One of the challenging aspects of describing The School of St Jude's success is portraying it as so much more than just the images of smiling children in the classroom and playgrounds. Yes, the students are the face of the school and it’s important to remind supporters why they dedicate their time and resources in the first place. But the school, as an operation with thousands of moving parts across three campuses, is just as astonishing as the +1,500 students themselves. It can be easy to overlook who exactly is turning the day-to-day gears of St Jude’s.
Working here everyday as a volunteer, we have an unambiguous view of who and what makes this entire operation tick. If you asked any of the 50 international volunteers currently at St Jude’s, they would tell you forthrightly that the 400 local staff is what makes this place buzz with activity.
They are the staff opening the gates every morning for the buses full of bright-eyed students. They are the ones preparing the thousands of hot, nutritious meals every week, cooking the ugali on Thursdays and serving the rice and beans on Mondays. They are the ones cleaning the chalkboards, counter-tops, bathrooms and buildings, refreshing what can become very dusty surfaces during the hot months. They are the ones working in Accounting, Sponsorship, IT, Donor Relations and Purchasing. They are the askari (guards) who keep the children safe during the day, and the volunteers safe at night. They are the fundi (laborers) building all the furniture, painting the classrooms and maintaining the gardens.
Most importantly, they are the ones teaching the students to become the future leaders of Tanzania, instilling a verve and desire in them to be more than anybody ever thought they could be.
It’s because of the local workers that we can turn on the lights in the morning, and we owe it to them to give as much room for advancement as possible. Ultimately at some point down the road, we envision St Jude’s to be run by an entirely local staff. Through our Professional Development initiatives, we are training the teachers, cooks, fundi, askari and anybody who shows the desire and dedication to advance through the ranks, by teaching them English and relevant skills needed in the professional world. And as much as we’d like all of our workers to stay here forever, we want St Jude’s to be a stepping stone professionally for them, so they can take the skills they’ve learned here to work on their own projects and contribute to their country in the fight against poverty.
Here are two people who have benefited tremendously from Professional Development programs run by the school:
Reginald is the Deputy Academic Head of our Lower Primary Moshono Campus. He’s been at St Jude’s since June 2006, where he started as a religion teacher. Along the way, slowly yet surely, he motivated and dedicated himself to handle more responsibilities. In 2008, he added two more duties to his daily teaching job: BDMM (Birth Death Marriage and Medical support) Coordinator, where he organizes home visits to every staff member’s home who has a baby, loses a close relative or is getting married, and SJWA (Saint Jude Worker’s Alliance) Chairperson, which is where local staff members deposit share contributions every month so he can oversee the loans and grants to staff members who wish to start a project (a credit system really doesn’t exist in Tanzania for people to take out loans). Then in 2011, he became in charge of Deputy Welfare, where he supports students and staff with complicated welfare issues. Reginald is in his final year at the Open University of Tanzania, where he will graduate with his B.A. in Education.
Ester started at St Jude’s in 2009 as a boarding teacher, and in just two short years became an Assistant Accountant in the Accounts Receivable team. When she joined St Jude’s, she was in her third year at the University of Arusha studying Business Administration – Accounting. It takes a dedicated person to attend classes and hold down a job, but Ester handled it remarkably. During the evenings she stayed at the boarding houses helping students with their homework, teaching science and maths for Standard Six and Seven students. She then moved to the secondary students, where she organized the girls soccer and netball teams for the end of term house competitions. Now, Ester plays a vital role in the processing of all incoming funds, and makes sure all the money and budgets are being accounted for and distributed properly.
Ester and Reginald are just two examples of people who have benefited enormously from Professional Development training, as many staff members are also making incredible progress. It’s this type of determination that St Jude’s is encouraging, not just in our students, but our staff as well. We’re really proud to call them our colleagues and friends, to share in their joys and successes here at St Jude’s.