Alumni award winner transforms the lives of thousands

28 November 2017
Celebrating the great achievements of our alumni

Congratulations to Annabelle Chauncy OAM (BA '07 LLB '10), who received the 2017 University of Sydney Alumni Award for Service to Humanity. 

Annabelle Chauncy

This award recognises the personal contributions of alumni who, through service or philanthropy, improve the lives of those in need. It also recognises the significant involvement of our alumni in projects that enrich local or international communities.

When Annabelle Chauncy took time out from her studies at the University of Sydney in late 2007 to travel to Africa and volunteer with an aid organisation, she didn’t foresee the Kenyan crisis that would force her to evacuate to neighbouring Uganda.

“I basically just had to wander around and figure out what to do,” Annabelle says. She talked to people, asked what they needed, and listened. “The residing thing for me was that education is something you simply can’t take away from someone,” she says. “Even if a child has two years of education, that’s going to change their life.”

Thus the idea for the School for Life was born. Annabelle and fellow student David Everett OAM established Katuuso Primary and Vocational School in 2011. From an initial enrolment of 80 children there will soon be three schools welcoming 560 children – and transforming thousands of lives.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws, Annabelle says her degree helped her navigate a highly complex environment. “The University of Sydney set me up with the footing and the foundation for every part of the business we’re now running,” she says. “From setting up the constitution to getting the governance right, through to the corporate side of the law and contracts – all the everyday things that you use in a business have come in so handy.”

One of Annabelle’s teachers who inspired her during her time at the University was Emeritus Professor Peter Butt from the Law School.

"Peter Butt taught me Real Property. He's such a passionate and knowledgeable teacher and knows every small detail of every case. He is an inspiration and has gone on to support my School for Life Foundation," she says.

Annabelle’s vision is of creating a sustainable model that can be replicated across the developing world. “We’ve taken a crawl-before-you-walk and walk-before-you-run approach to growth,” she says. “We’ve created manageable goals. It’s been organic growth, responsive to the needs of the community.”

Reflecting on Annabelle’s success, Professor Peter Butt said: “In just a few years she has built schools, trained teachers, and helped parents and communities to develop sustainable skills. I’ve watched as her first tentative steps – a small school for a small number of students – have blossomed into fullscale primary and secondary schooling for many hundreds of Ugandan children. Her achievements are astonishing. And she continues to build and grow. Go to the School for Life website and you’ll see what I mean. It’s inspirational!”