AIM Care – Vision & Strategy

Each section of AIM is required to set out its vision, and its strategy for implementing that vision.  This paper, dated September 2015, sets outs the vision for AIM Care, which is the section of AIM which runs the Tumaini Counselling Centre.


Tumaini – the Swahili word for Hope

Tumaini Counselling Centre has offered professional counselling and mental health services to missionaries since 1991.  Initially operating from rented accommodation in Nairobi, AIM Care moved to purpose-built premises in Karen, Nairobi, in 2002.

‘AIM Care’ is the name of the missionary mental health care section of Africa Based Support (ABS).  Tumaini Counselling Centre is a facility owned and run by AIM ABS.

Throughout these years, AIM Care and Wycliffe Bible Translators International (WBTI), together with professionals from other like-minded organisations, have worked cooperatively to provide specialist and professional counselling and support services at Tumaini, primarily for AIM, SIL and SIM missionaries, but also for missionaries from 160+ like-minded mission agencies.

The current situation

AIM Care exists to increase the fruitfulness of disciple-makers through enhanced missionary resilience by offering restorative and preventative mental health and pastoral care services.

AIM Care currently sees 350 – 400 missionaries per year.  Most of this work is conducted at Tumaini in Karen, Nairobi, but AIM Care clinicians also travel to many AIM conferences each year to both offer counselling to individuals and training in member-care-related issues.

Our vision is to assist and equip missionaries to fulfil their ministries in Africa.  We accomplish this by supporting missionaries on the mission field when they need this, rather than their needing to return to their home countries, and so interrupting or perhaps ending their mission work.

In order to fulfil our mission statement, the following services are provided:

  • Counselling: individual, couples, child and adolescent, family, premarital, or group
  • Crisis Debriefings and Post-Trauma Support
  • Mid- & End- of- Term Debriefings
  • Psychological/Psychiatric Evaluation and Testing
  • Psychiatric Medication Management
  • Providing resources to AIM leadership
  • Mentoring, Coaching
  • Consultation with Mission Administrators
  • Missionary Kid School Support
  • Team-Building
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Interpersonal Skills Workshops
  • Marriage & Single Missionary Retreats
  • Conference and Devotional Speaking
  • Some Distance Services via VOIP, email, video conference
  • Web site with resource articles and links (http://tumainicounselling.net)
  • Loaning Library
  • Quiet gardens for individual, family, or group use; picnic and recreational use available by prior arrangement

We know of very few other Christian counsellors or psychiatrists on the continent who have both a professional level of training and a good understanding of the issues affecting cross-cultural missionaries and their families.  Tumaini has gained a world-wide reputation for excellence in member care.

Nairobi is a good central base for AIM Care and it has built a strong reputation within AIM and other like-minded missions.  However, we seek to be more readily accessible to AIM and other missionaries serving in other parts of Africa, and are committed to exploring ways of accomplishing this.


AIM Care has operated successfully for nearly 25 years with the majority of its work being conducted in Nairobi.  Although many missionaries do live and work within visiting distance of Nairobi, or come to Tumaini as they pass though Nairobi, we need to make AIM Care more accessible to those working in other parts of Africa.

As AIM refocuses its vision, AIM Care must adapt to support the mission’s members wherever they are.  The AIM Framework recognises the importance of ‘serving and supporting those engaged in (the front-line work)’.  The work of AIM Care comes within this aspect of the Framework, and in fulfilling our mission we are supporting those who are reaching the unreached or equipping others to do the same.

By demonstrating the love of Christ through mental health and spiritual care, we envision missionaries pursuing their calling with resilience.

AIM Care’s vision statement is:

  • To honour God and support one another in providing the best possible care to all our clients.

Recognising that AIM members are increasingly working in remote areas and in CAN situations, we envision a number of ways of being able to support people at a distance from Nairobi.

To move forward in the ways described below relies on God providing the personnel, finance and the wisdom to know how to best support AIM members and other missionaries at a distance.

The Strategy

1.     Geographical location

We plan to retain the main centre for AIM Care at Tumaini, Nairobi.  However, following senior consultations between Africa Based Support (ABS), which includes AIM Care, and AIM Central Region (CR) in early 2014, we jointly recognised a need for improving accessibility for counselling and mental health support to those members working in Central Africa.  There are no other existing sources of such member care support in the area. Therefore plans are in hand to put a smaller AIM Care Centre in Kampala, Uganda.  These plans have the blessing of ABS and CR, and God is opening the doors.

Similar senior discussions between ABS and AIM North Region (NR) have led AIM Care to pilot secure online support groups for members working in NR.  Moreover we are in the earliest stages of considering other ways of providing a member care presence to those working in NR.

Equivalent discussions between ABS and AIM Eastern Region and Southern Region are planned, and may lead to similar discussions about how AIM Care can provide more accessible support to their members.

2.     Philosophy of Ministry – e.g. lifestyle issues, contextualisation

AIM Care operates under these Core Values

  • We are Christ-centred
  • We are support-service focused
  • We are team-oriented

Therapists working for AIM Care integrate their Christian faith and practice in their clinical work. They abide by Biblical ethics, and adhere to the ethical standards of their professional bodies.

Missionary mental health care is best done in a team. Throughout the week the team meets informally and formally for case distribution, discussion, mutual support, for sharing administrative tasks, and for devotions and prayer.

Professionals at Tumaini emphasize

  • Helping each other practice good self-care
  • Balancing work load, and
  • Taking time for professional and spiritual development.

3.     Timeframes for action, including starting and review dates

The Team Leader for AIM Care Kampala will start work in October 2015, and the centre is planned to open in early 2016; we pray that other staff will join the centre later in 2016.  The early progress of this centre will be reviewed at the end of 2016.

The online support groups for members in NR are being piloted during 2015.  Subject to the success of this pilot phase, this could be expanded to other AIM members during 2016.

Meetings between ABS and ER and SR take place later in 2015 and early 2016 respectively.

4.     Exit strategy

This is not a temporary strategy.  AIM Care needs to follow wherever AIM is operating in order to maximise the fruitfulness of those working in the front line of AIM’s mission.

5.     Language learning

Counselling is primarily conducted in English, though our multi-cultural professional team is able to offer counselling in a number of other languages (currently German, Korean, Mandarin).  However, we also acknowledge that AIM expects its members to meet Level 2 in the main language of the host culture where they work, and respect the value of this.

6.     Major thrusts of how the vision will be implemented

In addition to maintaining the on-going work of AIM Care at Tumaini in Nairobi, we are developing the following areas of work:

  1. Attending as many AIM Regional and Unit conferences as is feasible with our given clinical staff and finances.  This is both to offer talks on member care and to offer counselling to those who request it.  This raises the profile of member care generally, offers preventative strategies, and responds to current needs for counselling.
  2. Establishing a new centre in Kampala during 2016, to provide more accessible support to those working in Central Africa.  This offers a physical base where members may be seen face-to-face when needed.
  3. Further developing our distance support, through the use of VOIP or Skype, where internet connections are adequate to allow this (we have upgraded our internet bandwidth to facilitate this).  This enables members who are at a distance from Nairobi or Kampala to consult a counsellor or psychiatrist (subject to their internet bandwidth)
  4. Having recently recruited a Korean psychiatrist in AIM Care, we are working to raise the profile of member care amongst the Korean mission community
  5. Piloting online preventative group work for members of AIM NR, with the intention of extending these to AIM members in other Regions.  This both raises the profile of member care, and offers strategies for preventing or ameliorating problems.
  6. Subject to the needs expressed in upcoming discussions with ER and SR, we will consider whether it is feasible for AIM Care staff to make periodic visits to areas needing support
  7. Lastly, we will build professional relationships with other member care organisations in Africa, Southern Europe and the Middle East, which may be more accessible than Nairobi for some AIM members, when face-to-face support is needed.  Similarly we will further our professional relationships with member care organisations in Sending Regions, to be able to make appropriate referrals to AIM missionaries when in their home countries.

7.     Specific types of personnel required

All staff, whether clinicians or support, are expected to be mature Christians, active in their churches, modelling unity in diversity.

Because of the complex nature of our counselling ministry AIM Care has its own application process for professional staff alongside the AIM application process.  The therapists at Tumaini are licensed mental health professionals with cross-cultural experience serving as missionaries.

Short-termers may be accepted, though usually for not less than 1 year.

All those who join AIM (as members or through secondment) and serve at AIM Care need to be willing to abide by AIM Policies and Procedures (as outlined in the AIM Member Handbook) and the policies and procedures of AIM Care.

8.     Orientation of personnel appropriate for the individual ministries envisaged

After Africa Based Orientation, clinicians working for AIM Care need orientation into the Centre’s work.  A mentor is assigned to each new member of staff, arranged by the Clinical Team Leader.  It is also highly recommended for every therapist to have an outside clinical supervisor.

In addition, we operate AIM’s policy of having Annual Reviews of each member’s progress.

9.     Key alliances or partnerships

AIM Care currently has established MOUs with:

  • SIL, over providing staffing and collaborative operation of Tumaini in Nairobi
  • SIM, over providing a professional clinician in Tumaini
  • DMG, over providing a professional clinician in Tumaini
  • AIM CR to collaborate in the establishment of an AIM Care centre in Kampala
  • GMMT, over providing a professional clinician in Kampala

Tumaini in Nairobi provides regular services to Rift Valley Academy, Rosslyn Academy, and West Nairobi School, with funding arrangements in place for the first two of these.

AIM Care has informal but close working relationships with a number of other missionary member care organisations globally, e.g. LinkCare and Alongside in the US, and other member care centres in Africa and Southern Europe.

AIM Care offers on-going support to MMCT and staff for its training programme in Central Africa; this is formalised in the working arrangements of some clinicians working at Tumaini, and is also agreed for the Lead Clinician to be based in Kampala.

Additionally, clinicians at Tumaini are part of a network of mental health professionals in Nairobi and have good relations with other NGO and national counselling centres in Nairobi.

10. Defined and measurable desired end points objectives

At Tumaini we keep records of the numbers of missionaries seen, their attendance and their organisations.  We will keep the same information for AIM Care Kampala to monitor the use of that centre once it is open.

We also keep records of the conferences attended and the numbers of people seen during these.

During the pilot phase of the online groups, we are keeping records of the numbers participating and will discuss these with NR (who are funding this initiative) at the end of the pilot phase (end of 2015).

11. Resources to be marshalled for this vision, including personnel needs with the team leader being identified if a team is being proposed

AIM Care is staffed by missionary-clinicians who donate their time and skills.  Tumaini in Nairobi aims to balance its budget, with the running expenses being met by:

  • Charging fees for services, which meets the majority of the operating expenses; we offer reduced rates for AIM members and those from other organisations that provide clinical staff at Tumaini.
  • Additional funding comes from contributions from AIM International Office, and
  • Donations into the AIM Care Project Fund.

In time, the AIM Care centre in Kampala would operate on a similar basis, but will need ‘start-up’ funding until there is a sufficient income stream.  Start-up funding has been ear-marked by ABS with the support of AIM IO.

The current Clinical Team Leader for AIM Care is Mark Phippen.  Judith Finkbeiner is identified as the Team Leader for AIM Care Kampala.

12. Security and identity issues

AIM Care operates in places where those attending in person can do so confidentially and it respects their privacy.  We pay meticulous attention to the protection of clients’ personal information.  Where we communicate with missionaries operating in CAN situations, we do so via secure email.  Tumaini Nairobi is situated in a well-guarded compound.

AIM Care members hold missionary visas, appropriate work permits, and are known to both AIM members and national official bodies.

13. Anticipated problems and their answers

We anticipate the following challenges in developing our services in the manner described:

  1. Personnel: we need sufficient qualified personnel with suitable experience
    • We have submitted Requisitions through the AIM HR system, and are alerting relevant contacts to the opportunities
  2. Fluctuation in personnel, due to home assignments, short-term missionaries
    • We are both aiming to recruit sufficient personnel to allow for such absences, and to schedule home assignments in a phased manner
  3. Finances for travel to conferences or to offer counselling in locations away from Nairobi / Kampala
    • The Project money from AIM IO is helping us in this respect
  4. Accommodation for short-term clinicians at Tumaini
    • We have a Project underway to build 4 x 2-bedroom apartments on the Tumaini compound for clinicians and other ABS personnel; this project is currently raising funds prior to commencing building
  5. Internet bandwidth limitations to enable distance sessions by Skype etc.
    • We have recently upgraded our internet bandwidth.  (This could be further upgraded if needed.)
  6. Lack of awareness or exposure to what we are able to provide
    • Senior level meetings between ABS and AIM Receiving Regions is proving helpful in this respect.

14. Date of this Vision & Strategy Paper (VSP)

This AIM Care VSP is dated 14th September 2015.