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The School of St Jude is fighting poverty through education

Gemma Sisia founded The School of St Jude in 2002 to bring free, quality education to children living in poverty.

A pioneering leader in charitable education within Africa, The School of St Jude brings free education to 1,800 bright children, supports hundreds of graduates with access to higher education and has provided more than 20,000 government school students with volunteer teachers each year.

And it all started with this one amazing lady, Gemma Sisia, who came from a small country town in Australia. She set up The School of St Jude in her husband's home country of Tanzania with just three students and one volunteer teacher. That has now grown to a 3-campus school, upholding the right to education for all children regardless of circumstance, fighting to overcome intergenerational poverty.

The Power of the Collective

'This too shall pass...'

"It's been 21 years of challenges. This is my favourite saying that I keep repeating to myself over and over during bad times, and to remind me to appreciate the good times too. The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on us. We usually have more than 1,000 people visit St Jude's from all over. COVID-19 brought that to a halt. The entire Tanzanian economy was affected as well because tourists stopped coming.

"I've learnt to look for solutions instead of focusing on the problem. Many people had lost their jobs because of the pandemic and communities were going hungry. I knew St Jude's could do something. During the lockdown, we packaged and distributed around 3,000 COVID-19 Family Care Packages (with staples e.g. maize, beans, rice and hand sanitizers, bleach and instructions on making a face mask without using a sewing machine) to our students' families and vulnerable members of the community. These packs gave hope to many, and for us, it showed us the power of the collective and how we can all make a difference."

Sponsor a Future Leader

"Madeleine Kelly wrote a book about our school called The School that Hope Built. It beautifully captures the stories of St Jude's alumni. Maddie worked at St Jude's for nearly six years and helped to set up our Alumni department. We are really proud of our alumni, who are turning out to be the moral and intellectual leaders who are lifting their communities to growth and prosperity.

Enock's Story

"Enock Ephrahim is one of our alumni working in this department. He joined St Jude's in 2003 when he was in Grade 2. This little boy came from a very large and very poor family not far from Sisia Campus in Moshono Village. Enock's father worked as a security guard at a local hotel. He spoke very little English, worked very long hours often overnight, outdoors regardless of the weather. Enock used to borrow Ladybird books from St Jude's library and take them home to read with his father. This led this such an improvement in his English that he was offered a promotion to work behind the Reception desk at the hotel.

"When Enock graduated from St Jude's, he was awarded an external scholarship to study Financial Economics at the University of Rochester in New York. During Enock's university years, he worked three part-time jobs on campus and saved some of his scholarship stipend. He sent money home to Tanzania and paid for the university fees of three younger siblings. These siblings are now respectively a lawyer, a geography teacher and a business consultant. Enock's heart for giving doesn't stop with giving to his immediate family either. When Enock heard that we were distributing Covid-19 Family Care Packages to the community, while he was still in the US studying, he organised for St Jude's alumni to fundraise so that they could donate care packages to be given to others in need. Receiving that email from Enock was one of my proudest moments."

Doctor Hosiana's Story "Another great story is that of Doctor Hosiana, one of our first students to graduate with a degree in Medicine. Hosiana completed her degree in 2021 and was the top of her graduating class at Tanzania's most prestigious medical and allied health university, Muhimbili. I travelled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's biggest city, to attend the graduation. Hosiana gave a speech on behalf of her class in front of thousands, including the former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, who was the guest of honour. She thanked St Jude's for her free, quality education that allowed her, a girl who was raised in poverty in a mud-brick house, to reach her dream of becoming a doctor.

"Recently, my mother-in-law had a terrible asthma attack, so my husband Richard and I had to rush her to the Emergency Department hospital in Arusha. Who was there to help us when we arrived? Doctor Hosiana. She took my mother-in-law's handbag from her, took mine, and said, "Don't worry, follow me!" Hosiana ensured that my mother-in-law received the best medical treatment possible."

St Jude’s a registered charity and international non-governmental organisation (iNGO). It is thanks to their generous community of supporters that they are able to provide education to thousands of primary, secondary and higher education students. To join their community of supporters in providing free, quality education to the future leaders of Tanzania, you can sponsor here:

Giving back to the community

"I hope our graduates succeed in their careers and give back to their community. It is my hope that they can use the alumni network to nurture one another. Without families that have an economic influence in society, it is vital that our graduates can grow their own network and stay connected as an alumni. It's about returning to lift each other up.

"When turtles hatch on the beach, they run down to the ocean. Then, as they are growing up, they don't surface on the sand again. They are trying to grow strong and to out-swim predators. But one day, when they are strong and ready, they'll come back to the beach to make their own nests. Your alumni will be the same. When they finish university, you probably won't see them for 10 or so years as they work tirelessly to 'make it' in their fields, but when they are established, you'll hear that they are the CEOs, government officials and community leaders you've encouraged them to aspire to through education at St Jude's." - one of St Jude's supporters from Melbourne who gifted Gemma a small ceramic turtle

I am already seeing our 'turtles' return and that gives me great hope. I want to continue to enhance the holistic education of our students, which has been a big push at the school in recent years, to ensure they are well-equipped to deal with life outside our blue-and-gold school gates. I hope we continue to unearth and nurture the raw talents of our artists, sportspeople and musicians and encourage students with talents in those areas to shine. This year we opened an art gallery, and we have recently had students competing at national and international sporting levels. There is much to hope towards in the future."

This has been an incredible journey of two decades. An Australian girl's simple vision of education has been made real, and it is breaking the cycle of poverty, one student at a time.


The School of St Jude

Contact information for Tanzania, Australia and America can be found here.


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