by Denise Bodart, Realityworks RealCare Product Manager
Every now and then, the stars align and things are meant to be. Such was the case for me recently, when an opportunity arose for me to travel to a Realityworks customer school in East Africa.
My youngest daughter was completing a service internship in Arusha, Tanzania this summer and I already had plans to meet her there to go on a safari. A few weeks before I was scheduled to leave, I had a conversation with our international business consultant that changed my itinerary.
Apparently, a school in East Africa had just placed a significant order for the entire Total Parenting Experience (TPE) program and it was located in Arusha – the same city my daughter was residing in! Since I was going to be “in the neighborhood” anyway, it was decided that I would do a live training at the school.
The School of St Jude is a charity-funded school that provides a free, high-quality primary and secondary education to children in the Arusha region of Tanzania, East Africa. It was founded by Australian native Gemma Sisia in 2002, who, at 22 years old, decided that free, high-quality education was the strongest weapon in the fight against poverty and should be the right of all children around the world. Gemma worked tirelessly with friends, family and Rotary programs to raise funds, and opened her school in 2002 with three students.
The school has since grown to encompass three campuses, where it provides free, high-quality education to over 1,800 students. Part of that education includes lessons on pregnancy prevention and making informed life decisions, which the school is using our TPE program to help teach.
I arrived to provide training on the program a day early, and was greeted by their visitor team. That day I toured two campuses, ate lunch with the students, visited the home of one student and met with staff members. Each campus is a jewel in an area of great poverty and poor educational outcomes.
My tour of the school took me into classrooms of all ages. There, everything is taught in English and the students are bright, articulate and very curious. They were all eager to talk and share what they were learning. I was warmly greeted by everyone I met!
During my tour of the upper level campus, the student artwork was amazing. They have some talent there! In addition to rigorous core classes, instruction in art, music and physical education is also included.
The highlight of my first day was visiting the home of an upper-campus student. It is a privilege to meet the families of these marvelous students. The middle- and high school-level students board on campus, returning home on breaks and some weekends. In order to reach the home I was to visit, we were driven by one of the many school vans. We drove well over 45 minutes through potholes, hills, sprawling villages and a river (where we were briefly stuck) until we reached the home of Noah.
There, we were warmly welcomed by his grandmother, who served us tea, a common tradition in Tanzania. Through an interpreter we spoke about our families, customs and the impact that St. Jude’s had on the family. When participating in a home visit, it is highly encouraged to purchase a “welcome package” of staples like rice, mosquito nets and tea.
Want to learn more about my trip and the impact our Total Parenting Experience program will have on St. Jude’s School? Stay tuned for my next post, in which I will detail how students are selected to attend the school, and how it will use the TPE package to help educate students on the importance of making good life decisions to ensure they reach their full potential!