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 Collette Foundation volunteer, Dan Hoskins, and the children of Tenderfeet.
I had driven all over Africa and found that none of the terrain was ideal and was often covered in potholes and rocks. Out of all the roads I 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 they look forward to the ride.
The door to Tenderfeet was an oasis of blue in a world of burnt umber. The courtyard was green and educational artwork covered the building. The alphabet with corresponding pictograms crisscrossed the walls which 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,” and so on.
The Tenderfeet school provides education for 125 students from one of the poorest sections of Nairobi, Kibera, 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.
While I was there, I was filled with the sense that this place… Tenderfeet… is really making a difference for all of these kids. the Children performed songs and poems and I could see a level of confidence in them that they otherwise would not have.
As a gift for visiting the school, I brought the children soccer balls and the children were so excited about it.
The word kindergarten, in German, literally means “children’s garden.” I never understood how perfectly that word fit until I visited Tenderfeet.
When Ontario-resident John Coxon walked through the doors of Tenderfeet Education Center in Riruta, Kenya, what he found transformed him. The children listened so attentively to their teacher that they did not even notice they had visitors at first; and their eagerness for learning and being in school was something that inspired him. Upon Coxon’s return home, he rallied support from Rotary District 7010 in Canada, specifically from the Rotary Clubs of Lindsay and Fenelon Falls to donate $8,500 for school uniforms, athletic attire, and supplies.
“As a Rotarian, the support of education is a strong focus in our efforts to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace,” he said. “The visit to Tenderfeet Education Center was such a moving experience. We admired the teaching staff for their dedication and the love that they displayed toward the students. The children were genuinely engaged in learning. They are fed and their health is looked after, too.”
Developed to aid orphans and other vulnerable children of pre-school through fifth-grade age, the Tenderfeet Education Center focuses on creating a positive and safe learning environment for children. The Center was founded and is directed by a passionate woman named Mama Margaret Nyabuto whose motivation has paved the way for children to create fulfilling lives with good education and a strong sense of self-worth.
When Coxon spoke to the two Rotary Clubs upon his return, they were both motivated to help because without Tenderfeet most of these children would not have an opportunity for an education. Raising these funds to support the uniforms (a requirement in public school institutes in Kenya) is just the beginning; there are more plans in the works for new ways to help these inspiring children.
Guest Blogger: Linda Sokoloski of Global Grannies, and a Collette Foundation donor
In November of 2010, I brought 22 volunteers along to visit the Tenderfeet School – the Collette Foundation’s Kenya project. What we didn’t know was how deeply the people that occupied that school would touch us all.
The hope and happiness the children displayed pulled at our heartstrings; and the determination and commitment from the teachers blew us away. Mama Margaret, who runs the school, is a truly amazing woman that is making a difference in many young lives in Nairobi. These children are the bright future of Kenya. Once we met them, we knew we wanted to be a part of the mission too.
After visiting the school, we came together to make a donation to the Tenderfeet School to help provide the students with uniforms. Receiving a photo of all the children holding a sign thanking us was a very humbling and proud moment. It reminded me how in need these students are, and made me want to do more.
On the anniversary of our visit, the ladies and I decided to do something really special. We collected enough donations to have a water tank built at the school and to send all of Tenderfeet’s students on an educational field trip to the Nairobi Zoo. It meant a lot to be able to provide the school with a physical necessity as well as an experience that we hope they will keep with them for the rest of their lives.
The yearly connection our group has with the Tenderfeet School reminds me just how good giving back feels.
“Asante Sana” is a phrase we learned during our visit which means “many thanks.” The children at the school said it to us when we left as they waved goodbye. Now, it’s our turn to say “Asante Sana!” to the children and teachers at the remarkable Tenderfeet School.
My Visit to the Tenderfeet School
I have wanted to visit the Tenderfeet school for a few years now, since the Collette Foundation first introduced this incredible project. Located on the outskirts of Nairobi, conditions here are bleak at best with an estimated 1 million people living in a 1 square mile radius. There is no running water, no electricity and no employment. Most families in Kibera live on $1 per day.
We were greeted immediately by all of the students upon arrival with beautiful songs, skits, poems and many, many smiles. There are currently 105 students in the school ranging in age from 3 to 11 years old. The goal of the school is to provide a free education to less fortunate children, set the foundation of the importance of English studies to prepare them for a solid middle and high school education.
Each classroom houses a different grade starting with the little ones in pre-kindergarten and all the way up to 6th grade. The children are preparing for the entrance into middle school and are reading and writing above grade level and doing complex math equations. The children are all served breakfast and a hot lunch every day. These are typically the only meals these children receive during the day. If the school didn’t exist, these children may not eat at all, or if they are lucky would receive one meal per day. The school recently acquired a small plot of land next to the classrooms and they have planted a field of corn, to help with the daily meals.
The school bus picks the children up between 6 and 7 am and some of the children don’t go home until 6 or 7pm. These long days are typically a result of the children not having anyone at home to go home to, and the teachers all wait until there is a parent or guardian at home.
As we were meeting all of the students and classrooms, we were introduced to one special boy, Benson Ngecho (pictured above), who is currently battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and has a large tumor in his neck. He attends school, even though he is not feeling well, as it is a better alternative than being at home. He does what he can at school and rests when he is not feeling well. There is currently a fundraising campaign at the School to raise money for Benson’s cancer treatments. When we returned home, we gathered friends to help raise funds to make a donation to Benson’s cancer treatments.
After our overwhelming greeting by the children with many, many welcome songs and poems, Mother Margaret Nyabuto, the founder of the school, brought us into her office to show us the books and uniforms; she purchases all the fabric and yarn for the uniforms and then has a local tailor make all the uniforms, as she could never afford buying them in a store.
We donated 100 pair of girls’ underwear and 100 pair of boys’ underwear, as well as 100 pair of blue and black uniform socks to the school. “Mama Margaret” distributes these later to the students as necessary. We also gave all of the younger students toothpaste (pictured below), and donated 15 soccer balls the school. The kids played a pick-up soccer game for us and had a blast. Mama Margaret is a mother of four children herself and has also taken four of these orphaned children into her own home as they had no surviving family or relative to care for them. Her daughter is a teacher at school as well.
When we gave her our personal check as a donation to the school she cried and hugged us both and said, “this donation has given me the strength to continue.” Single-handedly, this woman cares for the health, welfare, nutrition and education of 105 kids. She said that it is a hard job, but with the support of donations like ours and the support of the Collette Foundation, it motivates her to continue her very important work at the school. Our donation is being used to finish the new two new classrooms that she just built as well as Benson’s cancer treatments.
Our support of the Tenderfeet School started long before our departure to Africa. At Christmas I make donations to six charities, one for each of my husband Gary’s children, one for Gary and one for our granddaughter Julia. Tenderfeet has an annual Christmas Uniform Drive in December to raise money for the children’s school uniforms. Some of the sweaters the kids are wearing are several years old and are passed from student to student and are unraveled up to their elbows.
This past Christmas, I was in for a wonderful and moving surprise. My stepson, Ryan, was the one I chose to make my donation in honor of this year. Not only did I pick the Tenderfeet School as my charitable donation for Ryan, but Ryan, Vanessa, and Trevor all made a donation to the uniform drive in my honor. I started this tradition with the kids several years ago and we have shared some wonderfully meaningful stories about our charitable donation choices during the Christmas season. We truly enjoy making it a season of giving.
I was especially moved by that wonderful Christmas gesture after my visit. I can still picture the really little children at the school – ages 3 and 4; they were so truly thrilled to see us. The teacher kept telling the kids to sit in their seats, but as soon as I started taking pictures they swarmed me, and all wanted to see their picture on the digital camera. I have never in my life been so overwhelmed with joy in seeing such smiling faces.
All of these remarkable children come from poverty… a kind of poverty that most of us have never seen or experienced. Yet they are happy. They are productive. They want to learn and they are so eager to change the world.
All I can say is – they changed my world. I hope to return to the school at some time in the future, to see the progress of these students and to visit again with Mama Margaret. I am forever touched by the spirit, energy, smiles and laughter of all the children. I am forever changed by my visit to the Tenderfeet School.
After nearly a year of searching Tenderfeet has found and purchased their own school bus! The funding for the school bus was made possible by a partnership between the Collette Foundation and Hasbro Children’s Fund.
Tenderfeet Education Center is located in Riruta, Kenya, but has students that travel from the township of Kibera to attend. Those students, until now, have had to ride in a rented van. They now have a vehicle to call their own!
The bus will make it possible for daily transport of the students and staff to Tenderfeet, as well as field trips and other school outings. As Tenderfeet continues to grow the bus will be necessary to transport additional students from the surrounding areas.
It is wonderful to see how far Tenderfeet has come in a few short years. From the dangerous shipping container in Kibera to their new school building, now complete with transportation. It is a true testament to Mama Margaret and her diligence and resolve!
From Dax Mitchell of Tenderfeet “I’ve been following up on the situation with the school bus. Margaret says it’s running wonderfully, we can never thank Collette enough for the fantastic support. It’s such a dream come true to transport these children with a quality vehicle from the slums to the bright environment of the school.”
Learn more about Tenderfeet and the students by clicking here
Jambo! Hello! I’m back from my trip to Kenya! To meet Margaret was a great honor for me. She started Tenderfeet on her own and she is the reason the school is what it is today. She is truly an amazing woman!
Seeing the school and meeting the staff and children was a dream come true for me! What an experience! Even though I know the impact the Collette Foundation has had on Tenderfeet, seeing it for myself I can truly appreciate the magnitude of what the Foundation has done. These children are getting an opportunity that only three short years ago was Margaret’s dream.
That dream—building a foundation for a better life—would not be possible for some of the children now attending Tenderfeet without the building that was funded by the Collette Foundation. Margaret would only have 20 students not the 80 that currently attend.
I can’t describe how moving our visit with the children was especially when they sang for our group; some even included coordinated hand movements to their song. Once we visited all the classes, it was time for us to get down to work.
Using the brand new stove installed in the kitchen, we helped prepare and serve lunch. Margaret and the rest of the kitchen staff are very grateful for the new coal stove that the Foundation had just recently funded. It makes the preparation of much quicker now. One thing we all noticed was how well mannered the children are, they all waited quietly as their classmates were served. It was only when everyone had been served their food that they said a prayer and dug in.
The visit went by quickly but the memories I have are priceless and I will treasure them forever. Here is some video from my visit. Enjoy!
The Collette Foundation and Tenderfeet Education Center received a wonderful surprise last week when Valerie Drouin, Senior Vice President of Laconia Savings Bank, stopped by our offices. This summer Val and her group were able to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony for the new Tenderfeet Education Center.
Val and her group were so touched by the visit that they made a donation of $6,000 to support the Tenderfeet Education Center. She presented the check to Dan Sullivan, CEO, Alice I Sullivan, Chairwoman of the Board and other Collette employees, including Kenya Team Ambassadors Carol Wright and Sue Rovinski. The funding will make an unbelievable difference at Tenderfeet as they have nearly doubled the number of students in attendance over the past 6 months. “These funds are truly a blessing and will make operations much easier in the months to come” said Dax Mitchell, from Tenderfeet Foundation.
Some words from Val:
Our safari was amazing, but one of the most unforgettable and rewarding experiences for our group was a visit to the Tenderfeet Education Center which is supported by the Collette Foundation. Developed to aid orphans and other vulnerable children of pre-school age in Nairobi, Kenya, Tenderfeet Education Center focuses on creating a positive environment for children. The first school that the Collette Foundation opened in Nairobi was forced to move due to the unrest in early 2008. The unrest caused much suffering for these children. Although the Foundation was forced to close the school in Nairobi, they still follow the 20 students left behind, and will through primary school. The foundation’s new school helps orphans and high risk children in Riruta, a suburb of Nairobi. Laconia Savings Bank’s Prestige Plus group was honored as being the “chosen group” by Collette Foundation to officially open this new facility as part of our tour.
While it was an honor to officially open the school and cut the ribbon, it proved to be a very emotional experience for our entire Prestige Plus group, as we saw first hand the extraordinary needs of these children. The children and the staff were extremely excited to welcome our group. They had been preparing for our arrival for months. The children were dressed in their very best navy blue matching outfits. They sang 2 songs in English and one in their native language. The first song was about how important education is to them. You could truly hear it in their voices that they are being taught that education is a means of “freedom” for them. The second song was a song that addressed Aids, and questioned why it had to “touch their lives”. To say there wasn’t a dry eye in the house would be an understatement.
The Principal of the school engaged in conversation about the importance of education for these impoverished children. You could literally “feel” the pride in everything they prepared for us. The decorations, songs, dance, and the enthusiasm from the children was so impressive. The hospitality shown to our group was overwhelming.
From all of us at the Collette Foundation – THANK YOU LACONIA SAVINGS BANK!!!
In just 7 short weeks from today I’ll be on my way to Kenya and our first stop will be the Tenderfeet Education Center. During our group visit we will be preparing & serving lunch to the children. The Foundation has funded the meal program since 2007 so we thought it would be only fitting to help prepare & serve the afternoon meal to the kids! I’m extremely excited to meet the woman who started this school on her own—and has successfully grown it to 80 children. So much has happened over the past year with the new school construction and opening as well as more children now attending.
It is a dream come true to now have this wonderful opportunity to visit the site I have been working on for just over 3 years… Stay tuned there will be plenty to share with you when I return home!!!
After a long and amazing process – Tenderfeet’s new school is officially open!
The official opening & celebration was just this past Wednesday June 9th ! It was a colorful & exciting celebration for the children, teachers, and parents. All of the students were there dressed in their uniforms and Margaret spoke about what a great blessing the school in for Tenderfeet. A great partner of ours, Laconia Savings Bank, happened to be on tour and was able to visit during the opening celebration.
We are thrilled to begin discussions with Tenderfeet about our next steps – possibly building a playground and continuing to grow the school.
And just like the sky (and the roof) the doors and windows are blue!
After 3 years, living through a war, and countless moves from one temporary location to another the race to the finish line draws near. The roof is on the new permanent location for Tenderfeet, and like the sky, it is blue!
It’s been a long journey for Tenderfeet. Originally located in Kibera, forced to leave due to the 2007 riots…relocated in Riruta, then operating both locations, we are happy to say that we are nearly there!!
We purchase the land for them what seems like ages ago…after a long search it was finalized June 2009. The land was leveled, a contractor chosen and building began in December. The building has gone up very quickly! They are now installing windows and doors, then electricity and flooring and it’ll be complete! Tenderfeet students from both locations will be attending this school starting in May.
Collette visitors will be able to see the new Tenderfeet Education Center beginning with our departure in June!
To learn more about Tenderfeet – click here!