Seated around a small wooden table, under a rusty tin roof, with poultry brushing past their legs, Australian visitors Allanah and Vanessa have stepped into a life very different from their own.
They’ve been warmly welcomed to Standard 2 student Selina’s home in Njiro, an economically diverse residential area in Arusha, that is facing many challenges. Selina’s family of seven cram into the two-roomed home each night after her father finishes work as a builder and her mother has spent the day looking after the children.
Selina has become an important member of the family after being accepted into The School of St Jude last year. She’s already flourishing at the school, receiving straight A’s in her last academic report and even teaching her older siblings English.
‘We were very happy when Selina got chosen for St Jude’s. I never thought one of my children would go to such a school, Selina’s mother shared while proudly looking at Selina.
She knows a St Jude’s education makes it much more likely that Selina will continue with her studies and reach university too, unlike the 97% of Tanzanians aged 17-22 who aren’t enrolled in further education this year.
The conversation began to flow between the visitors and the family, with the help of Selina’s teacher translating between English and Swahili.
Selina’s after school activities were discussed; chores to help the family and the Tanzanian version of dodgeball for fun with her siblings. Family sizes were then compared with Selina’s mother curious to ask the western women why in their culture mothers are having less babies and at a later age.
‘You could see we were curious about each other; they were very welcoming. It was special to see that Selina being selected to go to St Jude’s was such a big thing in their life. They feel like they’ve been selected amongst their people, Vanessa reflected.‘It was lovely to interact, even though there was the interpreter, it still felt very personal,’ Vanessa added.
A warm cup of ginger tea and roasted peanuts are offered around, with the help of the surrounding neighbours, who dropped in to see what the increased activity at the home was all about.
Vanessa and Allanah also gave the family a gift pack filled with essentials like soap, oil and a solar torch. A small gesture in appreciation for the rare and authentic interaction.
‘I haven’t really done anything like that before, it was good to get away from the typical touristy things that you would do on a trip and experience real life for these people and where they are living. You can prepare in your mind for what to expect, but it’s never the same as being there.
Having the animals so close to the house and the small living area, their bedroom and everyone in the one room was eye-opening, Allanah commented.After a tour of the humble village, both Allanah and Vanessa walked away with a new outlook on life and understanding the wider impact St Jude’s is having for the whole family of a student.
‘You can see where the St Jude’s money is going across Arusha every single day, it’s very visible how the money is being used. It’s all for a good cause and going to the right people and the right needs, Allanah said, looking at Selina as she plays with her younger brother.
‘Today’s visit is a good reminder for us because we keep thinking we need more and more and more and that’s not really what happiness comes from, Vanessa expressed as she smiled at Selina’s mother in acknowledgment.
Both Allanah and Vanessa want to visit again, cementing a special bond with Selina and her family.If you would like to meet one of our inspiring students and be warmly welcomed into their home, email our visitor team at email@example.com