About Henny's Kids
Photo Credits: Mike Myers
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela.
History of Henny's Kids
As a travel journalist I have been privileged to visit many places, learning about different regions and cultures in the US and around the world. Whenever I explored a rural setting, I visited local communities and schools if my schedule allowed.
In the era before cell phones and selfies, I traveled with an old, circa 1980 Polaroid camera and multiple packets of film. Using a mix of hand gestures and local words I picked up, I asked permission to photograph families and children, giving the images as gifts to the kids. Invariably, they giggled as they ran around sharing the photos.
I started this tradition decades ago when traveling with my own children. The practice was one way to add more of a meaningful and personal connection to a trip as well as to teach my children the value—and joy—of being gracious, giving back, and engaging with locals when traveling.
On trips, many of the rural schools that I toured lacked electricity. Pupils studied from outdated textbooks and shared pens and notebooks. Even so, the students seemed eager to learn. I decided to make a difference. I had been following One Laptop Per Child but I could not meet their high (for me) cost of buying computers for a specific school. When the organization drastically lowered the number of computers required for a directed donation, I could keep the promise to myself to help the children I met by giving them solar-powered laptops.
Children catch on to the computers quickly. Their world opens. The laptops’ puzzles foster problem-solving, the games encourage critical thinking, and the encyclopedia presents facts about nations, sciences, literature, and much more. The kids at Twabuka School like to use the music program to create songs and record themselves singing.
Our goal isn’t just to bring laptops and solar panels, but to also train the teachers to employ the computers to teach math, social studies, language and all the other elements in the curriculum. My mother, Henrietta, always called “Henny,” and the daughter of immigrants, taught elementary school in New York City’s public schools for nearly forty years. She believed in the power of education. To carry on my mom’s legacy, I named the project “Henny’s Kids.”
The soccer ball program came later. When one of our donors visited the Twabuka School and Sinde Village, he noticed the children played soccer with a ball fashioned from rolled up plastic bags tied with twine. He donated funds for real soccer balls and Henny’s Kids worked with Children in the Wilderness (CITW) to deliver them. Although I wasn’t present at the soccer ball handover, I frequently play the video CITW sent me. The students are full of joy. And so am I.
Thank you for your interest in Henny’s Kids.
About Candyce H. Stapen, PhD
Candyce H. Stapen, Ph.D
Travel Journalist, Editor, Digital Travel Content Expert, NGO Founder
Syndicated travel columnist, 3 million + circulation.
Family travel expert and contributor, Frommers.com
produced digital travel sites and wrote feature articles as travel editor/producer USA TODAY
Articles appear in many publications and outlets, including Frommers.com, The Washington Post, Washingtonian, Men’s Journal, USA TODAY.com, and Where to Retire.
Founder and force behind Henny’s Kids, www.hennyskids.org, an ongoing program to bring solar-powered laptops to rural schools
Author 30 travel books, including two for National Geographic.
Background Photo © Candyce Stapen