Our extraordinary supporters

How did it begin?

When Gemma first had the idea of starting a free private school for the poorest children in Africa with just a $10 donation from her friend, she knew she would need a major support system. It was at this time Gemma’s father, Basil, introduced her to Rotary. She was given the opportunity to speak to her local Rotary club in her hometown of Armidale, New South Wales. The extremely generous Armidale, Tamworth and Inverell Rotary and Inner Wheel clubs raised an estimated $20,000 by the end of that weekend. Along with donations from schools, family and friends, Gemma’s dream became a reality, and they had raised enough money for the first classroom.

The Armidale Central Rotary Club were so inspired they came forward and organised a team of a dozen volunteers to travel to Arusha, Tanzania and help build the first three classrooms. A team of seven couples from the Gosford North Rotary Club shortly followed to help build another three classrooms. Following the visits from these two teams St Jude’s opened in January 2002. By Easter of 2002 another Rotary team from The Erina Rotary Club came to build the playground, followed by the Brisbane Planetarium Club who built the foundations of the primary school block.
Rotary members building first classroom
Thanks so much to all the past and present Rotarians and District Governors of Rotary clubs and districts in so many parts of the world for helping my dream get off the ground. I have discovered what an extraordinary institution Rotary is – how many lives have been positively changed, children educated, families supported and diseases eradicated around the world. Keep going and never give up, for you are giving hope to people in almost every town in the world.
Gemma Sisia
Gemma’s brother, Paddy, who is a builder by trade, stayed in Tanzania for several months to teach the local building team and Rotary volunteers his tricks of the trade. Paddy then went on to build the ground and second floor of the primary block as well as many other buildings still standing at St Jude’s today.

Both the Rocklea and Armidale Central Rotary clubs helped immensely over the years, sending shipping containers with much needed supplies from Australia. Today, many Rotary clubs continue the support by hosting events for Gemma to speak at during her Australian fundraising tour.

In 2003, Gemma was honoured to be a keynote speaker at the Rotary International Convention in Brisbane, Australia. After speaking to over 40,000 Rotarians Gemma made life-long connections with Rotary Clubs around the world including; Rushmore Rapid City Rotary Club, The Grapevine and Wichita Falls Rotary Clubs and clubs from New Zealand and Asia.

Since then, Gemma has spoken at various district conferences throughout Australia, New Zealand and the US.

What's happening now?

To this day, Rotarians, their clubs and their families sponsor the academic scholarships of our students or make donations to support the school.

Many Rotary contributions are providing long-term benefits to the school including the water storage tanks, half of our school buses and the solar water heaters for our boarding houses.

St Jude’s is also proud to have our very own Earlyact, Interact and Rotaract Clubs.
The School of St Jude is home to the first East African EarlyAct club (designed for students aged 5-13). One of their projects is the paper recycling. The club make the most of our waste paper by creating paper mache artworks as gifts for our fellow Arusha Mt Meru Rotary Club.
The School of St Jude has also created an Interact club which is run by secondary students aged 12-18. A recent project is making blackboard dusters from the recycled mattress foam, which helps reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
Interact students
The Rotaract club is for staff members and Community Service Year volunteers (aged 18-30). A recent project is the Vijana Poa Project (vijana poa means ‘youth is cool’ in Swahili). Vijana Poa is a youth unemployment program, providing entrepreneurship workshops, sourcing internships and small start-up loans to help participants set up small businesses.
Rotaract members

Get your club involved

Rotary clubs have been active and valued supporters of St Jude’s since the school’s inception. We hope your club will be too!

Many clubs choose to sponsor a scholarship for a student, while others make an impact with donations. A number of clubs hold successful fundraising events in support of St Jude’s. If your club would like to host a fundraiser, St Jude’s can provide resources and guidance to make your event a success.
Organise a fundraiser