The East African Fund Incorporated (EAF) represents the Australian support base of The School of St Jude. Established by Gemma Sisia in 1999, EAF was founded so that The School of St Jude would have a solid legal foundation in Australia to support the work in Tanzania. EAF is registered in New South Wales and was granted full tax deductibility by the Australian Government effective July 1st, 2014.
For The School of St Jude to be a fully developed and sustainable school community, working to alleviate poverty through education and therefore breaking the cycle of dependency on external aid.
To embrace and support The School of St Jude in its mission, working in partnership to ensure its long-term sustainability through guidance, monitoring and capacity building.
EAF keeps costs to a minimum such that more than 98 cents in every dollar collected from supporters goes direct to the school. Through EAF, Australian based supporters provide over ninety per cent of all funds donated to support the school.
Mark Cubit became a director of The School of St Jude in 2010.
He manages two charitable foundations based in Australia which support over fifty projects in fifteen countries. In addition he advises on a number of investment portfolios, having previously spent fifteen years with Merrill Lynch Australia. He completed his formal education with a Bachelor of Economics from Monash University.
He became involved with St Jude’s firstly as a donor in 2005. As the years went by and the school grew, he came to the opinion that St Judes was one of the most successful solutions to poverty he had come across and so sought a greater involvement.
Gemma is the Founder and driving force behind St Jude’s and set up the school in 2002. She has a loving family including her husband, Richard Sisia, and their four children Nathaniel, Jackob, Isabella and Louisa.
Gemma was the only daughter of Sue and Basil Rice and was raised alongside seven brothers on a fine wool sheep station outside of Armidale in the New England Tablelands, north of Sydney.
At 22 years of age, Gemma set off to Africa to teach maths, science and sewing to girls in Kalangu, a rural village in the middle of Uganda. While in East Africa, she saw how children, families and communities were crippled by a lack of education. Later, her father-in-law gave her land on which to build her school in Arusha, Tanzania. The school started in 2002 and provides an education to the poorest children from the local region.
Gemma and St Jude’s supporters have tirelessly fundraised so the school can provide a quality education to the poorest of the poor.
Gemma’s mottos are to fight poverty through education and that education is a right not a privilege.
Robin became involved with St Jude’s in 2005 when she met Gemma at a presentation in Melbourne. She was impressed with the vision and mission of the school. She became involved as a donor, function organizer, sponsor, Australian Financial Coordinator and EAF board member.
She enjoys contact with many of the donors and hearing of their commitment and passion for the school. She has been retired since 2011. Since then, she has been involved with the East African Fund and as a technology tutor with U3A.
Her previous work experience includes working as a senior teacher and conducting professional development in ICT curriculum integration. She spent 3 years with the St Albert School Board in Alberta and had an International Teaching Fellowship to Arizona. She worked part-time as an educational consultant for dk2, and for The Smith Family.
Sarah has been an enthusiastic member of St Jude’s since she volunteered at the school in 2009. She later became secretary of the East African Fund. Sarah continues to promote the school through her role as a Fundraising and Events Coordinator in Australia.
She has met many of the school’s donors and supporters over the years from her time working at St Jude’s.
Sarah is also an interior designer and her other main areas of expertise are in fundraising and event coordination. She has a degree in Built Environment majoring in Interior Design, a Diploma in Photographic Imaging and a Certificate in Residential Care.
She is based in Australia and her focus is on spreading the word about St Jude’s throughout the country.
John became involved with St Jude’s in 2002, when his daughter Angela joined Gemma to give her a hand to open the school. John is retired but has previously worked as a Public Solicitor, Coroner, Local Court Magistrate, Chief Mining Warden and in Legal Administration.
He has been involved as an executive member of a number of professional associations over the past 40 years. He has held positions ranging from an executive member to senior vice president. John has his legal qualifications from Sydney University.
He is responsible for ensuring that each year the EAF meets its legal obligations, principally by the filing of various documents with government departments and attending to other statutory requirements.
Heather is from Melbourne and has specialist knowledge of the not-for-profit sector. She has worked as an executive in non-profit organisations for more than 20 years. She currently works as a National Partnerships Manager with the Beacon Foundation.
Her intimate knowledge of organisations enables them to deliver a competitive advantage through good governance, strong strategic planning and effective change management.
Heather was appointed a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1999 in recognition of her services to the community and to youth. Heather became committed to helping St Jude’s after hearing Gemma speak at a Rotary District Conference in Hobart. She admired Gemma’s vision, enthusiasm and leadership, coupled with the enormity and importance of the task of building St Jude’s.
Shean Gannon became a board member of the East Africa Fund in 2013.
Shean has a long association with St Jude’s after volunteering at the school for three years, between 2010 and 2013. In that time, he worked as the Construction Manager to complete the school’s building program, before moving into the role as Business Manager and Acting School Director. He managed the transition of the day to day running of the school, from Gemma, to the new director Jon Ford.
Shean’s family are also very dedicated to St Jude’s with his wife Carmel and son James also volunteering at the school.
In Australia, Shean spent 30 years managing construction projects throughout Australia and the Pacific, He set up and run a number of businesses, including Guard Rail Installations, which he sold in 2006. He is currently a partner with nem Australia, providing business consulting services to small and medium business.
Gemma Sisia’s brother Nicholas has been supporting his sister’s school since it began. He shares her vision that The School of St Jude really can make a difference in fighting poverty through education. He is married and blessed with two wonderful boys.
Nicholas also assists a number of other non-profit organisations. For the past 30 years, he has been involved in the construction and property development industries as managing Director of Rice Developments Pty Ltd and a number of other private companies. During this time they have built and developed predominately commercial buildings on the Eastern seaboard of Australia for both public and private sector clients.
He has completed his formal qualifications as a Carpenter and Joiner as well as a Certificate 4 in Building Management and Clerk of Works.
Kim Saville has been a member of The School of St Jude board since it began.
She is currently employed as Director of International Relations for The School of St Jude and has been working here since 2002. Her previous work experience includes theatre and film production, adventure travel and publishing. Her expertise is in written and verbal communication, public relations and problem solving.
She became involved with St Jude’s as it was an opportunity to offer her services to a worthwhile project in which she really believed.
Noela first connected with the School of St Jude following her daughter’s marriage to a Tanzanian from the Kilimanjaro region.
Subsequently, her grandson attended St Jude’s thereby increasing her involvement with the School. In addition, Noela has engaged in humanitarian projects in Africa through her husband’s membership of Brisbane High Rise Rotary Club. This Club has been a consistent and active supporter of the School of St Jude. She has sponsored a student since 2005.
Noela has formal qualifications in Special Needs Education. She is passionate about the power of education and its ability to change the life trajectories of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Multiple visits to the School of St Jude and exposure to those living in poverty in East African countries, has strengthened her desire to spread the St Jude’s story and to advocate for the school.
Cindy Skarbek has had a long association with St Jude’s when her parents formed the Smith Foundation and became a donor to the school. Cindy’s expertise is in project management and she has extensive experience in insurance and school governance.
She currently serves on the board of governors for Wesley Seminary in Washington D.C. She is also a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter. Previously, she served on the board of an independent college preparatory primary and secondary school in Kentucky and also on Finance, Multicultural, Development and Marketing Committees. She also served as president of two Parent Associations.
Cindy has a great enthusiasm for St Jude’s and her commitment to the school has grown tremendously. Cindy and her family are impressed and support the mission of St Judes which includes the commitment to finding the best teachers and to educate students to be moral leaders in their communities.
I love my work as an ESL Instructor at St Jude’s. The classes are lively and the teachers are keen to advance their English skills. It is so rewarding to know that by helping to improve the teachers’ level of English it will in turn help the many children they teach. Diane Ward, former ESL volunteer, Christchurch, New Zealand
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