About Us

Rafiki wa Maendeleo Trust
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Since 2003

Building Trust and Restoring Dignity

Our History

In 2001, three friends united in response to the ravages of HIV & AIDS witnessed in a remote village along the banks of Lake Victoria, Kenya. Together, they provided health education & disease treatment in numerous rural villages.

The initial focus on health soon expanded into activities to create positive experiences and to restore dignity for orphaned children who experienced stigma, discrimination and the painful isolation because of HIV & AIDS. A small group of community members joined hands and were trained to run beekeeping, chicken & dairy farming and craft projects that generated income to support 80+ orphaned children with breakfast, school uniforms and weekend psycho-social support activities.

And, this was just the beginning…

Children educated

People Accessing Clean Water

Accessing Health & Social Services

Families with Improved Livelihoods

What Drives Us

Our Mission

When people believe in themselves and work together, they can build a vibrant community. Our mission is to empower these communities to create positive change, especially for children and youth.

Guiding Our Work

Our Values


We nurture talents for creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.


We are committed to teamwork and positive partnerships.


We strive for quality in service delivery and learning outcomes.


We recognize and advocate for the uniqueness and dignity of every individual.


We demonstrate high standards of ethical conduct including honesty, accountability, transparency & trust.

Make a Difference

Why Participate?

Lasting Change

We believe children are our future. Encouraging their engagement as active participants in positive community development initiatives nurtures them to become change-makers and leaders for the future.

Responsible Change
We promote and teach sustainable practices: recycling, rainwater catchment, use of renewable energies, organic farming.
Good Stewards
We genuinely care for and are committed to serving the needs of our children, youth and communities. We humbly assume first and foremost a commitment to service along with the responsibility, perseverance, diligence, ownership and accountability needed to be good stewards of all resources.
Collaborative Development
We believe people have the solutions to their own challenges. Our role is to be a catalyst and to put community members at the centre of decisions about their own lives and that of their communities.
Global Endeavor

Teamwork and positive partnerships with dynamic and compassionate individuals from our communities and partners from all over the world create a healthy exchange of ideas and best practices.


Board of Trustees

Michele Ostertag

Founding Trustee

Michele Ostertag was born in the US to Swiss parents. Her educational background includes international business and marketing, homeopathic medicine and Bach Flower Remedies. She worked in the US and Europe before moving to Kenya in 1998 with her family. Having lost her mother at a young age, she has a keen interest to help children, especially orphans, and she began working with local communities soon after arriving in Kenya. Using her combined skills and experience in business and holistic health, she identified capacity development initiatives that emphasize participatory processes focusing on the multi-dimensional needs of humans as learning beings and the importance of individual and community transformation going hand in hand. She started the first of these community projects in 2002.

Helena Dalton

Helena Dalton has over 20 years international development experience. She has worked in Kenya, Sudan, Thailand, the Republic of Georgia, Iraq and Uganda, running health, orphan and vulnerable children, civil society and governance programs. She directed the Capable Partners Program from 2005 to 2011 building the capacity of organizations in Kenya providing services for orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV. Currently, she is directing a program that supports orphans and vulnerable children and their caregivers in central and western Uganda. Ms. Dalton holds MPhil from the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

Dr. Evangeline Nderu

Dr. Evangeline Nderu has over 20 years’ experience in program management, currently participating in the improvement of Early Childhood Development Education in Kenya. She has previously worked in capacity building for Ministry of Education senior level management, teachers and administrators of teacher training institutes; Monitoring and Evaluation of programs; and has had extensive experience as a teacher, administrator, program evaluator/researcher and program technical advisor. Dr. Nderu takes pride in participating in initiatives that help to elevate girls and women, particularly through education initiatives.

Dr. Douglas Lackey

Dr. Douglas Lackey has been involved with international development for over 30 years, working across Africa, South East Europe, Caucasus, Central and South East Asia. Dr Lackey has led regional advocacy initiatives to ensure regional and national policies and strategies are addressing the rights and well-being of older people in the region, particularly related to the thematic areas of HIV and AIDS, health including non-communicable diseases and eye health, and social protection. Dr Lackey was also the Deputy Director General for the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) based in Nairobi. He holds a PhD degree in Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science and post-graduate degrees in international business administration (MBA) and public administration (MPA) from Indiana University.

Mauro Saio, M.D.

Dr. Mauro Saio, born in Italy in 1952, graduated in Medicine in 1975, specialised in Tropical Medicine in Rome in 1979. Dr. Saio obtained Fellowship in Travel Medicine in 2007 with the University of Glasgow. He arrived in Kenya, Nyeri Mathari Mission Hospital in 1980 and, in 1982, moved to Nairobi. Showing a keen interest in Tropical Medicine, he published many articles and reviews on neglected diseases like malaria, schistosomiasis and giardiasis, obtaining respect and recognition from the International Medical Fraternity. Recognising the importance of all branches of complementary medicine, he has been the promoter of the Forum for Integrative medicine, branching from Allopathic to herbal and holistic medicine. He has been instrumental in the introduction of the Arthemisinin in Africa whose ever increasing use has immensely helped the fight against malaria throughout the continent.