By: John Kubal, The Brookings Register

BROOKINGS – When Brookings Rotarian Gregg Jongeling and his wife Vi had an opportunity this past May to join a safari to view and photograph the wildlife of the Serengeti Plain in Tanzania, Africa, they took it.

Additionally, they knew they would attend a graduation ceremony at one of the most successful educational projects that Rotary supports: The School of St. Jude, in the city of Arusha, in the Northern Region of Tanzania.

“In my case, I went for the safari; but I came back with the enthusiasm for the school,” Gregg said.

“We love to travel, so it was just an opportunity to go with a group,” Vi added.

The Jongelings paid their own way and joined Rotary Club members who had been sponsoring a student and were going over for the school’s third high school graduation ceremony.

The school was founded in 2002 by Australian Gemma Sisia and named in honor of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. From its opening with three students and one teacher, the school has grown to almost 2,000 students spread over three campuses. More than 1,000 of the students are boarded on two of the campuses. St. Jude’s is totally funded through charitable donations and receives no government funding.

While the school is named after a Catholic patron saint, it is per se ecumenical, and religious instruction is not part of the curriculum.

 

Passing the ‘poverty test’

One of the most unique aspects of St. Jude’s is its process for selecting students.

“The students that they select here are the brightest they can find. There are a lot of students trying to get in and they test them,” Gregg explained.

He noted that gender and religion are not issues in the selection process. Affluence, however, is. The students selected must also pass a “poverty test.”

“They must be very poor,” Gregg said. “And they only take one student from a family, with the idea that one student will be able to bring the entire family up out of poverty.”

Comparing and contrasting St. Jude’s with Tanzania’s government-sponsored schools, Gregg noted that in the latter schools, Swahili is the primary language through the primary grades. Then a test determines which quarter of the students will move on to middle school and beyond.

“Only the top quarter (of all students) will go beyond primary school,” he added.

Meanwhile, at St. Jude’s, all instruction is in English.

“They (St. Jude’s) have a different attitude,” Gregg explained. “At a school like this, it’s more of the Australian/American teaching, with the idea that the students participate, the students can question, the students can be involved in the teaching.

“Whereas in the government schools, it’s pretty much they might write the lesson on the board and the teacher might leave for that hour; or they can never question authority.”

Citing the value of fluency in English, he noted such skills would enable one having them “to work in the tourism industry, which is the big industry in Tanzania, and make four to 10 times what a regular laborer who doesn’t have an education could make.”

 

Aid from Rotary

St. Jude’s prepares its students for going on in such fields as science, engineering and medicine.

“A lot of them are looking toward medicine and being doctors. A number are going to be in the engineering field,” Gregg said.

Virtually 100 percent of St. Jude’s graduates will go on to college following high school graduation. And most of the students do an internship before starting college. Many of them will assist at St. Jude’s. “A number of them also go out and assist or teach in government schools because they’re so much better prepared,” he said.

However, there are very few opportunities for higher education in Tanzania; so St. Jude’s high school graduates are helped with scholarships to attend colleges and universities in Kenya and the Union of South Africa.

Gregg noted that Rotary International is a key financial supporter of St. Jude’s, with major contributions coming from its clubs in the Syndney, Australia, area.

Additionally, Pat and Willis Sutliff of the Rushmore chapter of Rotary in Rapid City have helped create “The American Friends of the School of St. Jude,” a 501(c)(3) corporation as a vehicle for Americans to make tax-exempt contributions to the school.

In U.S. dollars, it costs $4 million annually to operate St. Jude’s. The Brookings Rotary Club has approved the use of its scholarship fund to support half the annual $2,640 cost for a student; and the Jongelings are providing the remaining half.

 

St. Jude’s in action

The Jongelings had the opportunity to visit the school and also to visit one of the students at home.

Vi especially enjoyed meeting and interacting with St. Jude’s students.

“They were so open and so loving and just beautiful children. We participated in a lot of their classes. And you didn’t just sit and watch them do things,” she said.

First- and second-graders were eager to demonstrate their reading skills for the Jongelings.

“We were delighted to meet Glory, a third-grade student sponsored by Rotary District 5610,” Gregg added. (The district encompasses all of South Dakota and parts of Iowa, Minnsota and Nebraska.) “We traveled to her home to meet her mother and learn of the obstacles Glory must overcome to continue her education.”

Glory’s mother does not speak English. Her young daughter is teaching her.

“That’s the idea, that she can teach her mother English and maybe basic math and things that might help her to get a job working in the tourism industry, which will probably quadruple her income and put her into a whole different situation for life,” Gregg added.

“And that’s what they hope that they’re doing with every one of the students. By raising up 2,000 students, you hope you’re raising up 2,000 families.”

St. Jude’s goal is that after completing their education, its students “will come back and work through the country,” he said.

The Jongelings were able to visit St. Jude’s three campuses: Sisia has the primary students, who are bused in at 6 a.m. and returned home at 5 p.m.; Moivaro has the middle school students, who come in on Monday and return to their homes on Friday; and Smith has the high schools students who stay the entire semester on campus.

All students are fed three meals a day. And all receive an annual physical examination.

Geography plays a big role; being on the equator, St. Jude’s days are all equally 12 hours of daylight, 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and 12 hours of darkness, 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

Having seen St. Jude’s in action, Gregg, 32 years a Rotarian and retired Brookings city engineer, had a takeaway lesson of his own: “I like to say the school accepts the brightest students they can find and the poorest students they can find, with the idea of giving them an education so that they can become leaders in their country to try to bring the entire country of Tanzania forward and to help everybody in the country. That’s the goal of the school.”

And St. Jude’s founder has her own vision for the future of the school.

“Gemma’s stated goal is to have the prime minister of Tanzania come from her school some day,” Gregg said.

Perhaps prayers to St. Jude will again be answered.

Brookings Couple Learn About School in Tanzania 2017-08-28 05:00:00Z 0

Brookings, SDWith their knowledge of trivia and donation of school supplies, The Brookings Rotary Club recently helped support the Brookings Back2School Project.  The Rotary trivia team, “The Cogs,” won first place at Wooden Legs Brewery’s Giving Back Trivia Night on August 1st.  In addition to providing school supplies such as paper, markers, crayons, notebooks, and folders, the Rotary team gave their first-place winnings of $50 to the Back2School Project. 

Members of “The Cogs” included Ginger Thomson, Dave Gilkerson, Brad Blaha, Jay Vanduch, Rich Widman, Jason Croat, and Isaiah Crevier.  Rotarian Toby Uecker coordinated the effort and emceed the event.  The Brookings Rotary Club’s goal in 2017-18 is to offer monthly community service opportunities for members, thereby bettering the Brookings community.

The main objective of Rotary International is service, in the community and throughout the world. With more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs worldwide, Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio.

Photo: L-R Back Row: Ginger Thomson, Toby Uecker, Dave Gilkerson, Brad Blaha, Jay Vanduch, Rich Widman, Jason Croat, and Isaiah Crevier.

Rotary Trivia Team Wins, Gives Back 2017-08-02 05:00:00Z 0

The main objective of Rotary International is service, in the community and throughout the world. With more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs worldwide, Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio.

Photo: Reva Johnson, Brookings Rotary Club’s new president, accepts the gavel from past president Dan Little.  

 

 

Johnson Elected President of Brookings Rotary Club 2017-07-01 05:00:00Z 0
Rotary President Dan Little Appointed Area 4 District 5610 Assistant Governor Effective July 1, 2017 2017-06-01 05:00:00Z 0
 
 
Brookings, SD — Children who play in the gym at the Brookings Boys and Girls Club are better protected from harm, thanks to the Rotary Club of Brookings.  The Boys and Girls Club saw a need for safety mats to be mounted along the wall of the full-size gym.  The safety mats provide a layer of safety for all youth and allow for more robust activities to be possible because of this protection.  The local Rotary Club was able to purchase the mats with a matching grant from the Rotary District 5610 Community Assistance Program.
 
“The objective is to provide a safe environment for the over 350 children who attend the Boys and Girls Club daily, while they participate in a variety of activities in the gym,” said Brookings Rotarian Reva Johnson.  To celebrate the installation of the mats, Rotary members volunteered to work Saturday, April 1st, at the Willie Mac basketball tournament in the Boys and Girls Club gym.
 
The main objective of Rotary International is service, in the community and throughout the world. With more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs worldwide, Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio.
 
Photo: L-R: Brookings Rotarians Del Johnson and Jason Flaskey work the Willie Mac basketball tournament.  The safety mats provided by the Brookings Rotary Club are along the wall in the background.
Brookings Rotary Club Buys Equipment for Boys & Girls Club 2017-04-25 05:00:00Z 0

Brookings, SD — Brookings High School senior Shae Kizima was honored as the Brookings Rotary Club’s May Student of the Month. 

Shae is the daughter of Heather and Kevin Witte of Brookings.  Some of the activities in which she has been   involved are: National Honor Society, Student Council, Spanish Club, SADD, and Volleyball. 

She has also been a volunteer for the Brookings Regional Humane Society, Brookings Marathon, and Middle School Engineering Camp.  After graduation from BHS, she plans to attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and major in Gender and Women’s Studies.

Each month during the school year, the Brookings Rotary Club recognizes two students who excel in exhibiting their motto “Service Above Self” and fulfill the ideals of the Four-Way Test: Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 

The main objective of Rotary International is service, in the community and throughout the world. With more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs worldwide, Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio.

 Photo: Shae Kizima

Rotary Student of the Month 2017-02-28 06:00:00Z 0
Rotary Exchange Student attending BHS 2017-02-14 06:00:00Z 0
Music has been an important part of leading an ordinary life for students at the Music School for Children With Disabilities in Honor of Paul Harris in Lublin, Poland. Founded by Rotary members, the school serves 20 students with various disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism, and visual impairments. The Rotary Club of Lublin-Centrum-Maria Curie-Sklodowska has provided funding with help from Rotary Foundation Matching Grants and the Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society, which houses the school.
 
After their son Mateusz was born with underdeveloped eyes, Mariusz and Joanna Kania looked for ways to help him be active. When he showed an aptitude for music, they looked for a teacher and were thrilled to find the Paul Harris music school.
Helping people with disabilities make their own music 2015-05-01 00:00:00Z 0
For years, Angalia Bianca had slept in abandoned buildings throughout Chicago. She stole. She did drugs. She spent time in and out of jail for forgery, theft, trespassing, and possession of narcotics. But after she landed in prison for the seventh time, something changed -- Bianca knew she wanted a better life. She just didn’t know how to make it happen.
 
After serving her time, Bianca sought help from a local homeless organization, A Safe Haven, and moved to its shelter in the Rogers Park neighborhood. Bianca followed the program closely -- she attended all the required meetings, passed drug tests, and volunteered at every opportunity.
Finding Safe Haven 2015-05-01 00:00:00Z 0
What is it like taking a large team to Africa?  It has probably been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. In mid February, I began leading Rotary members from all over the East Coast of the United States through Ghana. I’ve tried to give the team a warm Ghanaian welcome like I’ve received on my earlier trips. A large trip is a real blessing because each person sees Ghana and our work in a different way.

A highlight for the team was greeting the chief of Sagadugu. The team got excited about buying goats and food for children in the villages where I support eight churches. It was good to see the pastors of most of the eight churches, and I had to explain that we were just passing through on our way to Bolgatanga.
Saving lives in Ghana 2015-05-01 00:00:00Z 0
Throughout India and around the world, Rotary clubs are celebrating a major milestone: India has gone three years without a new case of polio. The last reported case was a two-year-old girl in West Bengal on 13 January 2011. To mark this historic triumph, Rotary clubs illuminated landmarks and iconic structures throughout the country with four simple but powerful words, "India is polio free."
 
The three-year achievement sets the stage for polio-free certification of the entire Southeast Asia region by the World Health Organization. The Indian government also plans to convene a polio summit in February to commemorate this victory in the global effort to eradicate polio.
 
India celebrates three years without polio 2014-02-26 00:00:00Z 0
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