goes directly to the children. Often when money is donated through a big charity, overhead expenses mean that not all the funds reach those for whom it is aimed. But through their smaller charity, every penny donated reaches those who need it in Kenya.

The goal of the Marafiki Trust is to support poverty relief and educational provision projects in Kawangware, a slum in Nairobi, by gathering donations and providing a source of funding to keep these projects viable.

Marafiki currently supports two projects working in the slum, the Real Hope Community Youth Organisation (RHYCO) and the Joyful Hearts Centre. Mrs Guise and Mrs Turnbull go to Kenya a number of times a year to visit the projects and see how their work can make an effective contribution.

They have developed close working relationships with the project co-ordinators and have become personally engaged with the children, visiting many of the families in their homes.

“Marifiki means friends and they have become our friends,” Mrs Turnbull said.

RHYCO was set up six years ago with the charity International Needs, and is run by social workers who were once street children themselves. They operate a drop-in centre for children from 60 families aged four to eleven, providing feeding, counselling, literacy and education, aiming to provide support to get the children into full-time school. Without the intervention, the children are at risk of ending up on the street.

Through RHYCO, 74 children have been successfully enrolled in schools with the support of sponsors and donors. Marafiki provides support towards the cost of living and education for children who are supported by the project in Kenya. Mrs Turnbull said, “Sponsoring a child is £20 a month, and all of that £20 will arrive in Kenya.”

Another project which they support is the Joyful Hearts Centre, which was set up in December 2019, by a group of seven mothers who each have a son with cerebral palsy. It was opened as a drop-in centre in Kawangware after Lilian Kiriko, the founder, met Maureen on the street. Maureen’s husband had recently passed away and she was struggling to support her two sons. The two women formed a friendship and started a support group to help other mothers.

Following confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kenya, the government closed all schools and
gathering places which included the RHYCO drop-in centre in Kawangware and the Joyful Hearts Centre. This was devastating for the children there for whom the centres are their places of refuge and support.

Mrs Turnbull said, “Our biggest concern is the high risk that the RHYCO children may return to the streets to try to find food if there is nothing at home. Caregivers have lost the little income they derived from casual labour. Our children do not know where their next meal will come from, have little or no access to clean water to drink let alone wash their hands and face eviction from their homes. We immediately contacted all sponsors and previous supporters asking for help with financing food parcels.

“We have so far successfully helped fund the delivery of two food parcels per family and have set up a GoFundMe page to support future food parcels, provision of water and help with rent.”

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Many of their fundraising initiatives take place in Oundle and Wadenhoe, where members of the community have been very generous with in-kind donations and handmade clothes and accessories. A number of their donors have also accompanied them on trips to Kenya to see the projects first-hand. When they go out to Kenya, they take suitcases full of donated craft supplies and clothing to distribute to the children who are enrolled in these projects.

They are keen to establish a larger network of connections between the communities and have spoken to local schools about making contact with the children in Kenya to build relationships.

“It would be great for the children here to learn about the lives of children out in Kenya.”

The personal engagement of Mrs Turnbull and Mrs Guise means that they know every child who is sponsored, uniquely enabling sponsors the opportunity to get to know the children and receive regular updates of their progress. For more information, visit their website

Gwyneth Angel
May 2020