The final week of April, 2020 made history for The School of St Jude. It was a week that taught us the true tenacity of our school community. It taught us that, in times of crisis, there’s nothing more important than lending a hand. It reminded us the value of our fiercely loyal supporters.
Ironically, even though we cannot be physically close during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve never felt more connected. We have you to thank for that.
When, Founding Director, Gemma Sisia, launched a mini-appeal to raise funds for COVID-19 Family Care Packages, she couldn’t have prepared for the solidarity expressed by our sponsors and donors.
The idea to assemble packages came to Gemma when a government decree was issued, declaring indefinite closure of schools.
“I’ve always said, ‘St Jude’s has the best supporters in the whole world!’” Gemma commented.
“Yet again, they’ve proven this true. Even though many of them are suffering, they’ve still been willing to help us address the pandemic,” she added.
Within a week of the idea’s inception, the vast majority of staff were on the task, assembling 2,000 COVID-19 Family Care Packages. The packs contain staple foods: rice, maize and beans. They also contain soap, bleach, sanitiser and instructions on how to make a mask at home. Individual home study packs and exercise books were included, too.
Each of our students and Community Service Year (CSY) interns received a package, which provides additional means for our families to protect themselves against COVID-19.
In our greatest operation of ‘divide and conquer’, staff and CSY interns criss-crossed Northern Tanzania over two days, distributing COVID-19 Family Care Packages along 29 school bus routes.
Each team returned with heartfelt stories of gratitude, humanity, and connection in a time of separation.
Head of Beyond St Jude’s, Vivian, told of a particularly moving moment that conveys the wonderful work of the school.
Vivian and her team boarded one of St Jude’s iconic buses in the early hours of the morning on Saturday 2nd May. Soon after, they pulled into a nearby, densely populated village to deliver packages to our families. The distribution team was greeted with grateful applause and cries of ‘Mungu akubariki’ – God bless you.
“I did not quite realise just how much this support was needed and appreciated by our families. It was a privilege to be able to offer a little extra help,” said Vivian.
For many people within Tanzania, maintaining social distance is challenging. Our poorest civilians rely on crowded public transport to travel to and from markets, selling produce from dawn to dusk, earning a minimal wage. This reality is uncomfortably close to home for the parents of our students, including Mama Nelson, who had a particular impact on Vivian.
“Mama Nelson’s child studies at Smith Secondary Campus. She sells dagaa (packaged, dry sardines) by the roadside. The family lives below the poverty line. When I passed her the package, tears filled her eyes,” Vivian shared.
Mama Nelson expressed sincere thanks to St Jude’s, in a profound exchange the distribution team will not soon forget.
“You cannot imagine how this is going to help me,” Mama Nelson expressed.
“I have been sending my children to sleep on a diet of maize porridge only for one week. Now, I can feed our family.”
Your continued support has not only ensured full stomachs, but full hearts. Closed borders have no bearing on the impact of St Jude’s international family, nor the inspiring example it sets for the world.