School Uniforms of Esabalu


The School Uniforms program of Amesbury for Africa started as a response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Esabalu.   Many men from the village had died and their surviving widows were hard pressed to feed, clothe and educate the children.  These disadvantaged women formed the Esinamutu Widows Group, a remarkable support group which continues to be active to the present day.

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Surprisingly, one of the most pressing problems for an AIDS widow was how to get a school uniform for her son or daughter!  Without a school uniform a child in Kenya is not allowed to attend public school.  He or she is sent home and will not get even a primary school education!   A group of 16 visitors from the Amesbury area discovered this fact when they went to Esabalu for the dedication of the new Bailey/Whaley Health Centre in 2005. (a joint project of the Rotary Club of Amesbury Massachusetts, Rotary Club of Amesbury England and Amesbury’s Bailey Foundation)

Hearing this story, Annette Christian of Salisbury decided to take action.  Annette was the waitress at the “Whistling Kettle” café in Amesbury.  She started signing up her breakfast customers as sponsors for the AIDS orphans in Esabalu.  Each sponsor gave $20 to buy a uniform, schoolbag and shoes for one AIDS orphan.  Other AFA members signed up sponsors too.  And, when school started in January every single one of the children of the Esinamutu widows had a uniform.  Unbelievable!


That was 15 years ago and the Uniform Project is still a major success.  The initial small program for AIDS orphans expanded to a program that includes all needy students in the 4 Esabalu primary schools (including the Ebukuya School for the Deaf).  In 2018 over $2700 was collected from donors in the Amesbury area including almost $900 at a successful Pizza Nite fundraiser last May hosted by the Amesbury Flatbread Company.

Each year a different primary school is selected to receive uniforms.  This year it is the Ebusakami Primary School.  The students for whom a uniform is a barrier to education are selected by the classroom teachers.  Each student is measured for size.  The materials are bought in bulk.  Every uniform is sewn by a local seamstress or tailor.  (An important side benefit of the uniform program is jobs for local residents! Also, a reduction in price – roughly $13 per uniform.)  As of this week, 200 students have been measured and the new uniforms will be distributed in May at a day-long celebration for the proud scholars and their families.

             READY TO LEARN!

To support this effort, please click the donate button in the lower left corner.  Thanks!

Jiggers Campaign 2018 – Judavee Youth Project

What is a jigger? It is a sand flea ( aka Tunga penetrans) whose original home was South America but which has become established in East Africa as a major pest.  T. penetrans is the world’s smallest know flea, at about 1mm in length but despite its small size  can it causes one heck of a lot of trouble.

The female sand flea lives in the soil and when mature burrows into the skin (most commonly between the toes) of its human host where it lays eggs and causes intense itching. The burrow site often becomes secondarily infected leading to severe complications of ulcers, tissue loss and gangrene.  The worst case scenario is septicemia (blood poisoning)  and even death.

Jigger infestation, once established in the home, affects the whole family.  The root cause is poverty and unsanitary living conditions. Families who have jiggers often have dirt floors which allow the parasites to lay eggs and multiply.  Treating the jiggers with lotions or solutions that kill the fleas works temporarily.  However, the next rainy season the eggs in the floor will hatch and start the cycle again.

The Judavee Youth in Esabalu took this on as their project for last year (2018).  All the Judavee members received training in how to identify jigger infections and in the proper treatment of the infestations.   They formed into 2-3 person “jigger squads” and visited the homes of poor families who were known to suffer from jiggers.  All the affected individuals were treated with antiseptic footbath solution (and re-treated if necessary) until the whole household was jigger free.  Then the floors and lower walls of the huts were sprayed with ovicide to prevent any eggs from hatching in the next jigger season.  The ovicide treatment and jigger inspection of the inhabitants was repeated for 3 cycles to ensure that the adult parasites would not come back.

In total, 179 families were treated at a cost of about $5 per home.  Thanks Judavee for your  time and effort to scratch one terrible  itch from the lives of everyone in Esabalu.  And thanks Amesbury for Africa contributors for providing the funds to get the job done.

Street Children of Esabalu – Combating Stigma

In the spirit of the Holidays, the Jidavee Youth Service Group in Esabalu hosted a “Jamhuri Day” event for the street children of Luanda, the small market town which is walking distance to Esabalu Village.  Jamhuri Day, December 12th is Kenya’s national Independence Day.  Jidavee youths from Esabalu were joined by UNICO, a service group of Maseno University students, in hosting the street children.  The theme was “We Live to Save You from the Street”.

Jacktone Ambole, the president of Jidavee Youth, writes of the event:

“The street children are out of their home because they have no parent or anybody who will take care of them. They are orphans and runaways who have often been mistreated by step-parents or relatives.  They have no homes, sleep outside and eat thrown away food from dustbins. Most of the time they are harassed and even beaten by police or other local people who believe them to be bad.”

Clothes distribution to street boys

The all-day event was designed for the street children to get to know other young people, reduce the stigma of being a homeless child and begin the process of re-integration into their community.  Participants received a home cooked meal, used clothing and blankets in good condition, and a chance to share their stories.  There was counseling on an individual level and in a group.  Other group activities included singing, dance and sports/competitions.

“We learned a lot from them!” says Jacktone.  “Most of them are good people and can be rehabilitated. They want to go to school.  Some of them never use drugs or alcohol.”

The next step in dealing with this problem is to learn more about problems of street children and the programs that are available to help.  Amesbury for Africa has connected Jacktone and the other Jidavee youths with Capstone Ministries in Kisumu.  Americans, Patty and Dan Schmelzer, have run this ministry for two decades with a goal of rehabilitating street boys to their families of origin.  The number of children reconciled and brought back from the street now stands at 492.  Jacktone and Samwel Ayula will be going to Kisumu on Jan 7th to talk with Capstone Operations Supervisor, Isaiah about how they can cooperate further to help the street children of Esabalu.  For more info on Capstone and its unique approach to rehabilitation of street children in Western Kenya please visit

African Story Books for Esabalu

Imagine that you are a six-year old child who has never been to school.  You are thrilled and excited and a bit scared to be starting first grade at last. 

Now imagine that when you arrive at your first-grade classroom you find that all the books at your school are in French and German!    There are no books in English which is the only language that you and your family speak at home. 

Impossible right?  Sounds like a bad dream.  Unfortunately, this is exactly the situation that faces every new learner at Esabalu’s Ebussamba Primary School and all the other primary schools in the Esabalu area!  At home, parents and siblings speak only Kinyore which is a dialect of the Luhyia language, the mother tongue of Esabalu village and surrounding areas.  All the schoolbooks are in English or Swahili (the 2 national languages of Kenya).

Now, thanks to a South African Publisher and the efforts of kids and teachers in Amesbury Middle School this situation may be remedied.  African Story Books can take text and illustrations in electronic manuscript form and produce durable books for early elementary students in the childrens’ mother tongue. 

Charlie Wright, a British teacher who works with the NGO Vibrant Villages to improve teacher training in Esabalu and surrounding villages, has been contacted by Amesbury for Africa and will be meeting this month with Dorcas Wepukhulu who represents African Story Books in Nairobi, Kenya to work out details of the project.

Charlie writes, “We actually have a fabulous young artist and storyteller, Maxwell, on our staff as one of our Education Field Officers who has been crying out for an artistic outlet and this kind of project would be perfect for him!”

As to funding, Librarian, Lori Byman and social studies teacher Kristen Bilodeau will be planning a fundraiser with students and staff at Amesbury Middle School this spring to raise seed money for the first Kinyore books!  Mungu akubariki (God willing).

Julius and Rebecca Owuor – Exchange Visitors from Esabalu

It’s peach picking time in Amesbury!picking peaches

Deborah Welch, Secretary of Amesbury for Africa, was pleased to welcome Julius and Rebecca Owuor from Esabalu, Kenya to her home in Hampton for three weeks in August.  Julius had been to Amesbury once before (20 years ago!).  For Rebecca, it was a first visit.  And neither one had ever tasted a peach or an apple!  They got their chance on the third day of their visit went they were hosted by Glenn and Karen Cook at Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury.

Both of the Owuor’s are primary school teachers.  Since retirement, Julius has been very active in Esabalu’s community development.  He is involved in the Amesbury Rotary’s library project at Ebussamba Primary School as well as Amesbury for Africa’s early reading project “Reading begins at Home” and its school uniform project.   He is also on the Board of the Bailey/Whaley Health Clinic and an advisor to the Esabalu Widows’ Group.

Rebecca works at the Ebusakami Primary School.  Her schoolroom can have up to 60 students in one class!

While in Amesbury, the Owuor’s enjoyed visiting their many friends and acquaintances in Amesbury.  They visited Boston, Vermont and Maine.  In Amesbury, they were welcomed by Mayor Ken Gray, the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. They toured Cider Hill Farm and the Amesbury Elementary School.  Rebecca braved the waters of the Merrimack and Lake Attitash on boat rides (thanks to Paul Fougere and Jack & Lorraine Sanborn). While boating, Julius caught two fish and one eel!DSC_0415

Julius and Rebecca Owuor with Mayor of Amesbury, Ken Gray

The Owuor’s agree that exchange visits are fun, bring new experiences and build friendships.  Julius wishes all of us “Karibu Kenya!”  (Welcome to Kenya) and is looking forward to more visitors from Amesbury in 2016.


Jacktone Ambole – Exchange Visitor

We have probably all heard the African saying   “It takes a village to raise a child”.  But what happens when villagers in Massachusetts reach out to a child in an African village to help in raising him or her?  Just ask Jacktone Ambole (prounounced Jack-tun Am-bow-lay), who has many adopted “mama’s” from our Amesbury area!

Jacktone Ambole visits Amesbury      Animal Hospital

Jack was born in Amesbury’s sister village of Esabalu, Kenya, near the market town of Luanda. Jacktone’s mother had polio as a child and was disabled. When Jacktone was 4 years old, his father was killed in an industrial accident, leaving his mother as the sole caretaker for Jacktone and his younger sister and brother.

By the time Jacktone was in 4th grade his mother was too sick to work.  He was often sent home from school due to lack of school fees, and only went part-time in order to help his family.  In the afternoons he worked to support his mom and siblings. Jack collected firewood, guavas, sweet potatoes, sugarcane and even termites when they were in season. All these he sold in the market to get food for the family.

Jacktone’s mother died that same year.  Jack, his brother, and his sister were left total orphans. An uncle allowed them to stay with his family, though there was little food.

When Jacktone was in 7th grade, Jerusa Ong’ondo, the Clinic Director at BayWay Health Center, introduced him and his siblings to Katie Nye, an AFA member visiting the village. Katie took the three students, along with 7 others, to Luanda market to buy school uniforms, book bags, and sandals.  (This was the start of AFA’s school uniform project – see the AFA uniform project webpage)

Jacktone continued to go to school, though his uncle pressured him to leave school and tend livestock to bring home money to the family.  Jack insisted on his education, and at the age of 15 he moved out of his uncle’s house, building a small cottage where he could stay with his younger brother. This gave him the freedom to decide for himself about his education, but also meant that he had to continue to look for ways to provide food because his uncle would no longer feed them.  During all the school holidays he worked to improve the house and farm so that his brother and sister could eat while he was away at boarding school. Neighbors and even schools around his home came to him to buy the vegetables that he grew.

Jacktone maintained his relationship with Katie Nye, who paid his secondary school fees and assisted him and his siblings with household needs. After finishing secondary school, Jacktone met Susan Pranger and Dan Thomas, who were in Esabalu with Deb Carey on an AFA visit.  Susan and Dan went on to establish a close relationship with Jacktone, and supported him through college.  Jack graduated from Moi University’s School of Public Health this spring.

Meanwhile, Amesbury for Africa’s Deb Welch partnered with the YMCA of Southern New Hampshire to bring Jacktone to the U.S. for a visit.  Jack is working as a counselor at YMCA Camp Lincoln in Kingston, NH for the summer and will return to Kenya in mid-September.  After he returns, he hopes to work in community health, go on to continue his studies, and support his brother and sister to make lives for themselves.

While here, he will be staying with local friends and families associated with Amesbury for Africa, particularly with his many American “Mothers” and “Aunties”.

Jacktone’s story is one among many of people from our two sister communities who have joined together for a better life.  Amesbury for Africa is truly “a friendship-based development partnership”.

Jacktone with Sue Pranger and Dan Thomas – Boston Harbor Tour

Jacktone with Sue Pranger and Dan Thomas – Boston Harbor Tour


Ebussamba Primary receives New Library

Imagine going to school with no books! There are no story books in your home. And no school books in your backpack. When you get to school, the books aren’t there either. You have to find a buddy who has a textbook. Then you and two or three of your friends can share the book together.

That was how things used to be at the Ebussamba Primary School in Amesbury’s sister village of Esabalu, Kenya. But now, thanks to the generosity of the Rotary Club of Amesbury and the Rotary Club of Maseno, Kenya, the village school has a reading room/library to provide access to schoolbooks for all 900 students in grades 1 to 8.
The school headmaster and school council provided a classroom. Vibrant Villages, an American NGO in Portland, Oregon, provided library training for the staff. They also bought building materials to build out the existing space. School parents provided volunteer labor. The two Rotary Clubs, with a matching grant from Rotary International, provided funds to buy the books.

The Ebussamba Primary School Library was completed and dedicated in May 2015. The entire project was completed ahead of deadline and under budget! At the dedication, the representative of the Ministry of Education announced that this was the first primary school to have a library in the whole district. The parents and teachers are so proud of their accomplishment.
Students using library
The new library can hold 100 students at a time and there are sufficient textbooks so that every student can be studying his or her lessons with his/her own book.