Reaching for the sky
Gemma periodically returns to Australia to drive fundraising for the school. Despite the success of the institution, it still depends on the generosity of many Australian and International donors. On the latest of these fundraising tours, Gemma brought tangible evidence of the benefits this school provides, one of her students; Winrose.
Winrose is a young woman who speaks passionately about her situation. As the child of parents who understood the value of education, but could not afford to send them to school, Winrose seized the opportunity to attend St Jude’s wholeheartedly.
“When I was in a government school, it was difficult. My mother was a cleaner, and taught me to sew, so after school, I’d go to teachers and older students and ask to sew clothes for them in return for their materials, notes or text books,” says Winrose.
“This is quite common in our students,” says Gemma. “We look at the academic results from government schools, because children who do well there are usually self taught. Many of these classes don’t have teachers, so students do what they can to learn for themselves. Some will sew, like Winrose, some offer to help with farming in return for notes, so when we give them the attention that they need, they flourish.”
Winrose did this at six years old. At a time when most children are learning to tie shoelaces and sending their first Christmas list to Santa, this young girl was using the sewing skills her mother taught her to pursue a better future for herself and her family with a tenacity that is as admirable as it is saddening.
When Winrose showed promise at her government school, she was encouraged to apply for The School of St Jude. This involved a highly competitive entrance exam, along with a home visit to check on her level of disadvantage. With only 40 places accepted out of 1,000 applications, Winrose worked hard to pass the entrance exam, and was relieved when she was told she was accepted.
“My Mother made me understand the benefits of education, so I studied really hard. I wanted to have a better life for myself and my family,” says Winrose.
Her mother passed away when she was only ten. With the household responsibilities and raising her siblings falling upon her young shoulders, using the enchanting African sky as inspiration, Winrose continued to dream of a career in Aeronautical engineering.
“I saw the difference between people who are educated and those who are not – I wanted a better life, I didn’t want to suffer and in future, a better life for my kids.”
“I would see planes flying in the sky and always wanted to be involved in that – that is why I wanted to become an aeronautical engineer,” she said.
St Jude’s doesn’t stop supporting students when they leave the school. As students move on to tertiary education, donations to St Jude’s help these students with tuition and expenses, helping them pursue in-demand vocations, such as becoming Doctors or Teachers. Winrose’s goal of becoming an Aeronautical Engineer is now achievable, thanks to St Jude’s.
“I’ve loved planes since I was young. I use to see planes fly in the sky. It was everyone’s dream to fly in a plane when I was young, and on this trip, I took my first flight in a plane. No university in Tanzania offers this course, so now I’m pursuing it in the USA. There are very few engineers in Tanzania, and I thought ‘why not me?’”
“I enjoyed the flight, but I wanted to be in the cockpit”.
With Winrose’s drive and work ethic, and her ability to overcome the obstacles in her way, it seems there are few challenges that she is not empowered to face.