Building the School of St Judes

Construction is well under way on the first block at the School of St Judes

At a recent meeting of our Probus Club of Toondah, member Margaret Hayes described how she and other Rotarians from Armidale travelled to Tanzania to build the first classroom block for the School of St Judes:

‘My first venture into overseas projects for Rotary was to help build the first classrooms for the School of St Jude in Tanzania. Its instigator, Gemma Rice, had come to Australia and after her tertiary education went to the Congo. She ended up holidaying in Arusha in Tanzania where she met her future husband, Richard Sisia. His father gave them a small block of land there and they began to build the School of St Judes with the help of friends, family and Rotary groups.

‘We set up seven tents in Richard’s back yard. Most of the team came from Armidale and Tenterfield, but three women including me from Kingscliff also went.

‘The locals wanted the buildings to be built their way but our leader insisted that some of the buildings had to be built the Australian way. Ditches were dug to outline the building with the help of 15 locals. These were filled with two layers of rocks, carefully placed not just dumped in, and they were each covered with layers of dirt and water. In two days, the foundations were completed. We moved 56 tons of rock in three days. Then we had to move piles of mud bricks from outside otherwise they would never dry. This was my job. The string lines were put down and the damp course completed. Finally, the floors were completed and the bricklaying began in earnest. The mortar needed to dry properly and the bricks topped with wood, front and back, and then strapped down with steel tapes, before the trusses were put on.

‘The locals continued putting on the trusses while we Australians set off on safari for a week. On our return, all was completed and we had a BBQ for the workers and their families. For me it was a memorable experience and one for which I am grateful.

‘There were only three students in the first building but now the number has grown exponentially and today there are well over a thousand.

You can read about the full history of St Jude’s at: