Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
3:05 pm EDT
Monday, July 26, 2021

Person of Interest: Karen Elliott

Photo courtesy of Karen Elliot

Executive director of Rafiki Foundation  is on a mission to save African children. 

Vital stats: 

  • Born and raised in Houston, Texas.
  • Resides in Eustis. 
  • Executive director of the Rafiki Foundation. 
  • Graduated from Southern Methodist University. 

What is the Rafiki Foundation’s mission? Rafiki wants to help people know God and help them raise their standard of living. Through Bible study and Christian classical education, we hope to cultivate a multitude of godly contributors in Africa and beyond! 

What were you doing before you joined the Rafiki Foundation? I went to college from 1976-1980 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. I majored in business and went to work in a bank in Houston. I was a commercial lender – worked with a lot of small businesses and managed the bank’s credit division. It was a great experience – a good combination of sales, finance, customer service – skills learned that I use today in our work in Rafiki.

Have you been to any of the training villages in Africa? I have had the privilege of being to all of them – since 2002 I’ve traveled to Africa roughly three times a year, and we try to see each Rafiki village every nine months. I also served in Nigeria where we have a Rafiki Village and spent time in Ghana.

Tell me about the training villages. Our Rafiki Villages sit on at least 50 acres of land and consist of a children’s home for orphans, a pre-k through grade 12 Christian classical school for the orphans and children in poverty from the community, a teachers’ college, a soccer field and playground, a guesthouse for overseas volunteers, housing for missionaries, and a farm. 

Each Village has at least 50-60 orphans in residence and 250 to 300 in school. We provide a heavily subsidized Christian classical education – like a private school education for some of the poorest children in the world. Every day in the children’s home the children have morning and evening devotions, three meals a day, all their medical needs met, and a loving, caring Rafiki “mama” who is one of the women of the church from the community.

The community students come to school and receive two meals a day, all their books, uniforms, and access to lots of extracurricular activities: sports, art, music, and they learn to use computers.

What is most inspiring about your work? To know that God is allowing us to impact thousands, if not tens of thousands of children and youth with the eternal word of God and also excellent education.

How can people help the foundation? Pray, sponsor a child at one of our schools, volunteer right here in Central Florida, or serve as a missionary in Africa!

How do you spend your free time? I do enjoy the hiking trails around here in Central Florida and I love to sing in my church choir.

What is something on your bucket list? To go see the places of the Bible such as Israel, Greece, and Turkey.

Who is someone you look up to? Rosemary Jensen, the president and founder of Rafiki Foundation, I count as a mentor and friend. And, of course, my mom was the best encourager a person could have and who along with my dad provided everything a child could need for a good start in life.

Words to live by?  “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” – William Carey, known as the “father of modern missions.”

About the Author

Originally from Buffalo, NY, Victoria graduated from Canisius College in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Writing. In August of 2019, she relocated to Eustis, Florida, and soon began at Akers Media Group assisting with social media projects. Later that year, she was promoted to a full-time writing position at the company and has since found her niche telling the stories of so many of Lake and Sumter County’s awesome people, thriving businesses, interesting organizations, awesome events, and important issues she’s had the pleasure learning about along the way. “I feel lucky to have found a job that I love at such a young age, and that I’m able to work with other talented writers who are constantly helping my own writing evolve,” Victoria says. Besides writing, Victoria’s passions lie in travel; she has visited over 18 countries and spent a semester in Galway, Ireland as a college student. In her free time, she also enjoys reading, experimenting with new recipes, and spending time with friends.

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