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!
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”.