"Overcoming Poverty through Education"

6:30pm, Tue, 27 Feb 2024

Event Details
Type of event: Fundraiser
Start time: 6:30pm
End time: 10:00pm
Venue: Hunters Hill Club
12 Madeline Street, Hunters Hill NSW 2110
Ticket pricing/options: Tickets $85 Per Person
Tickets: Book now
Description: "Overcoming Poverty through Education"

 Wonder Woman or Miracle Worker:

You be the Judge!

Gemma Sisia

"Overcoming Poverty through Education"

This is the story of a young woman, Gemma Rice, from a farming community in Guyra, NSW. She was educated In Inverell and at St. Vincent's College in Potts Point. She attended Melbourne University, graduating with a Degree in Science with Honours; she then went on to gain a Diploma in Education, after which she volunteered to teach at a school in Uganda. During this time, she met a tour guide, Richard Sisia, whom she would eventually marry in 2001 after a 7-year courtship. Richard was the son of a Masai Chieftain. As the friendship grew, he suggested she come to Tanzania and start a school for poor children. His father would give her the land to build on if she was interested.

Gemma, having 7 brothers, was always up for a challenge, so returning to Australia, she sought support from local Rotary Clubs; this led to her being invited to speak at a Rotary District Conference. In a moving presentation, she outlined her plan to start a school for children of the poorest of the poor, providing free quality education.

From that day, Rotary was on board. Eventually, Rotarians from Armidale, Tamworth and Inverell would travel to Tanzania and build the first 3 classrooms just outside the city of Arusha. Shortly afterwards, seven couples from Gosford North Rotary would help build three more classrooms, and Gemma's brother, a builder, would spend several months at the School teaching locals the required skills.

In 2002, the School of St Jude opened with 3 students and a volunteer Teacher, Angela Bailey from Coogee. Gemma had rules about who could gain a place in the School of St Jude. If the child's home had running water and electricity, then the family was too wealthy. Only one child per family could be accepted for a free education.

 Moving forward to 2022, St Jude's provides free education to 1800 students; by free, I mean free tuition, free uniforms, accessible transport, and free hot lunch for day students. All Secondary students are Boarders.

There are now 3 Campuses: Sisia, a primary school; Moivaro, a Girl's Boarding School; Smith, a Boy's boarding school to 4th Form; Co-Ed for Forms 5 and 6. St. Jude's strongly focuses on STEM subjects, i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. There are 17,000 Primary schools in Tanzania but only 800 Secondary Schools. Only 34% of girls complete form 4 of secondary School. St Jude's is in the top 5% of all schools in Tanzania.  

The Rotary Club of Hunters Hill has had involvement since the beginning, sponsoring two teachers and a student (now just 2 teachers), and some members have sponsored privately.

In 2010, my late wife Lyn and I visited the School; we visited the homes and met the families of two sponsored students, had lunch with our sponsored teachers, lunched with the students and the sewing ladies who are tasked with repairing uniforms, sat in on some classes and travelled home with the students on the school bus.

It is inspiring to talk with the students and learn of their aspirations to be Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Pilots, Accountants, etc., whilst knowing that without Gemma's miracle-working skills, they would have a life of Poverty.

On our final day, we had lunch with Gemma and Kim Saville, Deputy Head, and during lunch, Gemma stated that her aim was to get her students to University. I was surprised by this aim and thought, "In your dreams, Gemma." How wrong was I? 97% of St Jude's Graduates go on to Higher Education in the Beyond St. Jude's program. Compare this to the national average: only 3.1% of tertiary-age students are enrolled in higher education. Currently, there are 360 St Jude students studying at 40 Universities in 14 Countries, plus 400 graduates from Tertiary Education.

GAP YEAR. After graduating High School, students must volunteer in the Community or the School as a thank-you for a free education. Many gifted students choose to teach in the public system, where there is a need for more teachers and resources. Class sizes of 100 are not uncommon.

 Come and hear this fantastic person when she speaks at The Hunters Hill Rotary Club on Tuesday, 27th February 2024. Gemma will be accompanied by 2 ex-students, Suleiman, who graduated as a Doctor in 2021 and Winnie, an International Business Administration graduate who won a scholarship and studied in Kenya.

Two-course Dinner and entertainment By Helen Zerofos and Ted Hamilton: Cost $85 per person.

You can book directly at https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/1166764

PP Neville Hodgson Hunters Hill Rotary Club.