Usually, Valentines’ Day is a time to think about someone special to you and show them that you care. This Valentines’ Day, Noela and Bill Philips and the Brisbane High-Rise Rotary Club thought of The School of St Jude!

In partnership with Maison Fleur florists, these super supporters hit the road to deliver beautiful flower arrangements, with a portion of the proceeds, totalling more than AU $1000, donated to St Jude’s.

Noela describes the motivation behind the successful fundraiser, “Brisbane High-Rise Rotary Club has been a long term supporter of St Jude’s.  The club members who have visited St Jude’s saw firsthand how poverty strips away educational dreams from children who have a right to learn, to achieve and to live a dignified life. To change a child’s life with education is one of the greatest gifts a Rotary Club can give.”

Armfuls of Arrangement: Noela, Louise and John with some of the beautiful floral arrangements.

The florists from Maison Fleur prepared 112 arrangements, each complete with a tag indicating the delivery address and the phone number of the recipient. Then, the Rotary volunteers stepped in, delivered the arrangements by car and on foot all over the Brisbane CBD.

“We are never short of volunteers, such is the enjoyment we get from delivering beautiful arrangements to very surprised recipients,” says Noela.

In addition to this enjoyment, the volunteers also got a lot of exercise on their delivery routes.

“This year, I walked 13 km, however, nobody is expected to do more than they are capable of.  Some Rotarians might walk for 1 hour – every little bit helps the St Jude’s cause!” Noela explains.

Ready To Go: The flower delivery team gather at the collection point.

By the end of the day, the volunteers were exhausted, but felt, “a huge sense of achievement,” says Noela. “Firstly, achievement in the sense that we are helping St Jude’s, secondly, the fact we professionally delivered all our floral arrangements on behalf of Maison Fleur on time and safely, and thirdly, achieving what Brisbane High-Rise Rotarians love doing most - helping others.”

This wasn’t the first fundraiser of its type, in fact, this is the fourth time that Brisbane High-Rise Rotary Club and Maison Fleur have teamed up to raise funds for St Jude’s.

One More Bouquet: Margot, a Brisbane High-Rise Rotary Club member, collects a bouquet for delivery.

But this isn’t the only way Noela, Bill and their fellow Rotary club members support St Jude’s. The Rotary club sponsors the academic scholarship of Form 5 student, Irene, while Bill and Noela sponsor the academic scholarship of Tumaini, who is in Form 6. When Tumaini graduates from secondary school in May, Noela and Bill will be making the trip to Arusha to celebrate with her.

“I am frankly ‘over the moon’ to think I will be meeting Tumaini in May,” Noela says. “I truly can’t wait for this adventure to commence.”

Since 2012, Noela and Bill have visited St Jude’s six times, bringing 79 friends, family and fellow Rotarians with them, many of whom are now sponsors too!

The School of St Jude is incredibly grateful to Noela, Bill and the teams from Brisbane High-Rise Rotary Club and Maison Fleur for running such a sweet-smelling fundraiser.

“Seeing parliamentarians in action was mind blowing,” says Vivian who manages the Beyond St Jude’s team.

Vivian was among 60 delegates from The School of St Jude, including its founder, Gemma Sisia, who were invited by the Speaker to visit the Parliament of Tanzania.

The Parliament of Tanzania is in Dodoma, a region that’s located in the center of the country and is also the country’s capital. It takes approximately six hours by road to travel from St Jude’s, which is in Arusha, Northern Tanzania to Dodoma.

My Parliament Experience: Vivian, manager of Beyond St Jude's, shares her experience after visiting the parliament.

“We arrived at parliament in the early morning and we were shown where to sit. This was my first time to visit the Parliament of Tanzania. I always watch the parliament sessions on TV, but to actually see how the parliament works was an amazing experience.” Vivian reiterates.

“The Speaker introduced the St Jude’s delegates to the parliamentarians, and they were all excited to meet us. The highlight for me was when our Urban Arusha Constituency MP, Hon Mrisho Gambo, came to say hello to us and introduced us to many other government officials including the Minister for Education, Science and Technology, Hon Joyce Ndalichako.”

“The visit to parliament gave us a chance to tell the officials our own story who were all moved by the school's mission. I think it's important for the government to understand who we are and what we do for the country. St Jude's mission is aligned with the government's mission, and through the government's support, we will pursue the same goal of providing free, quality education to bright, poor Tanzanians.”

The country’s Education and Training Policy 2014* directs public bodies to ensure that education is free for all Tanzanian children. This includes the removal of all forms of fees and contributions in primary and secondary government schools. However, whilst most fees are covered, including exam fees, indirect costs for government school students still remain, such as textbooks, uniforms and school lunches.

Representing St Jude’s alum: Boniface travelled to Dodoma with the team to share his journey of transformation through St Jude's.

“I had a chance to meet and speak with the Minister for Education, Science and Technology. It was great to share my story with her,” says Boniface, a St Jude’s alum.

“Most of the government officials didn’t know about St Jude’s and only a few of them have heard the name, thinking it’s just an ordinary school. As someone who received a free, quality education at St Jude's, I believe this has changed their perspective and allowed them to learn more about the school's positive impact on the community. Tanzania needs to learn more about St Jude's mission,” he adds.

St Jude’s leadership: Gemma Sisia, Founder (Middle – front row), Mr William (Middle - back row), Mama Eliza (Far right), and other management representatives outside the parliament building.

Mama Eliza, a parent leader who also serves as a member on the girls’ secondary school board, was also excited to meet the minister: “It was a privilege to meet her. I am just one of many stories of how St Jude's can change someone's life."

Mama Eliza is one of five parent leaders overseeing a larger committee of nearly 50 volunteer parent representatives. Parent representatives act as a communication link between parents or guardians and the school management.

“I shared my experience with the minister of how St Jude’s has helped turned my life around. Before my daughter received an academic scholarship, I used to be a hawker selling vegetables. Now, my life has changed, we moved from a mud house to a brick house and I now have a small shop still selling vegetables and other things,” she adds.

“I believe this visit will open doors for St Jude's. If more government officials know about the school, they can help the school accomplish its mission.”

Visitors are invited by the Parliament of Tanzania at the Speaker’s discretion. Receiving this invitation was an honour and a great opportunity to spread the word about St Jude’s to more government officials.

“It was a positive visit. Gemma managed to present in front of the Minister of Education, Science and Technology. It’s a rare occasion to get an audience with ministers,” says William, a staff representative and a member of girls’ secondary school board.

“The most important thing for an institution like ours is to be known by government officials. This visit has made the government realise that there other institutions that are supporting the education system.”

Parliamentary Proceedings: Josephat and David (front row, left) along with other students, alumni, staff and managers watching the parliament at work.

The excitement was high, especially for St Jude’s students as this was their first time to visit the Parliament of Tanzania. The delegation also had the opportunity to tour parliament house and learn about the history of the building as well as how current sessions are conducted.

Josephat and David, who are in Standard 1 and 2 respectively, were among the students who were picked to be part of the visit, “I enjoyed watching the Speaker running the parliament session,” David says.

Josephat and David are the youngest and newest students and this visit is one they will never forget.

“We got to take photos with the Prime Minister, other ministers and our Urban Arusha Constituency MP, Hon Mrisho Gambo,” Josephat and David shout together excitedly.

“The visit has motivated me to study hard. When I grow up I would like to be the President,” Josephat adds.

The visit to the Parliament of Tanzania has helped to spread the word about St Jude's work to some of Tanzania’s most important leaders. It is also a big step forward in raising awareness about the school's mission of educating bright, poor Tanzanians and empowering them to become community-focused leaders who will find solutions to assist the 45 million Tanzanians living in poverty.

All Smiles: Tanzania’s Prime Minister, Hon Kassim Majaliwa (Middle-first row), with the St Jude’s delegates outside the parliament building.

You can share our story and help raise awareness about St Jude’s both locally and internationally! Share our story with your friends and family today!