Mission to educate children in Africa

INSPIRATIONAL educator Gemma Sisia will be appearing Club Forster on March 15 to talk about her work and the creation of Tanzanian school St Jude’s. 

The talk scheduled for 1.30pm has been organised by the local Rotary club and will raise funds to help Gemma continue her work educating children. There will be tickets available at the door.

Gemma spent her childhood in Guyra before pursuing studies in science and education. Her desire to help others led her overseas, where she worked as a volunteer teacher in Uganda. It was hear Gemma developed her beliefs in education as a child’s right, and their best weapon against poverty. 

Returning to Australia after three years, Gemma raised funds for the education of children in East Africa and returned to the region to manage the fund’s delivery on the ground. 

On a holiday in Tanzania, Gemma met her future husband Richard and she later received a small plot of land in Arusha, Tanzania, from her father-in-law. There The School of St Jude was built, with the aim of helping the poorest children receive an education. 

It opened in 2002 with a handful of students and now has more than 1600. It now has three campuses and is supported by international fundraising efforts, including strong support from Rotary Australia. For her efforts, Gemma has been rewarded with awards including a Sapphire Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International, and being named one of The Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence in the global category.

Local Rotary member Roz Dreise has seen first hand the work Gemma has done to support the educational opportunities of students in the community. Roz and her husband Peter took the opportunity to visit the school while they were in Africa as part of a Rotary Friendship Exchange in June 2011. 

“If we didn’t have grandchildren, we would have stayed there,” Roz said. 

She said the school buildings stood in beautiful lush grounds and were equipped with a wonderful library complex and dormitories for the older students. 

“The school is making Tanzania’s future leaders, and that is very exciting,” she said. 

Having heard Gemma speak many times before, Roz said people attending should be prepared for tears and laughter. 

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