The Collette Foundation’s Kenya site, Tenderfeet, continues to thrive allowing children an environment to learn, develop, focus and engage. Below is an account of intereaction that recently took place between a Collette Vacations employee and the children of Tenderfeet.
***This is a guest post from Dan Hoskins, Research Coordinator at Collette Vacations!***
Our trip to Tenderfeet occurred on the last day of a two week safari during which we covered well over 1,400 miles of Kenya’s wilderness and highways. None of the terrain was ideal and was often covered in potholes and rocks. Out of all the roads we had driven on, the road leading to Tenderfeet was the worst. Tenderfeet students take a bus over that road twice a day in order to get to school and surprisingly, they look forward to the ride.
The door to Tenderfeet was an oasis of blue in a world of burnt umber. It was a shock to come from Kenya’s pristine, spacious parks to the urban centers. Trash was everywhere, overflowed from the gutters and sat in giant mounds between buildings.
Thankfully, there was none in the Tenderfeet compound. The courtyard was green and educational artwork covered the building. The alphabet with corresponding pictograms crisscrossed the walls. The walls were covered with numerals, geometric shapes and math equations. For budding horticulturists, there was even a painting of a flower with all the parts labeled: “stem,” “root,” “petal,” etc.
The Tenderfeet school provides education for 125 students from one of the poorest sections of Nairobi, Kiberia, who have lost either one or both of their parents to AIDs. Without Tenderfeet, these children would not be able to receive an education, despite Tenderfeet only being able to offer education from pre-school to 8th grade. The most surprising part of the whole experience was how small the school was. Sizing up the entire compound, the school sat on barely an acre.
Even in our short visit, I could tell that the school was making a difference. We were able to meet with a few classes that performed songs and poems for us. Just from these performances, I could see a level of confidence in the children that they otherwise would not have.
Most members of our group brought presents for the children. For the most part they brought markers, crayons, drawing paper and coloring books. I went a different route and brought soccer balls.
The children were so excited to see us and everyone was extremely touched by the school. As an employee of Collette, they asked me how they can give further. We were able to watch one class in progress, but our presence interrupted their learning because all the children would run over to shake our hands and talk to us.
As we drove back to Nairobi, it was strange how quickly we returned to affluence. We turned a corner and the slums were replaced with nice houses and shopping complexes where the roads were paved.
The word kindergarten, in German, literally means “children’s garden.” I never understood how perfectly that word fit until I visited Tenderfeet.