Scene 5: A Living Virtue


The Monday of our last official week on site, while the Flamingo Crescent team were building a few more movable playground and gardening structures, the three members working to establish a plan for Flamingo Crescent’s crèche met with Fiona Franks, founder and operations manager of E L Child. About a week prior, the team had received an email from Fiona about her organization and their past efforts to establish a crèche for Flamingo Crescent. Fiona had found out about our work through a librarian we spoke with during our past trip to Flamingo’s local library in search of resources for the community’s children.

Cast of Characters

WPI Project Team – Chiana, Sarah, Molly
E L Child founder and operations manager – Fiona Franks


The Flamingo Crescent informal settlement on a dirt road, and later on, Belthorn Primary School, where E L Child is based.


We arrived in Flamingo at the usual time and got right to work. A few team members conversed with co-researchers while a number of others began setting up to build planter boxes for the community’s garden initiative. Early on, Chiana, Sarah, and Molly found Fiona, a middle aged woman with dark hair. She wore a long, loose shirt over a skirt with a few spiral designs that reached her mid-calf. What stood out most was the peaceful expression she wore on her face. After introductions, she explained E L Child’s involvement in developing a crèche for Flamingo Crescent. She spoke about the plan that started three years ago when the government’s social development department approached her about involving E L Child in instituting a crèche for the Flamingo Crescent community. In every sentence she spoke, there was a place for the children in it. She looked around the settlement with a helpless expression when her gaze landed on the children. Fiona expressed her desire to help and her attachment to the children; her inability to do this once funding was cut for the crèche weighed on her. Fiona had been involved with Flamingo long enough that some of the parents she looked at during this visit she had worked with as children themselves.

A view of the school E L Child operates out of.

Fiona mentioned E LChild’s nearby building, the Belthorn Primary School and offered to give us a tour. We walked over to Fiona’s car and drove the short three minute drive to the school. The school was a one story building laid out in the shape of a ‘T’. Gardens, pathways, fields and a playground surrounded the building, filling in the large square lot. We entered the building through a sliding gate and Fiona began introducing us to a few of the staff and faculty that had come into work despite school break having started. After walking along the central pathways along the entrances to the school, we turned off and approached the gate that led to the playground and garden area. On the way to the playground, we walked along the path surrounded by leafy plants and flowers. The pathways were made of stones with inspirational quotes and virtues written on them. “Justice”, “love”, “peace,” and a reminder to “be the change you want to see in the world” accompanied us on our walk towards the park area. Strolling through the garden brought a strong sense of peace; it wasn’t hard to imagine children playing in this sanctuary, surrounded by greenery and encouraged by ideals promising a better tomorrow. We slowly moved towards the playground structures as Fiona told us more about E L Child and her hopes for Flamingo Crescent’s children. The playground consisted of a hand painted tunnel, a jungle gym, a swing set of tyre swings, a slide, and a lot of open space for children to run and play safely around the large shading oak trees.At the edge of the playground area, Fiona pointed out the grassy, unoccupied space that had been intended for the expansion to accommodate Flamingo’s young children.  Fiona explained her reasons for believing in separating Flamingo’s children from the community to attend a crèche.  The children could be taken out of the environment often surrounded by drugs and violence, disease and despair, to a safer place to grow and learn. Fiona then told us about the Swiss architect already prepared to begin construction of an eco-friendly crèche on E L Child’s plot. We walked back through the playground, along the paths, reading more life principles and inspiring words along the way and made our way into the building itself. We met a few more members of the school’s staff, all polite and smiling. We ended up in a room functioning as a teacher’s lounge, with calendars and reminders for teachers posted on the walls. Fiona grabbed a key and we made our way to a classroom, then she unlocked the metal bars covering the door, and finally the door itself. Inside, we looked around at the children’s books, posters, toys, and projects the children used during school. In one of these small projects, the students had created their own balls out of newspaper and adhesive and creatively painted the finished product. Fiona explained that much like our intention of involving community members in reblocking to develop a sense of ownership, the school believed in organizing projects in which the children made their own toys to ensure they would be responsible and respectful of them. Fiona then showed us a brochure on E L Child and talked about their other outreach programs which include special needs care, artistic therapy and HIV/AIDs support. Afterwards, Fiona brought us back to Flamingo Crescent and we thanked her for meeting with her before parting ways.


E L Child, though unconventional in ways due to its virtues approach with children, had a wide variety of resources for a crèche and many more community development initiatives. Fiona Franks had the best intentions to stop the cycle of violence, drug abuse and indifference which plagues many residents of informal settlements and limits opportunities for their children. Her connection to Flamingo has invested her foundation in its future and hopefully, even if a crèche was built inside Flamingo rather than by the Belthorne Primary School, E L Child would support the community and offer its support.