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At 22 years old Gemma Sisia travelled to Uganda to volunteer as a teacher, where she taught girls science and sewing. This experience led to a fervent belief that a free, high-quality education should be the right of all children in the world and that education is the strongest weapon in the fight against poverty, corruption and political instability. Upon returning to her native Australia, Gemma fundraised to help underprivileged children in East Africa complete their schooling. She would raise enough money to start an official fund to invest in the education of East Africa’s poorest children. Along with the gift of a small plot of land in Arusha, Tanzania, Gemma began to build The School of St Jude with the help of friends, family and Rotary groups.

Gemma Sisia

Timeline

2017

Golden Moments

  • St Jude’s hosts the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay. 
Gemma holds the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Relay Baton
2016
Gemma, Richard and the 60 Minutes crew

A household name

  • 131 graduates celebrate Form 6 Graduation with hundreds of local and international St Jude’s community members.
  • St Jude’s features on 60 Minutes, viewed by over 800,000 Australian households.
  • Our first Beyond St Jude’s scholars start university, with over a third enrolled in medicine.
  • Form 6 graduate, Dorice, is the first St Jude’s graduate to travel to Australia with Gemma.
  • St Jude’s establishes a Future Fund to underwrite the long term future of the school.
2015

Beyond St Jude's

  • We educate 1,899 students with 1,389 in boarding.
  • 93% of our 339 staff are Tanzanian.
  • Bus fleet reaches 27.
  • On 30th May we celebrate our inaugural Form 6 graduation with 61 graduates and over 1,000 family, community members, students, staff, and international visitors.
  • Our first Beyond St Jude’s (BSJ interns commence their community service year, teaching over 10,000 children in 21 government schools.
One of our first graduates
2014
Picture with the whole school the first time we had students in every year level

St Jude’s becomes a full school

  • The first class of Form 6 students started in May, giving St Jude’s a class in every grade.
  • The building program, which spanned more than a decade, was finally completed
  • The School Boards (both local and international) approved the St Jude’s Beyond High School Program, which will see our students continue on to their Community Service year and further education after successfully completing Form 6.
2013

Felix visits Australia

  • Felix Mollel was the first Tanzanian staff member to officially travel overseas to represent St Jude’s and promote the school
  • Our Form 4 exam results placed St Jude’s 3rd in the region and 20th in the nation
  • In December, the school building program finished with our final two boarding houses completed at Smith Campus
Felix presenting to students in Australia
2012
Happy 10th anniversary!

Ten year anniversary

We celebrate our 10-year anniversary on 29th January.

Campus dedications

  • Moshono campus is dedicated to the Sisia family, becoming Sisia Primary Campus.
  • Usa River campus is dedicated to the Smith family, becoming Smith Secondary Campus.
  • Form 4 national exam results place us first in the Arusha Region and 7th in Tanzania.
  • Australian Financial Review and Westpac nominate Gemma as one of the ‘100 Women of Influence'.
The Smith family are honored
2011
Medical checks

Over 850,000 meals served

  • A worldwide appeal for a new sportsground raises over $115,000
  • St Jude’s provides over 850,000 meals this year
2010

Arusha inter-school sports champs

  • We educate over 1,300 students (with 900 in boarding), employ over 340 local staff, and serve 772,000 meals.
  • 10% salary sacrifice is abandoned.
  • Our Form 2 students rank third out of 302 schools in the National Exams— North West Zone.
  • Bus fleet grows to 20.
Inaugural Science Day
2009
St Jude's students participate in World AIDS Day

Secondary school opens

  • Gemma is again featured on Australian Story and speaks at Australia’s Parliament House. 
  • Moshono Secondary Campus opens with 51 Form 1 students. It’s the first time selections for Form 1 are held.
  • 150 staff and students attend President Kikwete dinner.
  • The GFC hits: 47 retrenched and 10% salary sacrifice is introduced.
  • We have three Tanzanian headmasters.
2008

Usa River campus opens

  • We educate 989 students and employ 330 local staff.
  • Usa River Primary Campus opens with 500 students, 250 of whom move into new boarding houses.
  • Our first Grade 7 class sits National Exams and all perform in the top 10% of the country. Alex Elifas is 23rd out of over one million students.
Usa River Campus grand opening
2007
Gemma with the Governor-General

Moivaro boarding campus opens

  • The first annual medical check team comes to St Jude’s. 
  • Gemma receives an Order of Australia award.
  • Australian launch of Gemma’s book, St Jude’s.
  • We educate 850 students and employ 127 local staff.
  • Moivaro boarding campus opens for 300 students.
2006

662 students, 114 staff

  • We educate 662 students and employ 114 local staff.
  • The first Culture Day is held at St Jude.
  • 30 acres at Usa River is bought for a second campus.
  • First St Jude’s Day celebration. Now an annual event, students give thanks and participate in a competition for the St Jude’s cup.
St Jude's Day performance
2005

Standard 4 students ranked 3rd out of 204 schools

  • Gemma is featured in Australian Story (ABC).
  • Parents’ Committee reaches 20 members.
  • Australian Richard Pagliaro creates our first website.
  • Moshono dining hall opens.
  • Our first Grade 4 students sit National Exam and rank third of 204 schools in the district.
2004

Hot lunches introduced

  • We educate 120 students and employ 23 local staff.
  • We educate 423 students and employ over 80 local staff.
  • We build a library, football field, and 12 new classrooms. Our bus fleet grows to eight.
  • Students and staff can now enjoy hot lunches.
  • St Jude’s connects to the internet. 
Hot lunches are introducted
2003
Edina, one of our first sponsored students

120 students, 23 staff

  • We educate 120 students and employ 23 local staff.
  • The yellow house is built. Volunteers no longer stay in tents..
2002

First day of school

  • St Jude’s opens on 29th January with three students and teacher, Angela Bailey.
  • The School Board and Parents’ Committee are formed.
  • Rotary Australia offers tax deductibility special thanks to Monica Hart and Jack Elliot.
St Jude's first volunteer, Angela Bailey, with the first students
Gemma and Kim hard at work

School board and parents’ committee

  • The school board is formed
  • The Parents’ Committee is formed with five parents
2001

Gemma moves to Tanzania

Gemma makes Tanzania home.

Gemma and Richard in the library
2000
First new block

Rotary volunteers arrive

Rotary Club of Armidale Central builds our first classroom block.

1998

Land gifted for school

Daniel Sisia gives Gemma and Richard two acres of land for a school. Gemma receives her first donation of $10 from Agnes Hanna to kickstart the fundraising.

The original block of land

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