Rotary and St Jude's

The School of St Jude is one of the Rotary’s ongoing success stories. Since the beginning of The School of St Jude’s, Rotary and Rotarians have given endless support.

How did it begin?

When Gemma first had the idea of starting a free private school for the poorest children in Africa with just a $10 donation from her friend, she knew she would need a major support system. It was at this time Gemma’s father, Basil, introduced her to Rotary. She was given the opportunity to speak to her local Rotary club in her hometown of Armidale, New South Wales. With the help of the extremely generous Armidale, Tamworth and Inverell Rotary and Inner Wheel clubs, by the end of the weekend, an estimated $20,000 had been raised towards helping make Gemma’s dream a reality.

The Armidale Central Rotary Club were so inspired they came forward and organised a team of a dozen volunteers to travel to Arusha, Tanzania and help build the first six classrooms. A team of seven couples from the Gosford North Rotary Club shortly followed to help build the second classroom block. Following the visits from these two teams St Jude’s opened in January 2002. By Easter of 2002 another Rotary team from The Erina Rotary Club came to build the playground, followed by the Brisbane Planetarium Club who built the foundations of the library block. 

Both the Rocklea and Armidale Central Rotary clubs have helped immensely and their support continues to this very day with St Jude’s regularly receiving containers with much needed supplies.

In 2008 Gemma was honored with an invitation to address the Rotary Conference in America. It was a wonderful opportunity to raise funds and get The School of St Jude’s recognised at an international level. It was in America Gemma met with various Rotary club such as Rushmore Rapid City Rotary Club in South Dakota and The Grapevine and Wichita Falls Rotary clubs in Texas.

What's happening now?

Rotary continues to support The School of St Jude and each year Gemma attends various Rotary District Conferences from all over the world from Australia and New Zealand to America. 

Many Rotary contributions are providing long-term benefits to the school including the water storage tanks, half of our school buses and the solar water heaters for our boarding houses.

Our hope for the future

St Jude’s hopes to continue to work with Rotary and is dedicated to contributing its time and resources to help produce future Rotarians.


The School of St Jude’s has started the first East African EarylAct club (designed for students aged between 5-13). One of their project is the recycling of paper. They busily make the most of our disposable waste by creating paper mache artworks as a gift towards our fellow Arusha Mt Meru Rotary Club. 


The School of St Jude’s has also created the Interact club which is run by secondary students aged between 12-18. One of their project is Blackboard dusters made from the recycled foam of old mattresses which helps reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. The soft, spongey material is perfect for a new life as a duster!


The newly charted Rotaract club is for staff members and interns (aged between 18-30) dedicated to helping the community. The current project is the Vijana Poa Project. As a youth unemployment program, Vijana Poa (which translates to ‘Youth is Cool’ in Swahili) provides workshops in entrepreneurship, secures internships and support (including small start-up loans) to help participants set up small businesses.

Word of thanks from Gemma

“Thanks so much to all the past and present Rotarians and District Governors of Rotary clubs and districts in so many parts of the world for helping my dream get off the ground. I have discovered what an extraordinary institution Rotary is – how many lives have been positively changed, children educated, families supported and diseases eradicated around the world. Keep going and never give up, for you are giving hope to people in almost every town in the world.”