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Tamworth teacher's visit to Guinea proves to be a life-changing event

Union Leader Correspondent

March 30. 2014 6:43PM
Tamworth teacher John Marlowe in the Kouya Sidia, Guinea. (COURTESY)

TAMWORTH — A love of drums, particularly African drumming, prompted teacher John Marlowe to visit Guinea, an African country that Marlowe describes as "one of the worst countries in the world."

But Marlowe's two-week visit to the country in late December changed his life forever. He visited a village called Kouya Sidia, and learned to love the 400 people living there.

"I found I can't just escape back into my own world again here, because I know they are still over there," said Marlowe, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at the Kenneth A. Brett School in Tamworth.

Marlowe, of Moultonborough, went to the country with his 5-year-old son Jamie to meet popular African drummer Sayon Camara.

As the two were planning the trip, Jamie Marlowe came up with an idea.

"He said, 'Dad, let's do a lemonade stand to help them,'" John Marlowe said.

Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world , with a yearly income below $450. Jamie Marlowe had seen pictures of the village's one-room schoolhouse, which had benches, not seats, for the 120 students in the school, as well as a large chalkboard for the school's one teacher.

The Marlowes learned that children in the village had no paper, no pencils, no backpacks, and barely enough money to purchase school uniforms, required for all students in Guinea.

"In fact, the average number of years a village child attends school in Guinea is a little over two years," John Marlowe said.

"Families often need to decide between sending their second or third child to school or to have them purchasing and gathering food for the family."

Jamie Marlowe set up his lemonade stand, and in two weekends he raised more than $130. Word of his stand to aid the children of Kouya Sidia spread, and soon stands were set up in Sandwich, Moultonborough, Tamworth, Madison and as far away as a town in Vermont, John Marlowe said.

By the time Marlowe was set to leave in mid-December, more than $2,600 was raised. Once in Guinea, Marlowe used the money to buy and deliver essential supplies for the children of the village.

"Because Guinea is such a poor country, there was enough money to purchase an amazing amount of materials," he said, including 160 school uniforms, allowing every school-age child in the village access to education for the school year; 180 pairs of shoes; 160 backpacks; 140 personal chalkboards for the students, more than 4,000 pieces of chalk; 480 notebooks; and more than 4,000 pencils.

Marlowe will be telling his story at area schools. On April 10 at 7 p.m., he'll be giving a presentation at the Madison Library.

He'll be at the Moultonborough town library on April 17 at 6:30 p.m.

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