South Fayette junior to travel to Kenya with school supplies

| Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

An award from the Bridgeville-South Fayette Rotary Association spurred an interest in humanitarian work for South Fayette High School junior Abbey Whitewood.

After she received the award in the eighth grade, Abbey met Martina Achieng Amoth, a Kenyan, through her church. In 2004, Abbey's mother went to Kenya with Martina, delivering medical supplies to an impoverished hospital in Pap-Onditi and building a well in Siaya.

“After my mother's experiences, just like the Rotarians, I realized one person can make a difference if she tries,” said Abbey.

So she created Community Without Borders in 2013 as part of her senior graduation project. She is working through Martina's organization, Education Effect Africa. One of the communities where Martina works is the Mathare slum near Nairobi, home to more than 500,000 people living in shanties and shacks. These rural communities lack sanitary water and the children are malnourished, attending schools in crowded mud huts with not enough textbooks or blackboards and where the teacher writes the lessons in the dirt.

Half of Kenya's population of 44 million people live below the poverty level and survive on less than $1 a day.

Abbey's organization is committed to building fresh water wells. She has additionally partnered with the Rotary of Concord, Mass. and the Rotary of Karura, Kenya which have given matching grants to Education Effect Africa. Another goal is collecting school supplies. She hopes to purchase 100 sets of textbooks at $15 per set, 100 backpacks at $2,500, chalkboards that cost $35 each and desks that are $50.

To assist in these efforts, South Fayette High School has recently set up a collection spot for school supplies such as pencils, paper and pens, and playground toys like jump ropes and tennis balls. All donations go directly to these items.

Abbey, her mother Deb, and her sister Katie will be traveling to Kenya this summer for three weeks. At that time, they will stay with Martina and travel around, distributing supplies or purchasing more for delivery to the schools in the bush.

In addition to founding her organization, Abbey is an honors student at South Fayette High School, involved in Teen Institute and National Honor Society, and is a leader for her church youth group.

“I believe that by involving the community, we will be able to show others that we care for these Kenyan children even if we have never met them,” Abbey said. “I know my life will be changed forever because of this experience. I thank everyone who has chosen to help me in my endeavors.”

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Charlotte Smith is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at 724-693-9441 or

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