NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 11, 2014

Local residents travel to Bura this month


Newburyport Daily News

---- — NEWBURYPORT — Four members of the Newburyport community will be in Bura, Kenya, Newburyport’s Sister City, this month. Each will be working on a different facet of the sister city relationship established by the Greater Newburyport/Bura Alliance (GNBA) in 1992.

The travelers are Dr. Suzanne Abkowitz-Crawford, Katie Nye and her son, Miguel, and Sandra Thaxter.

Abkowitz- Crawford will be taking a donated centrifuge, microscope, medical supplies and soccer balls and equipment with her. The medical equipment and supplies are for the Mwashuma Clinic, a rural health center that GNBA helped build and equip. The clinic provides care for residents who previously had to walk 6 miles for medical assistance.

Soccer balls will be provided to schools throughout the Bura community. These balls, called “One World Futbols,” are especially durable and have been designed to withstand rough playing fields that are often found in the developing world.

GNBA has sponsored an annual soccer tournament for the Bura schools for the past six years. The tournament was inspired by Matthew Crawford during his visit to Bura at the age of 10. After he saw that the kids were playing soccer with balls of trash and plastic bags, he was inspired to collect soccer balls to send to Bura. Now the program involves 600 children from 10 schools and the yearly tournament inspires the whole community. There are 600 certificates and many trophies (also being hand carried) to be awarded at this year’s final match.

Katie Nye’s particular interest is the development of environmental awareness in Bura and Newburyport. She will be working on a tree-planting program established to help arrest erosion on the steeply sloping hillsides of Bura. Miguel, who is 6 years old and attends the River Valley Charter School’s Kinderhaus, will be meeting Bura Primary School students and communicating with his Kinderhaus class via the Internet. Katie and Miguel will carry correspondence from RVCS’ student tree committee, who assist with tree planting in Newburyport, in the hopes of developing a lasting relationship between environmentally minded students in the two sister cities. Nye will also meet with the Mseto Orphans Committee, a women’s self-help group that partners with GNBA to care for and educate Bura’s most vulnerable children.

Thaxter will work on an E-learning project at Bura Primary School. This project was begun by GNBA members Ted Van Nahl and Joanna Hammond in 2011. A grant from the International Club at Masconomet High School in Topsfield provided money to buy 25 XO laptop computers. Bura Primary School provided a classroom and the Kenyan government provided electricity to the school as part of the project. GNBA funds a computer teacher and teacher training at the school.

Thaxter, a member of GNBA, has been in Kenya since the end of January. She is the founder of Small Solutions, a nonprofit group located in Newburyport that focuses on using the XO digital platform. She is working with public schools in Kenya that use XO computers in their teaching curriculum. She will spend a week in Bura where she will give computer training to students and teachers.

GNBA’s mission is cultural exchange. The group plans to broaden this exchange by connecting students in our communities with those in Bura via the Internet. To accomplish this, the group is seeking to send two laptop computers that run Windows 7 to Kenya. Anyone who would like to donate a laptop or funds toward this project is asked to call E-Learning Committee member John Whitlow at: 617-571-1776.

GNBA is planning to host two teachers from Bura for a three-week cultural exchange and training program during the 2015 school year. One of the teachers will have computer and E-learning experience. The other teacher will have a special interest in school and community soccer programs. A plan that involves interaction with local teachers and students, as well as the greater Newburyport community, is being developed. Principals and teachers who would like to participate in this program are invited to contact Lee Harris, a member of the Exchange Planning Committee. She can be reached at 978-462-2287.