Last year as part of our Inspirational Women series we were lucky enough to get to speak to the beautiful Annabelle Chauncy. At 21, she and friend David Everett founded School for Life, a non-for-profit organisation focused on making a transformational difference to communities and delivering high quality education to those in rural Uganda.
Since then, the foundation has gone from strength to strength – Annabelle, along with her co-founder, have transformed a vision into an organisation that now employs more than 50 people, educates hundreds of children and adults and provides health-care and access to clean water for more than 1000 people. At the beginning of the year, Annabelle, as well as David, were also awarded an Order of Australia Medal – a recognition of outstanding achievement.
We recently caught up with Annabelle again to hear about all the fantastic work she gets up to when she spends time overseas.
Annabelle, when you are in Uganda your days are long and very busy! What does an average day for you involve?
Wake up at 5am and try desperately to get back to sleep, avoiding the temptation of checking my email, all the while knowing its 1pm in Australia and there’s no doubt lots of stuff that needs addressing!
Get up around and go for a run around the quieter parts of Kampala. Exercise is a really important part of my daily routine and it starts my day off with a positive mindset. Children and adults get overwhelmed with excitement when they see white people and love to greet you. Often when I run I am followed by excited kids who want to play and laugh at a “muzungu” (a non-pejorative term for a white person). In Uganda exercise isn’t too common, so children tend to find it quite comical and a little strange.
I have a shower and catch a motorbike or ‘boda boda’ to our office. This is the most common form of transport in Uganda. You hail a motorbike, jump on the back and pay the driver to take you where you need to go. At the office, we meet for the day and make a plan.
Usually we head out to school around 8am. There are people traveling on all sorts of different vehicles. Trucks are overloaded with products and anything goes in terms of driving, it’s every man for himself and you need to be pushy otherwise you simply won’t get let in. Road rules don’t really exist but somehow the chaos is organised.
The village in which our primary and vocational school is Katuuso and located is approximately 40kms west of Kampala. When we drive off the main road this is where rural life truly hits. People live in mud huts and have around 8 children per family. They have no electricity, no running water and live on subsistence farms they use to grow the food they eat. Family is everything in the village and this was part of what charmed me in Uganda.
The Katuuso kids arrive at school at 8am for breakfast so they are well and truly into their lessons when we arrive. You can hear singing and classes happening from outside before you even enter the school. What catches your attention more than anything when you first drive in is the beautiful, colourful playground.
My day is spent assisting teachers in a fairly hands-off way and working on strategy, marketing and communications and help with all the initiatives created. We have a few amazing Western team members who oversee teams of local builders to construct new projects that are currently underway such as the teachers’ accommodation and the Early Childhood Development Centre, tailoring room and assembly hall.
Play time happens when the kids break for morning tea. They are served fruits, biscuits, milk, popcorn, biscuits or porridge and then race out into the sprawling playground.
The kids go back to lessons (which include additional subjects other than just the basic curriculum – literacy, numeracy, drama, art, music and life skills) until 12.30 when they are served a hot lunch, again with varied meals, beans, banana, rice, meat, vegetables all sourced from local farmers.
School runs until 3.30 and often the kids hang around as they don’t want to go home. They crave attention and affection, so love to hug, play games and spend time showing you their work or what they have learned that day.
We leave for Kampala to try to beat the afternoon peak hour traffic. By this time, town is buzzing with people selling goods at market and travelling home from work.
I arrive home anytime from 6pm onwards. There may or may not be electricity at night. If not, light lots of candles and have a shower. There is always something happening amongst our group of friends at night and we will often eat at local restaurants, see live music or just hang at home.
Bed time can be quite early though as its a big day, and there is plenty more fun in store for tomorrow!
Images via School For Life