As the country celebrates National Volunteer Week, Australian volunteers are making a big difference in Tanzania by working at one of Africa’s largest non-profits’, The School of St Jude, which is fighting poverty through education.
In 2010, Melbourne resident Paula Selway decided to leave the comforts of home behind to begin a long-term volunteering stint at St Jude’s in Arusha. She initially thought she’d only stay a year or two but her passion for being part of a cause which is helping underprivileged children in Tanzania, led her to stay for the next four years.
During that time, Paula has worked in a variety of roles from arranging tours for visitors to coordinating and implementing a new business database at the school.
She has lived with and bade farewell to countless volunteers at St Jude’s, cherishing the lifelong friendships she has made with them.
“After a few years at St Jude’s not only do I have a new family of amazing people, but I have gained so much professionally and personally,” said Paula. “I have been able to pass on the skills I have gained in my work life, but more importantly I have learnt so much from the people I have been fortunate enough to work with. I will take these lessons with me when I leave, and will be forever grateful.”
St Jude’s was founded by an Australian woman, Gemma Sisia, who was inspired to start a school after volunteering in Africa. Gemma realised that a high-quality education, especially for children from the poorest of communities, was the key to breaking the poverty cycle.
It started off with three students in 2002 and it now provides a free quality education to more than 1,800 students. The school provides employment to 36 international volunteers and over 400 Tanzanians, creating a widespread ripple effect that is extending far beyond the school gates.
“I am so grateful for volunteers from Australia and across the globe that have put in a massive effort to develop the school, from building the first classrooms to mentoring Tanzanian teachers on how to creatively use resources,” says Gemma.
Volunteering life has made a big impression on Paula. "If you open yourself up to a whole new culture, new country, new work environment, you will be amazed at how much it can change you," she says.
National volunteer week runs from May 12th to the 18th.