Warrnambool Bookworms Fundraising for Kids

 Warrnambool book-lovers are quietly adding to a fundraiser champion’s tally to help The School of St Jude provide free education to children from the village of Meshono, on the outskirts of Arusha city in Northern Tanzania. 

Pharmacy manager Margo Salmon of Warrnambool is raising funds for The School of St Jude in Tanzania with her book selling skills. Picture by Jenny Fawcett Nov 2015

After thirteen years in the making The School of St Jude is celebrating its first graduating students thanks partly to the likes of Warrnambool fundraiser Margo Salmon who says it is the poverty and hardship  seen up close on annual trips to Tanzania which inspires her  ‘Book Sales fundraisers’ for  St Jude’s.

Tanzanians  have so little and yet are so generous. Living off  $2 a day often means they can’t afford for their children to be educated, so by recycling books and selling them for a donation we raise funds to help give kids an opportunity to go to school’.

St Jude’s takes children in need and gives them an education and its all funded by donors and sponsors, so whatever little we can raise I know can help.Margo Salmon, Nov 2015

When Margo says ‘we’ she includes the support of her employer Monaghan’s Pharmacy in  Warrnambool that generously allows Margo’s annual book fundraiser to operate from its Fairy street shop.

Donated and second-hand books are purchased and paid for in a voluntary-donation system, and Ms Salmon says all funds raised go directly to the school of St Jude’s.

‘People can just pay what they think a book is worth, and they can choose as many books as they like,’ Margo Salmon explained.

‘We look forward to whatever people can afford to donate, and all money raised I personally donate directly to The School of St Jude,  so people can be assured there are no middle man deductions’.

School founder Gemma Sisia, an Australian from the Northern Tablelands region of New South Wales said Margo Salmon’s contributions helps St Jude’s continue to provide students with a valuable, high-quality education.

‘An education here in Tanzania can mean a lifetime of opportunities, as well as huge benefits to families and the local community,’ explains St Jude’s founder Gemma Sisia

‘We are so appreciative of Margo’s hard work and everyone who purchases a book.’

Margo Salmon’s fundraising effort keeps good company: famous Australian actor and comedian Rebel Wilson is also an ambassador, says St Jude’s spokesperson and media officer Naomi Hockins.

‘Rebel Wilson is our most high-profile ambassador and recently donated $10,000 in prize money from a challenge on The Ellen Show ’ Ms Hockins said.

‘And we are also fortunate to have the support of Therese Rein, radio personality Ian Skippen and Triple J presenters Alex Dyson and Ollie Wards.’

For Margo Salmon the highlight of 2015 was St Jude’s first graduating students.

‘The first lot of students are graduating, and they will spend a year using that education to benefit their local region through community service,’ Margo Salmon said.

‘Gemma Sisia started off St Jude’s thirteen years ago with just a plot of land donated by her father-in-law, three students and the dream of eradicating poverty through education,’.

‘Now it’s a whole integrated package, from Grade 1 through to Form 6 and it involves all of the regional community.’

St Jude is the patron saint of the Hopeless and  Gemma Sisia said in 2005 during an interview on the ABC’s Australian Story that she named the school  St Jude because of her sometimes seemingly hopeless mission:

‘A girl from Guyra trying to build a school in Africa?  That’s a serious helpless case.’ (Gemma Sisia, 2005, ‘The Australian Show’)

Naomi Hockins explained St Jude’s  aims to provide education, boost female student opportunities and foster future Tanzanian leaders who can maintain a national education system.

‘The School of St Jude is 100% charity-funded and provides free, high-quality primary and secondary education to over 1,900 of the poorest and brightest students in the Arusha region,’ Ms Hockins said.

‘In Tanzania only 7.4% of the total population over 25 years old has a secondary education and historically the nation values education for boys over girls.’.’

‘Here at St Jude’s we also aim to create change in the nation’s education system by enabling Tanzanians to run successful schools with the aim of alleviating poverty and breaking the cycle of external aid dependency.’

Margo Salmon is one of the St Jude’s ‘fundraising champions’ says Ms Hockins, particularly as fundraisers play a vital part in the schools survival.

Fundraisers  serve the dual purpose of raising much-needed funds, as well as helping spread awareness of the school and the difficulties of attaining a good education in Tanzania,’ explains Ms Hockins.

The School of St Jude commenced providing free education in 2002 with just three students, but now provides for 1,899 young people and is bucking trends with over fifty six percent of students now female. St Jude’s media officer  Naomi Hockins, Nov 2015. 

Through its education and mentorship program St Jude’s also employs over 300 Tanzanian academic, administrative and maintenance staff from the local and East African regions.

‘St Jude’s injects USD$8,303 per week into the local community, just through the purchase of ingredients for 31,000 meals,’ said Ms Hockins.

‘That’s USD$35,983 per month, $431,798 per year.  In 2014, 98.81% of our total expenditure directly benefited our local community.’

For Margo Salmon it’s all about giving kids a chance and  she says anyone is welcome to purchase a book or make a donation.

‘To see Gemma’s dream coming to fruition, knowing it makes a difference that’s what it’s all about. You can just give a little but make a lot of difference to a child’s life’.