For decades International Women’s Day (IWD) has been bringing awareness to equality and empowering women from all walks of life to achieve their hopes and dreams in business and community.

Australian humanitarian Gemma Sisia (nee Rice), who established the School of St Jude in Tanzania in 2002, is one of the many women making a difference to underprivileged people on the world stage.

She will be special guest at the IWD luncheon to be hosted by Salamander Bay Rotary Club at Soldiers Point Bowling Club on Wednesday, March 6, from 11.30am.

Rotary president Ina George said that the club was proud and honoured to have Gemma to provide her inspirational story on a day celebrating the strength, courage and resilience of women everywhere.

“We are indeed fortunate to have Gemma as our guest speaker to provide an insight into how she started fundraising to invest in the education of Africa’s poorest and the support she received from friends, family and Rotary groups,” Ms George said.

“We in Port Stephens are also fortunate to have women in prominent leadership roles in business and community who are passionate about making a difference.”

Some of those women include Leah Anderson, president of the Tomaree Business Chamber who was founding member and first president of the Port Stephens Women In Business. 

Emily Perry now heads the Women In Business organisation, and Kathy Rimmer, the Port Stephens Business Person of the Year, is into her second year as president of the Nelson Bay Rotary Club.

Leah Anderson, Emily Perry, Kathy Rimmer and Ina George in Nelson Bay.
Leah Anderson, Emily Perry, Kathy Rimmer and Ina George in Nelson Bay.

Ms Anderson said that organisation and prioritisation were key elements in most women’s lives, many who have to juggle family life with career. 

“Most of the successful women I know have very busy lives but they mange them through planning and making time for family, socialising and charity work,” said Ms Anderson.

Ms Perry, who juggles two businesses and family with two young children, said she was grateful for the support of Women In Business. 

“The group has taught me many things and the motto of ‘Connect, Inspire, Support’ sums it up. We have a fantastic mentoring program, we are active in support of each other and also in support of charitable organisations.”

Ms Rimmer said that work/life balance became most essential to her after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. “I learned the art of saying no and the importance of doing what you love, and love what you’re doing.”

Charlie Elias, The Port Stephen Examiner (read original article here).

After moving from her home in Australia to Africa at the age of 22, Gemma Sisia decided to start a school in Tanzania with the mission of educating the nation’s smartest students who did not have the means to attend private school. 16 years on, the School of St Jude is thriving, with around 1800 students on academic scholarships, and 90 per cent of the funding coming from Australian donors. Ms Sisia joins Sky News with one of her star students, Godwin, to discuss the inspiration behind founding the school and the great things its students are achieving. 

Good afternoon lovelies! Hope everyone around the world is enjoying the weekend, especially over here in the UAE where we have been treated to an extra day off! This month has been particularly busy at work which resulted in this post being published so late. Nevertheless, I am absolutely thrilled to share this month’s power lady, who is doing her bit to change the world.

Gemma Sisia is the founder of The School of St. Jude in Tanzania which provides a free high quality education to underprivileged children in Tanzania.

Gemma’s humble beginnings started in Australia where education was always a strong part of her life. It is through her belief that children from poor families should also have access to education that The School of St. Jude was created. Gemma’s fascination with helping African children started when she witnessed the news coverage of the Ethiopian famine, which led her to volunteer in Uganda and eventually set her life path to Tanzania.

Gemma overcame all obstacles which tried to falter with her goals, especially being a white woman trying to set up a school in a small closed society which she was not a native of. Through these hardships, she has established a successful school which has provided an education to over 1,800 students who may never have had the opportunity.

She is currently working on building a girls only school in order to encourage Muslim girls to get a proper education, as she noticed that most families do not allow a co-educational environment.

You must be wondering how this ties back to My Pink Diary? Well, although I have never met Gemma, I was inspired by her story having spent half of my life in Africa and witnessing first hand how much poverty affects children.

This topic is very close to my heart as I had the opportunity to work with different organisations to help the youngsters whose lives were so different from mine in Nigeria. While it is difficult to change governmental systems and corrupt politicians, I strongly support and respect women like Gemma who take a stand and create a platform which encourages and empowers children to realise their full potential and to give them a future.

Enjoy her story!

Quick facts:

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I have never been one to reflect, so find it difficult to describe myself. My priorities in life are being a good wife and mother. My family is the most important aspect of my life. I love establishing things, being involved in start-ups and am always willing to help others who, in turn, are working towards helping those less fortunate than themselves.

2. How do you handle difficult times in your life? 

“This too will pass” – no matter how bad something appears, ride it out. I count it down – just get to noon, just get to 5pm – everything passes, you just need to be patient and wait it out.

3. What is your secret to achieving the right balance between your career, family, friends and doing what you really love?

I say ‘NO’. There are things that I know I would enjoy – like going out more – but I can’t. So, I say ‘NO’.

4. What are your hobbies?

I love organising family trips and adventures like going camping on a Saturday night, or going on safari with my husband and kids. It’s magic away from the bustle – just quiet time with my family and the sounds of the animals in the dark. Getting away with family is a hobby, a passion and my idea of complete happiness.

5. What are your tips for happiness?

Enjoy the little things – they are the most precious. It makes me happy to listen to the next student who walks in and tells me what he/she is doing with their life since leaving St Jude’s. It makes me happy to attend a formal event, which has been completely organised by my staff and like other guests, I learn what is happening as the evening progresses, without having zero input into the organisation. The best time of the day is an evening walk with my kids and our dogs. All little things, but all so precious in the scheme of life.

6. Who is your role model or someone you look up to?

As a young girl, I kept a picture of Mother Teresa on my wall. Now, as an adult, I know my true heroes were my parents. They instilled in me the importance of education, faith and a willingness to help others. They were always counselling or helping others, doing things for the community. We had a pile of mattresses stored at home for extra people who needed somewhere to stay. When my father died, there was an honour guard formed by so many people who society had turned their backs on and my father helped them. It was a real lesson on how much a little can mean to a lot.

7. What have been the most exciting milestones in your life?

Getting married and having my four wonderful children; the first day of school when we opened the gates of The School of St Jude and the first day of every school term as we welcome more and more children of all faiths and tribes, giving them a future their parents never dreamed possible. Watching our first set of graduates go into community service and then onward to university – and my next exciting milestone will be 2019 when our first students begin graduating from university going into the world as tertiary educated young men and women forging their way in the world.

8. If you could change one thing in the world right now, what would it be?

I’d do away with the need for bureaucracy! If people acted ethically and honestly, there would be no need to have myriads of rules and contracts, but sadly, that is not the world we currently live in.

9. There are still a lot of cultures and societies who frown upon successful women. Why do you think that is, and how can it change?

Fortunately, that has never been an issue for me in Tanzania and I have never been disadvantaged by being a woman. I have always been respected here. I grew up in an old-fashioned household where my father was always the head and with seven brothers, I am used to living and working with men. However, some men simply don’t like change and in fact have an irrational fear of change. At The School of St Jude, we have many male teachers and they are always encouraging the young female students to succeed, to seize their power and be a force in the world – after all, women are the first teachers in the home.

In Africa, girls are often considered second-class citizens and many families believe that it is a waste of time educating them, putting a lot of pressure on girls to drop out of school, but we are facilitating changes in traditional community mind-sets. St Jude’s firmly believes in the education of girls. The school does not discriminate when selecting students although over the years St Jude’s has educated more female than male students. Our female teachers and leaders are strong role models, and the school’s welfare team works through any issues of discrimination, both with the students and their families.

10. What advice can you offer for men and women, trying to balance a career, family and personal life?

Don’t measure yourself against others. Do what works for you and your situation. Don’t conform to social pressure. I need to work to be a happy mum – happy mum equals happy husband and kids. Create a family lifestyle that, as a woman, makes you happy.   Set realistic expectations and be content – content and thankful for what you have.

The School of St Jude is a special project of UAE Lions Clubs. For more information please contact: augusto.dipietro@internationallionsclub.com

My Pink Diary (read the original article here).

Ms Hart has been a sponsor at The School of St Jude for over 12 years and was at the graduation to see her academically gifted sponsor student, Erick, graduate.

According to UNICEF, in Tanzania, almost 70 per cent of children aged 14–17 years are not enrolled in secondary education, while a mere 3.2 per cent are enrolled for the final two years of schooling.

At the graduation, amidst the colourful and vibrant celebrations, speeches and traditional dance, Ms Hart took to the stage to say a word on behalf of all St Jude’s sponsors.

“You are a true example of what you can achieve when the opportunity presents itself,” Ms Hart proudly told the graduates.

“You have proved that you are all capable of applying yourselves and reaching the heights that were once so unattainable.

“You should always remember that we will always be by your side encouraging you, loving you as one of our own and taking delight in your future careers,” she said.

St Jude’s is a charity-funded school founded in 2002 by NSW humanitarian, Ms Gemma Sisia.

The School offers a free, high-quality education to over 1,800 students, and boarding to over 1,400 students.

With a predominantly Tanzanian staff and resources, and supplies bought locally, it injects over $4m Australian dollars into the local economy every year.

Unlike most schools, the students of St Jude’s are selected based on their academic potential and genuine financial need, often coming from families that live on less than US$1.90 a day.

“I first met Mama Gemma 20 years ago,” Ms Hart recalled.

“She told us of her dreams to build a school in Tanzania, such an unbelievable idea for one so young who was brought up in Australia and had no money to build a school.

“She faced many hurdles along the way but did she ever give up?

“No, she held her head up high and kept going.

“Where is she today; taking pride in all of you and knowing she has made a difference to so many lives, and has given a future to those who would never have had the opportunity that you have,” Ms Hart told the crowd.

Ms Hart played an integral role in the beginnings of the school.

After hearing Ms Sisia speak at a Rotary conference in Australia, she accompanied her fellow Erina Rotarians to Arusha and helped to build the School.

She then went on to become the chief Financial Coordinator for the School, processing charitable contributions on its behalf up until 2010.

“Monica played a massive role at the very beginning of the St Jude’s story”, Ms Sisia fondly recalls.

“She generously gave up a lot of time and effort, not only in physically building the school, but in managing and processing its Australian contributions,” she said.

After a year of great academic success for the class of 2018, almost all graduates have elected to take part in the optional Beyond St Jude’s program and undertake a Community Service Year before embarking on tertiary and further education.

Most will teach in government schools across the region as a means of giving thanks for their free, high quality education at St Jude’s.

“They are bringing to life the school’s mission of educating the moral and intellectual future leaders of Tanzania, and in turn are emulating the values and altruism of loyal supporters like Monica,” Ms Sisia concluded.

Central Coast Newspapers (read the original article here).

The Lions Club in the Middle East have pledged to support the School of St Jude, an Arusha-based education centre, build a new girls secondary school for 600 students.

This was announced recently after the 16-year-old school participated in the Lions Clubs International Forum in Dubai where a special project ‘Fighting Poverty through Education’ was launched.

During the event, the school clearly stated its intention of providing women and girls with equal access to education as per the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number five.

Currently the co-educational school, which runs primary and secondary wings, has a total of 1,800 pupils, 1,400 of whom are boarders in its three campuses in and around Arusha.

The proposed all-girls school hopes to admit 600 girls, according to Ms. Leonie Trubshoe, the school official in charge of communication and media matters.

The Lions clubs will actively support our drive to build a new girls secondary school for 600 students, she said, adding that this would ensure opening up more chances for those from the poor families.

We love to empower our female students. We provide an equal opportunity for all students regardless of religion, tribe or gender’, she told the Citizen.

About 60 per cent of all students at the education institution established by Ms. Gemma Sisia, an Australian national in 2002, are girls.

The School’s spokesperson could not reveal the estimated cost of the new campus for the girl students. It offers free education targeting the young learners from the poor families.

It is estimated that about 90 per cent of funds used for running the education centre, which employs 300 staff members, each year is raised in Australia and other countries abroad.

The St Jude School started with a campus in Moshono, followed later by a much larger and famous campus at Usa River (near the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge) while the third one was set up at Moivaro.

The Tanzanian Citizen (read the original article here).

Bega solicitor Andrew Warren is pumping up the tires ready for a cross-country bicycle ride – in Tanzania!

In February 2019, Mr Warren plans to ride the length of the African country, alone and unsupported, to raise funds for the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania.

All up, the ride covers about 1600km.

“If you agree to sponsor me, you will get your money back if I do not pedal every kilometre of the way – I promise!” Mr Warren said on his GoFundMe page.

Since only launching his fundraising page on Wednesday, December 5, he has already raised more than $2500 of his $3000 stated goal.

“If I can raise $3000 from sponsors of my ride, that will pay for a student to receive an education for a year,” Mr Warren said.

Mr Warren said St Jude’s provides a free, non-demoninational, high-quality education to children who, due to poverty and social pressures, would otherwise be unlikely to complete their schooling. 

“I made contact with Gemma Sisia [the school’s founder] about 15 years ago – she’s an amazing woman,” Mr Warren said this week.

Andrew Warren

“She started the school with mud bricks and three children. Now it’s three campuses with 1800 children.

“We sponsored some kids at the school years ago and then this year we visited the school on a family holiday.

“It costs only $3000 a year to sponsor a student and for they St Jude’s provides full board, uniforms, all meals, books and pencils and so on.

“Every single one of their students was chosen because they combined academic promise with a desperately poor background and a great attitude to work. They feed them, house them, educate them, and do everything possible to ensure their students’ wellbeing and future success.” 

Mr Warren said he could ride anywhere in order to raise some money for the school and its students, “but it seemed more appropriate to go back to Tanzania”.

He heads out on February 8 – “it’s all booked in so I can’t back out now!”

“I’m not a competitive rider, just your typical middle aged man in lycra. I just enjoy going for a ride.”

Mr Warren said he hoped to find guest houses along the route, but given the African country’s landscape that may not always be possible.

“So I’m packing a tent but maybe I will need to hang a sign on it saying ‘Lions not welcome’,” he joked.

Bega District News (read the original article here).