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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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.’”
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.
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.”
“Seeing an elderly person struggling makes me feel bad… We have a responsibility, as young citizens who have a chance to be educated and know the value of helping others,” says Goodluck, the confident Head Boy of St Jude’s Secondary School.
Goodluck and his fellow Student Government member, Head Girl Diana, are leading students in an ambitious project to help elderly members of the Arusha community, who are currently struggling to cope with the rising cost of living.
“The cost of some staple foods, like oil, maize and beans has gone up recently because there is a high rate of inflation in Tanzania,” explains Diana.
This St Jude’s Day, Diana, Goodluck and their fellow Student Government leaders are encouraging students and staff alike to donate goods to include in St Jude’s Day Essential Packs for distribution to elderly people in need.
They have set their sights high, and plan to prepare 400 packs!
The St Jude’s Day Essentials Packs will include soap, tea leaves, Blue Band (a popular shelf-stable margarine) and rice, donated by students and sugar, salt, beans and cooking oil donated by staff. To include maize, a true Tanzanian staple, the Student Government are calling on our international supporters to help.
St Jude’s Day Essentials Packs, can be purchased on the St Jude’s website for AU$50.
Those who are familiar with St Jude’s know that the annual St Jude’s Day celebration is a time for togetherness, gratitude and giving. This year, the event on 28 October will hold an even deeper meaning as everyone contributes their donations to help the elderly.
The following day, students and staff will gather again, to pack up all the donations, ready for distribution in one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of town. There, in early November, they’ll host a lunch for elderly community members, giving everyone the opportunity to talk and learn from each other. Afterwards, students will accompany the elderly home, to carry their packs.
“This idea of supporting these people makes me feel proud and enjoy being part of St Jude’s community,” shares Diana.
Along with the cost of living, students also recognise that elderly community members face daily practical challenges.
“It’s very hard for them to do their house chores such as fetching water, washing, and cleaning the house,” Goodluck explains.
Diana, like many St Jude’s students, assists an elderly neighbour during the holidays. “I help my neighbour with different chores such as fetching water since it’s very hard for her to fetch water from a distant place, also cleaning her house, and helping out with the washing of her clothes,” she says.
Diana and Goodluck, like all 1,800 St Jude’s students, come from some of the poorest homes in their regions. In fact, on entry to St Jude’s 94% of families have just AU$4.80 or less to cover their daily needs.
Yet, in spite of their own challenges, St Jude’s students understand the importance of giving to those who have even less, of sharing what they have and serving the community. At St Jude’s, this spirit is encouraged, as the school works to build an educated community of moral and intellectual leaders; fighting poverty in Tanzania.
For as long as she can remember, Ms Tarimo has always wanted to own a tailor shop and make her own designs. So, when she eventually landed her first job, she immediately started saving for her first sewing machine.
“I still remember my first design,” says Ms Tarimo, St Jude’s uniform supplier of six years. “It was a nice little red blouse I made for my niece.”
She started by working out of the corner of her sitting room. Little by little, word spread and orders started coming in. Over the following year, she found her niche specialising in school uniforms and went full-time into tailoring. Her ambitious spirit enabled her to get ahead in the tailoring business early on.
“Back in the day, I would go around town and find customers the old-fashioned way,” says Ms Tarimo. “I would simply show up at a school and pitch my tailoring services,” she explains.
As far as schools in Arusha go, Ms Tarimo had set her ambitions on one school in particular.
“I would see these colourful buses carrying students around town,” Ms Tarimo recalls of her first impression of St Jude’s. “It simply stood out from any other school I knew,” she added.
So she made it her mission to supply uniforms for St Jude’s, and started finding out as much information about the school as possible from her friends and customers. She took note of St Jude’s uniforms, observing the different colours, materials, and designs. Finally, in 2012, Ms Tarimo made the trip to St Jude’s to pitch her tailoring services.
“They were very kind,” says Ms Tarimo. “They explained the bidding process to me and how they acquire suppliers. It was all very formal,” recalls Ms Tarimo.
When the new tenders were announced, Ms Tarimo gave it her best shot – and won!
“That was the turning point of my business and life in general,” Ms Tarimo recalls passionately.
Within only a year of working with St Jude’s, Ms Tarimo purchased an additional four modern sewing machines, expanded her workforce, and set up a tailoring workshop in downtown Arusha. Furthermore, h Her experience with St Jude’s paved the way for opportunities with large companies and organisations in Arusha.
“I won a tender to make uniforms for the Bank of Tanzania,” she recalls proudly. “Some of my other top clients over the years included construction companies, private banks, and government agencies.”
Today, Ms Tarimo employs up to 16 workers at her workshop at peak times. She even purchased a pickup truck to deliver bulk orders to her clients around town.
Ms Tarimo looks back on her resolution to work with St Jude’s, and later, the motivation to keep working with St Jude’s as one of the biggest reasons for her success.
“St Jude’s has particular procedures and requirements,” she says, “As a supplier, I learned plenty just working with St Jude’s.”
“Suffice to say, my business is orderly and systematic today largely because of St Jude’s” she adds.
The School of St Jude is committed to helping the growth of the local economy and extending its mission beyond the school gates. One of the ways of doing this is by supporting local businesses and services in Arusha through trade and commerce.
In 2021 alone, St Jude’s injected AU$ 8 million into the local economy, purchasing goods and services within Tanzania. Your donation to St Jude’s has a ripple effect, it doesn’t just end at one student; it touches the entire country.
There’s an old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”. This statement certainly applies to St Jude’s vision of a community of moral and educated leaders; fighting poverty in Tanzania. With 1,800 students receiving free, quality education at St Jude’s and about 300 graduates on university and college scholarships, collaborative efforts between the school and community cannot be overstated.
“I have been involved with St Jude’s since my daughter’s enrolment about 12 years ago,” says Mr Charles, a member of St Jude’s Parent Committee, and father of Form 4 student, Irene. “I feel part of the school myself.”
Mr Charles first heard about St Jude’s in 2010, when a local radio station made a public announcement for scholarship applications for primary students in Standard 1 and 2. Primary education in Tanzania is the first seven years of school; starting in Standard 1, students progress annually and graduate primary school after Standard 7.
“There was already talk in the community about a private school giving students a free, quality, and English medium education,” recalls Mr Charles. “So, when I heard the announcement, I resolved to bring my daughter.”
St Jude’s made an impression on Mr Charles from day one. He was amazed by the systematic way with which the scholarship process was carried out. When his daughter was eventually selected to join St Jude’s, Mr Charles quickly decided to help the school.
“I was very curious,” says Charles, “always asking questions and seeking clarifications during parents’ meetings. I must have made an impression because I was appointed to serve on the Parent Committee the following year.”
For Irene, spending time with her father means getting fresh inspiration and guidance to motivate her to put extra effort in her studies and pursue her dreams.
“My father is very well informed about the school. So his insights are relevant and timely” says Irene.
She sees her father’s service in the Parent Committee as a testament to his support for her.
As a member of the Parent Committee, Charles and his team maintain constant communication between the school and parents. They also facilitate and oversee parents’ involvement with the school.
“We are a voice for parents, and a bridge between parents and the school,” Charles elaborates. “We relay complaints, concerns, ideas, opinions, and suggestions from both sides of the aisle. Over the years, we have developed an effective communication system with the school on a wide variety of matters.”
The Parent Committee plays a crucial role in the social welfare and security of students outside St Jude’s. In case of any family issues, the Parent Committee works with the school to assess, investigate, advise, and resolve the problem. On some occasions, the student may be relocated to foster care.
For Charles, an opportunity to serve on the Parent Committee presents him with an outlet to give back to the school.
“As a parent, I share a deep sense of responsibility to St Jude’s”, he shares. “Fortunately, through the Parent Committee, we have been able to start a program where parents can volunteer their time and efforts assisting with various activities at the school.”
The joint efforts of St Jude’s staff and a close community of parents play a crucial role in shaping a student’s dream and developing their future. Parents and guardians are their children’s first teachers and their continued support makes all the difference to students at St Jude’s.