FORM Six graduate Suleiman remembers the moment when he had to step up and become a leader in the visitors’ team.
The aspiring doctor chose to spend this year in our Visitors’ team through the Beyond St Jude’s community service program, developing his skills and helping the supporters who made his free education possible.
“When I started, I had to do mostly paperwork, then (Visitors Coordinator) Bernadetta put me in charge of a tour group and I will always treasure that responsibility,” Suleiman said.
“I did the itinerary, prepared the room, booked trips, and when they came I took them to an orphanage and I just found myself crying as I helped heating milk and changing diapers.”
An orphan himself, Suleiman was determined to showcase ‘the real Arusha’ to his charge of visitors.
The next day he took his guests to Plaster House, which offers pre and post-operative care to children undergoing corrective surgeries, and TanzHandz which provides education and employment opportunities to people with disabilities.
“That day was intensely emotional; one of the girls in the group started to say something and then she fainted in my hands. As I was taking her to the doctor, next door, two more girls fainted.”
As group leader, Suleiman took it upon himself to comfort the young women.
“I said to the whole group, you should be thankful for what you have seen, you should be happy. There are so many out there who do not have these chances and maybe they are even more desperate,” he said.
“Then I said, when you go back to Australia, you should not take anything for granted and always live a life mindful of those who have less.”
Enock is Suleiman’s best friend. All of our 2015 graduates placed in the top 10% of Tanzania in their national exams, and Enock finished right alongside Suleiman, at the top of the top. He also interns in our Visitors center.
“We like it so much,” Enock said. “We meet all these different visitors, we sit together with them and they are smiling and that is really nice, and it’s a very regular feeling for us.
“By the end of a visit you always end up treating a visitor more like family than a friend and when they are leaving you feel it, you know.”
Enock was one of the very first students to be accepted at St Jude’s and, like Suleiman, he has had a steep learning curve this year, literally – in the course of his internship he has summited Mt Kilimanjaro!
Enock was assistant coordinator on a Kili climb and personally took it upon himself to make sure every participant summited.
Both interns discuss ‘growing out of responsibility’ and how, in hindsight, they have learnt and matured a lot.
Responsibilities don’t end when they leave the office, though. Both Sule and Enock taught in government schools after graduating Form 4, and they continue to tutor every night after work.
“We teach in the afternoons, evenings and weekends now, kids from different government schools in our neighborhood, so even though we are here in the Visitors' center in the day, we also get to teach,” Suleiman said.
Fifty of our inaugural graduates chose to participate in the Community Service Program, some like Suleiman and Enock are interning at St Jude’s, and the bulk are teaching approximately 10,000 students across 18 government schools. All together, our graduates log over 2000 volunteer hours a week.
“One of the things I enjoy most in my life is meeting new people, so community service, like the word itself, community, I love!” Enock said, when asked to reflect on this year and if he would change anything.
“And my time working in the visitor’s center, I loved, I still love.”
If you want to share a smile and become part of Suleiman and Enock’s family before they head off to university, start planning a visit to St Jude’s today – We Love Visitors.