Meet an Aussie Volunteer Empowering Kids in Tanzania [Q&A]

The School of St Jude provides free education to some 2,000 Tanzanian children, and Naomi Hockins is proud to be a part of it.

Sep 10, 2015


Media Relations Officer Naomi Hockins speaks to School of St Jude students

Media Relations Officer Naomi Hockins speaks to School of St Jude students

The School of St Jude has a noble mission: to educate disadvantaged, bright students from the Arusha District to become moral and intellectual leaders in their country and for St Jude's to thereby demonstrate educational leadership in Tanzania. To make it happen, the nonprofit provides a quality education to 150 new students every year - putting the utmost thought, care and investment into everything from computer and science classes to nutritious meals and student welfare. As much as possible the school is staffed by local employees, and international volunteers like Naomi Hockins provide their expertise and mentoring in one and two-year stints. And as Hockins tells Goodnet in this week’s 10 Good Questions, it’s an empowering experience for everyone involved.

1. What is your organization’s mission?

The School of St Jude was started to provide free, high quality education to promising, yet disadvantaged, Tanzanians. Our motto is “fighting poverty through education.”  We currently offer almost 2,000 scholarships, and our ultimate goal is to equip these students with the skills to become well-rounded future leaders.

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

We’re locally-based, and have been part of the community for more than a decade. The majority of St Jude’s staff (93%) are Tanzanian or East African and there are local representatives at every level of our organization, including the board. We employ 318 local people, who support more than 1,800 people in the surrounding community.

I am an international volunteer at the school, one of about 20 from the US, Australia, New Zealand, France, Holland and the UK, who are hired to provide expertise and mentoring. We receive a stipend to cover our living costs, and our eventual goal is to make our volunteer positions redundant by training our local colleagues.

Three School of St Jude students saying hello from a school bus.

Three lower primary students saying hello from a school bus.

3. Offices or open work space?

Our business office, situated on-site at the primary school in Arusha, is an open work space which encourages people from different teams (from Donor Relations and Finance, to Marketing and Community Relations) to contribute towards the best outcome for any project. Chatting with dedicated people from a variety of backgrounds also makes each day fun and interesting.

4. What three words describe your organization?

Empowering, innovative, dedicated.

Director of International Relations Kim Saville, Visitor Coordinator Felix Mollel and Founder Gemma Sisia goofing around with School of St Jude students (L-R)

5. What inspires you?

The students. They’re smart and friendly, humble and generous. As a middle-class Australian I could not have imagined the circumstances these children are born into, and they genuinely value and appreciate the opportunity a placement at St Jude’s means.

6. What is the best part about your job?

I’m so fortunate to be a key part of those who spread the word of our school through our media coverage. I love hearing the stories from our clever, witty, diverse and genuine students and colleagues, and am proud that I am helping provide a future they would otherwise be unlikely to have.

7. Does your team eat lunch together?

The majority of our business office eats a traditional Tanzanian school lunch with the lower primary students and teaching staff each day. Nothing’s better than having a good conversation with co-workers (and learning a bit of Swahili) as the excited students get stuck into their meals. It’s a wonderfully grounding experience. It’s impossible not to enjoy lunch with cheeky little students flashing shy smiles between bites, and it’s a great reminder of why we do what we do.

Form 6 students gleefully prepare for their School of St Jude graduation ceremony.

 Form 6 students gleefully prepare for their graduation ceremony.

8. Facebook or Twitter?

We use both Facebook and Twitter, as well as Instagram. Our supporters are all over the world. We use social media to connect with them and share all the joy on campus.

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization?

We provide a high-quality education to the most disadvantaged students in a country where just 2.4% of the population graduates high school. St Jude’s is a well-rounded, well thought-out set-up that ensures students are in good health, and provides additional support so they can get the most from their studies. This year, our very first senior graduating class showed what community-focused young leaders they have become. The majority volunteered in the Beyond St Jude’s community service year, where they are sharing their skills with students in 21 local government schools. We are creating leaders who are going to make a difference in Tanzania.

10. How can people get involved?

Help educate the future leaders of Tanzania by finding out more at our website! You can sponsor a student and/or teacher, or simply donate towards the cost of running the school. We work hard to ensure the sponsorship relationship is a rewarding one, with 64% of sponsors giving for over three years and 45% sponsoring for five years of more. And of course, helping spread the word about our school by telling others about us also goes a long way!