ANNABELLE'S School for Life
So often we hear the term "making a difference" - but for one North Shore woman, these words are a testament to her enormous drive, enthusiasm and dedication to help those less fortunate.
Annabelle Chauncy grew upon Sydney's southern highlands, the daughter of a farmer and school teacher, but the 30year-old Mosman resident has spent the past decade driving her School for Life African Foundation and can now proudly look back on what has been an enormous achievement.
After spending time in Africa, specifically Kenya and Uganda Ms Chauncy and friend David Everett founded the School for Life program in 2008 - when they were finishing university.
Ms Chauncy, who received a Medal for the Order of Australia last year, raised funds to open a primary school in Katuuso in Uganda for 80 primary and nursery aged children in January 2011, and again in January 2012, when 40 more students were enrolled in a primary second grade class.
"I love what we have been able to achieve in Africa,” She tells North Shore Living.
"We are creating real change - not just in terms of education but in flow on support to the whole community who take educational opportunities very seriously.
“We're actually having a positive effect on the lives of thousands of people - not just the children at the school.”
The foundation provides school instruction, uniforms, three nutritious meals a day, high quality learning and trained teachers It employs more than 30 local staff, including teachers, cooks, security staff, maintenance officers and builders.
Access to clean water and important health facilities are an integral part of her dedication to the needs of the local community. There is also agricultural training for farmers and a new vocational training program empowering women.
"The women are now producing beautiful garments which we are selling online and in markets in Australia and overseas," she adds. "It's been absolutely life-changing for them.
"The national and local governments have been very supportive of our projects because in Uganda and Kenya there is a strong belief in the value of education.
"In the beginning, the children would walk five kilometres on an empty stomach, but they would come in with a smile because they wanted to learn. Parents really want this for their children and the adults want to learn to read and write as well -there is no stigma attached to this in their eyes.”
Ms Chauncy's boundless energy and commitment recently raised another $400,000 for the foundation with a black tie ball in Sydney, where she has developed a strong donor base.
"We are realistic about the difficulties and obstacles we face." she explains, "and we want to be able to ensure the sustainability of the school and allied projects. I travel to Africa three times a year to oversee what is happening and I probably work about 80-100 hours a week.
"We have a range of challenges - and fundraising is certainly one of the main ones."
She says since the foundation's formation in 2008, it's been an "amazing journey", adding, "I came from a strong community service background, but I think even my parents have been thrilled and amazed at what we have achieved in Africa.
“They have been with me on two visits and were very moved by what they saw and experienced. They cannot believe their daughter has done this. They're now massive champions of our cause.”
Over the past few years, Ms Chauncy has been recognised for her enormous Contribution. She was named by the Financial Review and Westpac as one of the top 100 Women of Influence in Australia: 'young leader' finalist in the Telstra Business Women's Award in 2013; and the Paul Harris Women of the Future for the Australian's Women's Weekly and Oantas.
But for her, the commitment is a personal one and not about awards. “Our Schools use up skills vocational training together with formal training in order to see what suits the Individual child best,” she adds. “Without the school feeding program the children would fall asleep at their desks.”