Annabelle Chauncey OAM is the Founding Director and CEO of the School For Life Foundation, a Not-For-Profit organisation building schools in rural Uganda.  Annabelle reveals the mistakes, lessons and true cost of chasing your purpose in life; a cost she’s willing to pay. Even if it means every battle is a war of attrition.

Episode #2 Podcast With Annabelle Chauncy OAM


Annabelle Chauncey started out as a country girl on a sheep and cattle farm 2-hours southwest of Sydney. Her mother was a school teacher and her father left law school at twenty-one to take over the farm after his father suddenly passed away. They ingrained a never quit, hard work, and service to others ethic in Annabelle. Today she is the CEO & Founding Director at School for Life Foundation, Annabelle is a dynamic leader and social entrepreneur who started a multi-national NGO from scratch at the age of 21, with operations in both Australia and Uganda. Over the past 9 years, through her Foundation, School for Life, she has built a team of more than 120 staff, built 3 schools in rural Uganda that provide quality education to 680 students and outreach to more than 2000 people.



Annabelle is the recipient of:

  • The Medal of the Order of Australia,
  • The NSW 2015 young woman of the year,
  • The 2012 Australian Financial Review and Westpac Top 100 Women of Influence 2012,
  • April 2017 Sydney University Alumni Award for Service to Humanity,
  • The 2016 Impact 25 Award,
  • The 2015 Woman of the Future – People’s Choice Award.


  • Don’t be afraid to ask for things. The difference between Annabelle’s success and others is that she’s not afraid to ask for things and not afraid of rejection.
  • People are unpredictable and employees will never care about the business as much as the owner does, nor should they.
  • Find a way, or make one – purpose makes you tenacious. Annabelle grew up on a farm that her father inherited in the midst of one of the worst droughts in history. The farm life instilled in her a ‘just get it done’ attitude and a depth of resilience that we see carry on and grow in her adult life.  These values are important because a part of running an NGO means that Annabelle needs to ask for donations on a daily basis, and she gets rejected 9 times out of 10. Rejection and obstacles are common themes in Annabelle’s life, but so is fighting and winning.  Often by attrition and out-willing her opposition. No matter the mistake, or challenge, Annabelle eventually wins because her purpose is so surmounting that the cost of quitting is too great. To win requires a no excuse attitude and a will to never give up, even if you need to pivot.
  • Wait and do things right. You will lose more by rushing and hiring the wrong person, than by waiting and hiring the best person. Annabelle admits her single biggest challenge is managing people and she can sometimes be too reactive to problems instead of proactive and this has meant she’s hired wrong. Making decisions in haste has also led to mistaken ventures such as trying to build commercial businesses in Uganda without clearly defined business plans.
  • Face your shortcomings: Bring in people with independent eyes to put a mirror up to your face, it’s uncomfortable but essential in finding your weaknesses, then jump on the problem before it creeps too far.

Show Notes

In this episode we cover

  • The story of School For Life Foundation
  • Turning the first fundraising ball around from failure in two weeks
  • Dealing with the nuances of being a white Australian woman, building an organisation in Uganda
  • Construction mishaps
  • Growing pains and sustainability
  • Being too reactive instead of proactive
  • Holes in the business
  • Struggling with moving from being the doer to the manager
  • Sacrifices – a different lifestyle, working 80-100 hour week

There are 42 million people in Uganda, a country the same size as Victoria, Australia and 56% of the population is under the age of 14-years old. Only 50% of Ugandans complete primary school, 13% complete secondary 3% complete tertiary. I encourage you to visit the School for Life “Get Involved” webpage to lend your support!

Your $42 per month Child Sponsorship provides a child with access to education, clean water, and 3 meals a day.


School For Life Website

Find Fabian on Instagram @FabXIII

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