St Jude's firmly upholds the principle of equal opportunity for all, regardless of tribe, family, or gender, in accessing education, resources, and opportunities. Over the years the school has taken intentional steps to create a supportive environment where women and girls can thrive and impact their communities.  

First a quick note of the school system here in Tanzania; there are seven years of primary school from Standard 1 to 7, then four years of secondary school called Ordinary Level (O Level) from Form 1 to 4, and then the final two years of secondary school called Advanced Level (A Level), Form 5 and 6.

Here to Help: St Jude’s students waiting in line during the blood drive.

One of the most enduring cultures at St Jude’s is the spirit of compassion and helping those in need. Throughout the year, students and staff support the community in various ways. 

“Every other weekend, our students are out volunteering at an orphanage, cleaning the marketplace, or sharing their skills and knowledge with students from neighbouring schools,” says Focus, a staff and mentor of Interact Club at the school. 

This year, St Jude’s launched another impactful initiative to support the community, particularly patients in need of blood transfusion. In March, the school introduced a bi-annual blood donation drive for eligible staff and students to voluntarily participate.

“We saw the need to step in and help local hospitals around our communities replenish their blood banks,” says Irene, who helped organise a recent blood drive at St Jude’s. “From medical emergencies and accidents, to supporting mothers during childbirths, our hospitals could always use the extra blood units,” she adds.

The first round saw 81 volunteers, including students at St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School and staff participate in the blood drive. The turnout was so good that it earned St Jude’s special recognition from Arusha’s largest referral hospital as the biggest blood donation drive by a single institution in its history.  

“It was a pleasant surprise,” says Irene excitedly. “We only had a few weeks to organise the drive and had initially estimated the blood drive to only take a few hours. In the end, it lasted the entire day! It was wonderful to see the St Jude’s community coming together once again in support of such an impactful program,” she adds.

Getting Briefed: St Jude’s students at an information session ahead of the blood drive.

The blood donation drive was a collaborative effort between St Jude's welfare and academic teams, with support from Arusha's biggest referral hospital. 

"We wanted to ensure that the drive was organised efficiently," says Irene. “The hospital helped organise an information session for our students and staff ahead of the drive and the school arranged a special lunch for everyone who donated their blood,” she adds.

Fatuma, one of the talented hosts of our monthly podcast, was one of the 63 students at St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School who participated in the blood drive. Beyond the podcast, she is an incredible athlete aspiring to become a P.E. teacher and understands the importance of donating blood in saving lives.

A Happy Donor: Fatuma smiles as she donates blood at the drive.

“I first learned from my sister, who is a nurse, that blood can be used to help people, particularly mothers during childbirth,” says Fatuma. “So when this opportunity arrived, I immediately volunteered,” she adds excitedly.

It’s also quite fitting that the record-setting blood drive happened at St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School during a month dedicated to celebrating women. Soon, St Jude’s will conduct another blood drive at Smith Campus and continue supporting local hospitals with extra blood. It’s part of a new tradition at St Jude’s where students and staff unite to save lives.

The Spirit of Volunteering: A parent volunteers once a week to help in the kitchen.

There are many reasons why The School of St Jude is a success story, including its extended community of parents and guardians.

Shabani is one of the dedicated parents who serve as an exemplary role model. He has dedicated his time by volunteering in the school's kitchen for the past five years. 

Shabani, whose child, Farida, is a student at St Jude’s Primary School in Class 7A, believes that volunteering is a meaningful way to express gratitude to the school for providing free education to his daughter.

"Volunteering in the kitchen to prepare meals is one way we thank the school for providing free education for our children. It is a way of collaborating with the school and staff in providing meals for every student," he shares.

Shabani and fellow parents highlight the invaluable impact of collaborative efforts between parents and the school. Their unwavering dedication in the kitchen and on the farm has ignited a spark within students, propelling them towards similar endeavours that cultivate self-reliance and entrepreneurship. 

"We want to show the way for our children, empowering them to embrace responsibility, nurture their skills, and create a thriving community rooted in shared values," says Shabani.

Parents like Shabani who embrace the spirit of giving encourage students to learn the valuable lesson of giving back to the school and the wider community... cultivating a culture of gratitude and philanthropy at St Jude's.

Meet The Author: Madeleine Kelly, the author of The School That Hope Built, spent nearly six years at St Jude’s.


Madeleine was inspired to become a writer by her father, John Kelly, who is a published poet. Her childhood memories include her parents reading her and her siblings classic authors like Charles Dickens and C.S Lewis before bed.

First Impression

Madeleine first heard about The School of St Jude from her teacher when she was 16 years old. The teacher showed the class an episode of the Australian Story about St Jude’s which marked the beginning of Madeleine's interest in the school. 

Start of a six-year adventure

Madeleine arrived at St Jude’s in 2017 shortly after completing her university studies and ended up spending the next six years of her life at the school. She took on several roles in the Marketing department, Alumni Office, and later as a Communication and Editorial Specialist. 

Start of the book project

Gemma approached Madeleine with the idea of writing a book in 2021 after supporters suggested the idea during a recent Australian Tour. Madeleine felt “nervous” at first but honoured that she could be trusted with such a magnificent story.

The writing process

Madeleine wrote the entire book while living in Tanzania at the school. She would dedicate the early morning hours to writing and the afternoons to interviewing people and editing her work. 

The writing experience 

Madeleine spent many hours interviewing St Jude’s stakeholders from all walks of life. She describes connecting with people from around the world who share something special about St Jude’s as a humbling and incredible experience.

A fun fact

Madeleine has a twin sister who barely looks like her!

Meet the Team: Just some of health care professionals who volunteered for health checks in 2023. Health Check team leader, Jane, is third from the right in the front row.

The start of the year is usually a busy time at The School of St Jude. Students are fresh from the holidays and eager to start the new academic year on a high. Yet amid personal ambitions and academic goals, one thing is important to keep in mind.  

“A successful academic year requires healthy students,” says Jane, the leader of the Health Check team at St Jude’s. In Australia, Jane is a busy physiotherapist and brings these specialist skills to the team.

This February, Jane arrived as part of a team of 21 international and local health care professionals to conduct health checks on St Jude’s students. Under Jane’s leadership, this team assessed 1,800 primary and secondary school students, running tests and providing recommendations. 

“A health check consists of a variety of tests that enable us to assess students’ overall health in relation to academic capabilities,” says Jane. “The tests include malnutrition, vision and hearing, height and weight, and many others. We also have a well-being team that works closely with staff to develop strategies that improve students’ well-being such as mental health, counselling, and other well-being issues,” she adds. 

Based on the tests, Jane and her team make recommendations on any actions that should be taken to improve a students’ health, and make referrals for any health issues that should followed up on by the school and the students’ families at local hospitals. Recommendations may involve simple alterations such as a diet change and reading glasses, to hospital referrals for more serious issues. 

Beat by Beat: A St Jude’s health check involves a wide variety of tests that give a picture of the student’s health.

The health checks typically happen once every year, usually around February. Jane joined the program for the first time in 2015 and has since taken a leadership role. 

“This year’s health check is much busier than the previous ones,” reflects Jane. “Due to travel restrictions, we couldn’t organise health checks in the previous two years. This year, we had an astounding 700 new students at the school who had never done a full health check before! So, we had to be very thorough with our assessments,” she explains. 

Along with Jane is Dr Philip, a General Practitioner from Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. Like Jane, Dr Philip is a regular health check volunteer since joining the health check program in 2017. 

“I first heard about St Jude’s from Gemma at an event in Armidale,” Dr Philip recalls. “When I heard of the opportunity to volunteer in a medical capacity, I quickly jumped aboard and have enjoyed it ever since,” he adds with a smile.

Dr Philip believes academic excellence is best achieved when students are in their best physical, mental, and emotional health. Being a regular volunteer of the Health Check team grants him the opportunity to optimise students’ academic excellence in a special way.

“Having been on the team for several years now,” says Dr Philip, “students would usually remember me, and I would recognise some familiar faces every time. The best part of my experience is to see the joy in students when we tell them they are fine and healthy,” he adds. 

A Closer Look: Dr Philip performs an ear examination on a student during the health checks

Although the Health Check team has historically consisted of a diverse team of international volunteers, this year saw a pleasant surprise. For the first time, a St Jude’s alum, Dr Hosiana, joined this special team. 

“I had just completed my doctoral internship year when I saw an advert from St Jude’s asking medical professionals to volunteer for the health checks,” recalls Dr Hosiana, a St Jude’s alum who graduated from secondary school in 2015 after 13 years at the school and is now a practising doctor. “I naturally applied,” she adds excitedly. 

Hosiana’s dreams of becoming a doctor stemmed from her experiences as a child. She grew up in a small village with a single health officer who was also looking after other nearby villages. Desperate to help, she resolved to study hard and become a doctor herself.

“My hard work paid off and I was awarded a scholarship to St Jude’s!” recalls Hosiana. “Things only got better after that, the plenty of resources and teachers at the school only reinforced my ambition,” she adds. 

Hosiana looks back on the health checks as one of many things at St Jude’s that reinforced her ambition to study medicine. 

Happy To Be Back: Dr Hosiana living her dream at St Jude’s

“I would usually have plenty of questions for the doctors,” recalls Dr Hosiana with a smile. “This time I also met some curious students with ambitions of being a doctor. They reminded me so much of myself,” she adds. 

Along with Jane is Dr Victor who is also volunteering for the first time in the health checks. Victor was part of a team that carried out eye examinations for students.

“Students spend quite a lot of time studying,” says Victor. “So regular vision checks are very important,” he adds.

Victor’s favourite part of the experience was interacting with students and sharing his experience.

“We’d usually have a few minutes to chat with students at the end of the tests. It was rewarding to answer all their questions and listen to their experiences,” explains Victor.  

Letter by Letter: Victor oversees a vision test during Health Checks.

This is the fourteenth year that a team of international doctors and health professionals has volunteered for two weeks at The School of St Jude to perform free health check-ups for all students. After travel restrictions in recent years, it’s wonderful to see the Health Check team has risen to the challenge and successfully ensured 1,800 students are all off to a healthy start for 2023! 

Remarkable Rotarians: Members of Rotary District 5610 during a visit to St Jude’s in May 2022.

From its earliest days, The School of St Jude has found strong support in Rotary clubs from all over the world. Over the years, Rotarians have been committed fundraisers, continuously coming up with creative ideas for activities to support the school.

Recently, a US$25,000 challenge issued by the Watertown, South Dakota, Rotary Club has been matched by District 5610 Rotarians, culminating in a US$51,200 donation to St Jude’s.

Matching efforts began in September 2022 at Rotary District 5610’s annual Conference in Sioux City, Iowa, when $3,853 was raised through a presentation about St Jude’s at one of the main sessions followed by five minutes of challenge donations. There was also a silent auction of items donated by Rotarians who spent a week at the school in May to attend the graduation of the Class of 2022. 

In October, the Rapid City Rushmore Club raised another $8,000 at a special event where they served a dinner of beans, rice and watermelon similar to the lunches enjoyed by students at St Jude’s.  They then auctioned off delicious desserts and followed with a program of videos and speakers. 

Delicious and Nutritious: A common St Jude’s lunch of rice, beans and watermelon inspired the Rapid City Rushmore Club to serve a similar meal as a fundraiser.

The event featured a live and silent auction with money being raised to support St Jude’s holistic education approach. Specifically, the money funded sports equipment, art supplies, music instruments, gardening supplies and cooking needs among other items. 

Rotarians who traveled to Tanzania in May spoke at several Rotary Clubs seeking sponsorships and money for the match. Many Rotarians and clubs responded generously.

“I am amazed and thrilled,” said Pat Sutliff, a Rapid City Rushmore Club member who also is a past District 5610 governor and a founding member of the American Friends of The School of St Jude.

 “When I called the District Governor about the $25,000 match”, she said “he said ‘I never dreamt we could do that.’”

Holistic Education: The donation is helping to strengthen St Jude’s holistic approach to education, which includes art, music, sports and extracurricular activities.

The money will help fund new sports, art and music programs and other needs at the school which now educates about 1,800 of Tanzania’s brightest students. 

During their trip to the school in May, District 5610 Rotarians raised about $10,000 for the school’s Student Art program. That money helped fund a new staff position.

The school is funded by people around the world including many donations from Rotarians in the United States and Australia, School Founder Gemma Sisia’s home country.

A Longstanding Connection: Pat Sutliff and her husband, Willis, have supported St Jude’s for many years. Here, they present awards to the Class of 2022.

Sutliff has been engaged with the school nearly all of the 21 years of its existence. It started in 2002 with three students and continues to grow. The school provides free education to students in a country where only 30 percent of students remain in school past their first seven years. 

Students enrolled in St Jude’s are academically gifted but also come from families in deep poverty.

Sutliff said she is gratified by the response of Rotarians. 

“If you have a great cause,” she said, “Rotarians step up.”