Founded in 2008 by two young, passionate Australian entrepreneurs, Annabelle Chauncy OAM and David Everett OAM, School For Life is a not-for-profit organisation working in rural Uganda to deliver school and vocational education in the community. We spoke with Annabelle Chauncy about her work to build schools and educate entire communities in one of the poorest nations in the world. But first, a word from Today Host Georgie Gardner who experienced the work of School For Life firsthand:
I am passionate about what “School for Life” offers as it’s not just providing children with an education, but it is mobilising a whole community with a hand up as opposed to a hand out.It was so encouraging to see children from immense poverty having access to custom built schools offering quality education and resources as well as three meals a day. By engaging many of the parents with work opportunities associated with the schools, the whole community is invested in it succeeding. They are immensely proud and Annabelle is at the centre of it. She is to be applauded widely for what she has achieved because education is what will ensure these children have choices and opportunities. Annabelle is affording them what should be a basic human right. It is of course something we in Australia take for granted, which is why I seized the opportunity a couple of years ago to take my then 12-year-old daughter. It was a life changing opportunity not just to give her perspective of her privileged place in the world but also to see children with so little in terms of material possessions, so happy and content. We came away uplifted and enlightened knowing that when you give a child an education, you give them a life.
Annabelle, how did a girl from the Southern Highlands in NSW end up in Uganda? In 2007 I volunteered to go to Kenya at 21 years of age. I was living in rural community, teaching English to kids. Six weeks in, Kenya was thrown into political turmoil during the presidential elections, and this erupted into violence protests on the streets. We were evacuated across the border into Uganda where I was confronted with the incredible poverty. Kids were living in mud huts and walking 5-10km every day without food or shoes to get to a primitive school with no pens, pencils or desks. There was a huge need that I couldn’t turn my back on.
How did School For Life get its start? I met fellow founder David Everette whilst teaching at that rural school in Uganda and we realised we had the same vision that education could break the cycle of poverty around us. Back in Australia in 2008, we gathered a board of experienced business people, developed a plan, and started our fundraising. It was the initial seed funding of key invididuals and a partnership with Rotary that enabled us to raise over $500,000. In 2011 we opened our first school in the village of Katuuso with 5 teachers and 80 students. Now, we have 1000 students are enrolled across 3 schools, and employ 120 Ugandan adults as to run the schools.
There are widespread issues in Uganda – hunger, poverty, domestic violence, disease and corruption. How can education help? Education changes everything. Education is the best way to break the cycle of poverty. You give a child an education and you give them a life. And it can’t be taken away. Now, in addition to primary and secondary schooling, School of Life provides communities with vocational training and services such as employment and healthcare solutions. Education is the pathway to progress developing communities in emerging countries that are safe, productive, sustainable and prosperous. We provide health and nutrition services, promote and implement sustainable projects, and we have established tailoring and agricultural programs to promote sustainable economic development in communities where we work. We are creating a model we can scale and replicate to change the lives of thousands more people.
‘Founder fatigue’ and ‘Donor fatigue’ are realities for anyone working in philanthropy. How do you deal with this? It’s the kids. I’m always energised and motivated by the kids. They have so many challenges in their life and even getting to school usually means walking 5-10km each way, but they love coming to school and arrive with huge smiles on their faces. And these individual stories of the real impact that our supporters are making in the lives of this community are what also fuels our giving community.
What are some ways we can get involved and support the work of School For Life? There are so many options that will make a lifelong difference. The simplest way is to sponsor a child for $52 per month (for a primary student) or $104 per month (for a secondary student). Your contribution will provide access to education, clean water, 3 meals a day and healthcare. You can also hire a teacher for $206 per month which will provide a local Ugandan teacher with a salary, accommodation, clean water, 3 meals a day and healthcare. Of course, you can also make a one off donation which will go directly to benefit the work we do in the local community. For those looking to get more involved, this month we are taking a volunteer task force to Uganda to roll up their sleeves and build accommodation for our school teachers. Each teacher house costs $10,000 and 300 hours of labour to build. They are built to last and provide comfortable and safe accommodation. The ‘Build for Impact’ team leaves on 22nd September (this month!) and returns on the 28thSeptember. There’s still time to be involved so contact us for an information pack. We also run an annual ‘Travel4Good’ immersive experience for a parent and child to visit our see first-hand the School for Life schools in rural Uganda, and see the positive impact on the individual and the community. Our next trip is July 4-11, 2020 and more information is available on our website.
For the more adventurous we are also hosting a ‘Trek Mt Kilimanjaro’ challenge in 2010. This 11-day adventure will push your limits as you trek through five different climatic zones all whilst knowing your efforts are supporting our work in Uganda and helping to change the lives of our teachers and students forever. Lastly, you and your community can raise funds to support us by holding an event such as a dinner or cocktail party, getting sponsorship for an activity or an achievement such as a marathon or milestone, or holding a celebration in our name. All sponsorships and donations are 100% tax deductible, and we are always eagerly seeking those who perhaps cannot contribute financially but are able to give their time and skills to this life affirming work. Thank you!