“Rafiki” means friend in Swahili and depicts the purpose of the Foundation—to befriend orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). The mission of The Rafiki Foundation is to help Africans know God and raise their standard of living with excellence and integrity.
The Rafiki Training Villages perform two main functions. First, they provide living, medical, and educational facilities for orphans and vulnerable children in ten of Africa’s most impoverished nations. Second, they train African church partners in education, help them improve their schools, and support their widows. The Rafiki Training Villages are operated long-term missionaries who are assisted by national workers and short-term missionaries. Together this team accomplishes the dual purpose of the Rafiki Training Villages—to help orphans and widows and train others to do the same.
The Home Office supports the work in Africa by training workers, developing materials, and facilitating the needs of the Rafiki Training Villages. The Home Office is located in the city of Eustis in central Florida on fifty-seven acres that adjoin a nature preserve. The complex of buildings replicates the design of a Rafiki Training Village in Africa. The Home Office houses the administrative offices, training facilities, printing facilities, and the Rafiki Exchange. A variety of opportunities are available for those who wish to volunteer.
Located at the Home Office, the Rafiki Exchange sells unique handcrafts from ten African countries that are fashioned by widows in Rafiki’s Widow’s Program. Proceeds from the sales provide much needed income to the widows and impoverished women of the African churches.
The Rafiki Foundation is overseen by a board of directors made up of ten individuals who are committed to the vision and mission of Rafiki. The Board of Directors are: Rosemary Jensen (President), Karen Elliott (Executive Director), John Chunn, Susan Crawford, Rev. Dr. Tim Hoke, Rev. Dr. Dennis Johnson, Mayhoward Johnston, Carla Northington, Rev. Dr. Jack Preus, and Tom Shoquist.
Founders are: Rosemary Jensen, Robert Jensen (Chairman Emeritus [dec.]), Don Mceachern (dec.), and Richard Walenta.
Karen has served with Rafiki since 1990, including twelve years on the mission field, most of that time in Jos, Nigeria. Upon returning to the U.S., she became the Director of Africa Operations for the Rafiki Home Office and was responsible for managing the ChildCare and Education programs for all ten Rafiki Villages as well as curriculum development. She served at the Home Office for ten years before being named Rafiki’s Executive Director in January of 2012. Karen travels to Africa several times each year to oversee operations at each Rafiki Village, and considers herself to be an “American African”, comfortable talking to presidents of African countries, national church leaders, local tribal chieftains...but especially in caring for the children and students at Rafiki Villages.
Karen was born in Houston, Texas and prior to joining Rafiki, she was in commercial banking in Houston, TX where she maintained multimillion dollar loan portfolios for small businesses, and managed the bank’s credit division. She holds a BBA degree in finance/accounting from Southern Methodist University (and also a music minor), and earned her Masters degree in education from University of Texas at Arlington. Karen is a member of St. Andrews Chapel in Sanford, FL and was for many years a teaching leader for Bible Study Fellowship while in Texas and in Africa.
Karen views herself as simply a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ who desires to help others come to know God and become lifelong disciples of him and learners of all he has created.
The Rafiki Foundation is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. See the ECFA’s profile on The Rafiki Foundation.
View Rafiki's 2015 990 Form.
View Rafiki's 2015 Audited Financials.
To learn more about Rafiki, watch our video
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