Lessons still to learn

CSR | Tue 9 Jun | Author – Business & Finance
Lessons for Life
Sesethu Mbotshelwa speaking at the Irish Lessons for Life Foundation Ball 2013

Since 2007, the Lessons for Life Foundation has given hope to over 20,000 children in 650 schools, helping to break the poverty cycle in Africa.

The Lessons for Life Foundation (formerly known as the Chello Foundation) was founded in 2007 by the late Shane O’Neill while working for the international telecommunications group, Liberty Global (owner of UPC in Ireland).

The aim of the foundation is to improve the prospects of vulnerable children, including those orphaned and affected by HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan African. This is achieved by providing them with access to quality education at primary, secondary vocational and tertiary level.

From a small initiative in Bondo, Kenya targeting 85 students in 2007, the foundation has grown significantly, having supported over 20,000 students in partnership with 14 partners in seven countries in eastern and southern Africa.

The foundation also strengthens the capacity of local organisations, families and communities to provide better care to children affected by HIV and AIDS.


The Lessons for Life Foundation enjoys significant support from Liberty Global Inc., which covers all the operational costs and contributes a significant amount annually to fund the charities work in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a key benefit to the foundation as it mitigates the overhead cost leakage associated with many other charitable organisations.

In addition, the company matches pro-rata any monies raised by or on behalf of the foundation. Lessons for Life seeks to raise over £1.5m per annum to fund its selected programmes and activities. In addition to organising its own events, the foundation has developed a template for other corporate to engage with Lessons for Life through into their CSR programmes and philanthropy activities.

The charity still needs the support of Liberty Global Inc. However, in the words of its founding chairman, the late Shane O’Neill: “We need to bring more people, more businesses to the table, to help us reach the noble goal of reaching the many children that require our assistance. We want more and more people to join the foundation to do something really meaningful.” This means more corporate partnerships in Ireland.


Staff at both UPC and Friends First have selected Lessons for Life as a charity partner to support. This is based on both the merits of the cause but also the level of assistance from staff at the foundation in helping the companies and their staff to engage with both Lessons for Life fundraising activities and with the work of the charity in Africa.

Significant funds have been raised by staff from both companies for the foundation through a wide range of events, both Lessons for Life event and events arranged by staff themselves

In 2014, teams from both companies joined over 600 other cyclists in the Big Ride from five different locations to Amsterdam. The 2015 cycle will be held on June 23rd and 24th.

Groups of staff from both companies visited Uganda in 2015 to help continue the great work that is being generated through local partnerships such as Nurture Africa that has benefited the local community considerably.

The Friends First contingent included Brian O’Neill, the brother of the late Shane O’Neill. The participants from these visits benefit enormously from the ability to see first-hand what the charity is achieving and are now ambassadors for the charities in their companies and their communities.

The key objective of the charity in Ireland is to increase the number of corporate partnership which like UPC and Friends First can support the charity but can benefit from the expertise and experience of a charity and existing who have expertise and experience in developing effective corporate philanthropy programmes as part of their overall CSR strategies.

For more information on Lessons for Life, whether its getting involved with the charity as a volunteer or as a corporate partner visit www.lessonsforlifefoundation.org or email brian.oneill@friendsfirst.ie.