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!

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.

Esinamutu Widows – Goats from Amesbury Interact Club

A widow receives a goat

The Interact Club of Amesbury High School has actively supported the Esinamutu Widows Group in Esabalu, Kenya.  The widows have lost their husbands due to various causes including accidents and HIV/AIDS virus.  They meet twice a month to support each other.  In addition to emotional support and assistance for new widows, the group takes up a small collection at each meeting and gives the collection to each member in rotation. This is called the “merry-go-round”.  The group also receives training from Amesbury for Africa to help them with income generation. In 2011, they were trained in the raising of dairy goats.

The Interact Club of Amesbury High School was the donor of the animals.  In 2011, the Interactors had a bake sale and candy sale.  They  raised $360 which was enough money to buy 5 female dairy goats and one graded buck.  The goats were purchased locally by Shery Otwoma and given to 5 of the Esinamutu widows just before Christmas 2011. The goats all had kids in the spring – 3 males and 2 females.  Their milk provides nutrition for the families of the 5 widows. The sale of surplus milk and the male offspring provides the family income.

After weaning, the 2 female goats will be given to other Esinamutu group members. Also, the Interact Club is hoping to buy two more goats this year. Eventually there will be enough goats for all the widows.

Bedding for Children with Special Needs

Mom and daughter enjoy their new blanket and bed

On Sept 21, 2012 the children at Ekwanda Special Needs school received a special gift from Amesbury for Africa.  Esabalu Board Members, Shery Otwoma & Julius Owuor, distributed a mattress and blanket to every student. Some children board at the school and others live in the surrounding community. But every child received the gift of his or her own place to sleep.  Most never had a mattress or a warm blanket before!

The Ekwanda Special Needs school has received our help since we found out about it on our last trip to Kenya in January.  School uniforms, a place to sleep and books seem like a miracle to the kids and teachers at the school. Their morale has never been higher.  Each child feels that someone cares and that he or she is truly special.  – Deb Welch & Mark Bean