We’d like to introduce you to Catherine, mother of St Jude’s student Augustino who is in Standard 2. Catherine is a remarkable individual, a Tanzanian woman with immense compassion and resilience. Every day is a struggle for her, an upward battle against cyclical poverty. She is currently raising three children while also caring for her cousin’s child. This Mother’s Day we’d like to share the story of Catherine because her selflessness and great strength are an inspiration to everyone at St Jude’s and should be to the world.

Catherine, her husband and children live in dire conditions. The family of six rent one room in a shared compound with other families. It’s overcrowded and resources are scarce. The families share a water tap, toilet and wash room. There’s no internal plumbing, or electricity. Buckets of water for cooking, drinking, washing and cleaning are collected from a nearby tap for a small per-bucket fee. To support the family, her husband farms his plot of land in Babati which is three hours away, meaning during harvesting season he’ll be away from Catherine and the household. What he’ll manage to grow – maize and beans – and sell will be their main source of income.

Catherine is also pregnant and expecting her fourth child any day now. With the impending addition of a fifth child to her flock, she’ll need all the help in any way possible as every day she must think about where her family’s next meal will come from. One of her main concerns is having enough food for her children and herself. Like other Tanzanian mothers, she has more worries than most women around the globe. More than 12 million Tanzanians live below the poverty line and don’t have access to safe water, food or a proper education. The women then have to do menial work like selling vegetables on the side of the road; just to keep the family alive. Everyday, Catherine cooks a fish and peanut dish to sell in town and make a bit of money. She doesn’t have much but will use the few ingredients that she has.

It is a constant struggle for Catherine, but she continues on, and we do what we can at St Jude’s, which is to give her son, Augustino, a completely free education. It’s one less thing she now has to worry about. We provide her son hot, nutritious meals everyday, give him a safe environment to learn and expand his creativity and imagination. We want Augustino to teach his siblings what he learns, to help them with their studies. A proper education can transform lives and the success of our students is testament to that. 

“I’ve seen a lot of difference since Augustino started studying here, he’s become smart, he’s more polite, he’s hardworking,” Catherine says. “I’m very thankful to St Jude’s.”

We fully support Catherine as she raises her family and love that we can help take some of the load off her shoulders. This Mother’s Day, we invite you to salute Catherine’s strength and all of the mothers of our St Jude’s students.

Australia’s Rotary community crossed paths with a young woman with a big heart, $10 in her pocket, and a dream to fulfill. What they did next changed the lives of thousands of Northern Tanzanian families forever.

When Gemma Sisia went back to Australia after her life-changing stay in Africa, she knew she would have to pull off a major fundraising feat in order to obtain the money necessary to build the school of her dreams.

It was her dad who had the brilliant idea. On his advice, she contacted Rotary, essentially a network of passionate individuals with a history of pulling together to help others.

Gemma and a family friend, David Steller, worked the phones and in no time engaged members of local Rotary clubs in Australia, who, in turn, brought local schools on board.  

Together this group of energetic idealists found an ingenious way of communicating with a large number of people: they put up a table in a shopping mall where volunteers took turns selling $2 paper bricks (made using clip art and a photocopier) representing the building works that needed financing. In a few months, Gemma managed to raise the necessary funds. 

Thus began the long-term partnership between The School of St Jude and Rotary.

Gemma’s inspiring story and her reputation as a passionate and engaging speaker led to many invitations to speak at Rotary Clubs. From then on, the number of people, Rotary clubs, schools, institutions, churches and businesses interested in supporting the cause snowballed. 

When it was time to actually build the school, Rotarians did not pull back to watch from a distance. Armidale Central Rotary Club organized a group of 13 volunteers to come and build the first block of classrooms in 2000. This was the first of many volunteer teams of Rotarians to come to Arusha, roll up their sleeves, and get personally involved with the school.

Rotarians who remained in Australia never missed a beat. They helped with the collection and transportation of computers, library and school books, teaching aids, classroom equipment, sports equipment, sewing machines, clothes and an endless list of goods.   

When the time came to give St Jude’s tax-deductible status, the school was registered as an official Rotary project. 

The story of this friendship is still being told. Many Rotarians visit us each year. They are generous sponsors of our students, teachers, buses and boarding rooms. Our partnership with the Rotary community is one of our most treasured assets to this day.

“We couldn’t have made it without the Rotarians,” says Gemma.