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