Tenderfeet Profile: Hannah Nyambura

Hannah Nyambura was born in 2004, and is now in class 2 at Tenderfeet.


Hannah Nyambura in April 2012

She grew up in Kibera.  Her mother was known as a hard-working and responsible weaver, working mostly with wool to make sweaters, such as those worn by Tenderfeet students.

Hannah’s father abandoned the family when she was very young, and so her mom was the sole breadwinner for the family.

Though life was difficult in the slums, one of the positive things is that in Kibera, people really help each other.

It’s common for residents to share their last few shillings with a neighbor who may be even more desperately in need.

After the elections of December 2007, the post-election riots of early 2008 consumed Kibera, engulfing the entire area in waves of violence.

Families like Hannah’s were targeted because the other tribes of Kibera lashed out at Hannah’s group, the Kikuyus.  The Kikuyus were seen as using their tribal connections to get unfare advantages through the political system; when it was seen the election was rigged, other groups sought to direct their anger at families like Hannah’s.


Hannah (second from the left in the front) and her family at her mother's funeral last year. Hannah now lives with her older sister Elizabeth (the young woman standing on the right behind the children)

One of the greatest tragedies for Hannah’s family was seeing former friends and neighbors turn on them in the midst of the chaos.  Though they were able to make it out safely, Hannah’s family lost all they had due to the rioting and looting.

The family started over in the safer area of Riruta, but life was no less of a challenge.  You can click here to see a satellite image showing the two areas.

Though Riruta is neither as congested nor as harsh an environment as Kibera, it also was a place where neighbors are less likely to help each other.

Also, the rent is more expensive, with Riruta rooms often costing double or triple what the same size room would cost in Kibera.

Moreover, school fees are extremely expensive in the Riruta area, often exceeding the monthly income of families like Hannah’s.  Public schools, which are supposedly free but in fact are also costly, are so full that there is no room for additional students.

Finally, another difficulty faced by residents in Riruta is that job opportunities are more scarce than in Kibera.

Despite the grim reality of their situation, Hannah’s family (her mom, younger brother, and older sister) adjusted to the new challenges as best they could.

However, Hannah was not attending school when Mama Margaret came across the family in 2009.

Margaret heard the family was struggling and knew the mom as a responsible and conscientious person from Kibera, even though she had not dealt with the family directly.

Hannah's House

Left: the route to Hannah's one-room home made of sheet metal, three children and her sister live in the room. Right: two "showers", used by Hannah's family and shared by dozens of families in the compound. To use the shower, a tub of water is taken to the stall for washing, the water will drain into the area in the front. A pit latrine is nearby, also shared by the families in the compound.

Hannah began attending Tenderfeet in 2009, her only option for an education.  She started in Middle Class, much like a Pre-Kindergarten in the U.S.  Her younger brother Teddy started at Tenderfeet soon after that.


Having fun at school, Hannah (back left) helps push her friend Elizabeth on the swing in 2010.

Sadly, more tragedy followed in 2011 when Hannah’s mother passed away due medical issues related to her HIV positive status.

At this point, Hannah’s oldest sister Elizabeth took over as the head of the family.  Elizabeth now takes care of Hannah, Teddy, and Elizabeth’s young child Justin.

The four of them live in a small sheet metal room with no running water, kitchen, bathroom, or any other modern conveniences.

The family shares a pit latrine and “shower” with the rest of the compound (see photo above).

Elizabeth ekes out a meager living working whatever odd jobs she can find, which are very hard to come by.

Despite these challenges, Hannah is doing great in school.  She is seen as a leader in the classroom.  Hannah is a child the teachers can count on to do her schoolwork with enthusiasm and attention to detail.

She is a bit shy, but has many friends at school.  Hannah loves to read story books and play with her friends in such games as skipping rope.

Without Tenderfeet, it’s a certainty that Hannah would not be in school and would face a bleak future.  Thanks to school sponsors, Hannah has a great chance to grow up happy and successful in life.

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