Hatrack Heroes! Episode 2


Guest: Eva Kernova

Organisation: The Choice To Change

Release: 18th November 2019

As the title says, every child deserves a future. This is also one of the quotes burned into my mind after speaking with ex-Etihad crew Eva Kernova.

Along with co-founder Sunil Baroi, and Mohammed Loch they are transforming the lives of many children within the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Listen here!


Nick: Hi everyone, and welcome to another Episode of ‘Hatrack Heroes!’, a podcast that explores the crew involved charities from the farthest corners of the globe. And today we’re chatting with Eva, co- founder of the charity, The Choice 2 Change, a charity based in Dhaka Bangladesh. So, welcome Eva…

Eva: Hello, Hi, thank you for having me

Nick: You’re welcome. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, bit of an introduction about where you come from, what you do?

Eva: Okay, so as you mentioned my name is Eva, and I’m from Slovakia originally. I moved to UAE in 2009, and the charity I’m involved with. It’s an organisation with the name called ‘Choice 2 Change’ foundation, and I’m one of the co-founders. It’s been a really interesting journey which started with me being a cabin crew and was very much interested to travel the world and seeing what is out there. Finishing my masters which was a Social Work, I was always very much interested to be part of certain projects, or visit programmes and see how it’s really the life out there. Because one thing you can breathe, and another thing is to experience yourself. You know… Even just moving to the middle east and knowing about a new culture, and new religions and just, just… just, everything was very, very different.

Nick: Yeah

Eva: So, nothing better than a personal experience itself, that’s what I very much like about this whole journey. Basically, going back, I never planned to start a charity...

Nick: mmm

Eva: You know… was for me to be a part of something very important, and using benefits as a cabin crew which was the time, and the…

Nick: Travel

Eva: …discounted tickets

Nick: yeah, yeah!

Eva: It was basically something that got me interested to explore what is out there.

Nick: mmm, okay

Eva: …and Choice 2 Change was for me very much a kind of wake-up call… that I can do something for others. When I had days off, I would pick a destination

Nick: Okay… Ahhh, I see

Eva: where I would go, and just visit the projects... So, the first main one was India

Nick: Okay

Eva: I went to India, and I took ten days for my leave, and I went to Delhi, and from Delhi I took the bus… it was crazy

Nick: Wow!

Eva: I just took my camera and I was just, you know, sitting on the bus, exploring the country, alone completely. Alone completely, which like looking back it was…

Nick: scary

Eva: scary, but it’s fun because once you’re alone, travelling alone… you’re forced to meet people, you’re forced to find the way rather than just to be with one… with your comfort zone. So, I was very much learning about different culture, really in a hard way.

Nick: yep

Eva: I’m not saying that it was always easy, but I very much believe that It was the only time where I could do it, and that was the time that I was cabin crew. This platform as a cabin crew was given to me as a gift. I could travel freely, I could go anywhere I wanted, just put my finger on the map, and choose whatever I wanted to see. I chose India, I went there, I explore one place called Simla. I went to one of the hospitals, just seeing there, being there was very interesting. Then I learned about different projects around, and one of the projects that I learned about was in Bangladesh… and I knew a family friend who was involved, and who was living in Bangladesh. So, I wanted to go there and visit this place.

Nick: Okay

Eva: Which happened… initially I wanted to go home and see my family, but if you remember there was a volcano. I was actually saying okay, that’s just a couple days where I’m going to sit here…

Nick: Mmm

Eva: …and I’m just going to do the basic, or I’m going to travel somewhere close by and it was on my list, on my to-do list…

Nick: Mmm…

Eva: …to go and see this charity in Bangladesh.

Nick: yep

Eva: So, instead of going back home, I booked a ticket to go to Bangladesh, visited this charity. For me it was very overwhelming. That basically was my second trip, but… there was a but… Visiting the project, I was questioning where my money would go… It was kind of answered, but when I went back there again, I found that it was not true… and I was extremely disappointed. They showed me the faces of these needy children, that they needed my money to be able to attend the school, but when I came back in six weeks, which they didn’t expect... it was exactly the same thing, and the money disappeared, and it was used for building the church, because it was religiously driven. So, for me that was kind of this belief which I found myself in… and it was a wake-up call, and I felt there must be… there must be a way for us to do something for those children. It cannot be misused because that could be me that was born there… you know.

Nick: Of course

Eva: It could be all of us, I was just more lucky, and privileged enough to be born in Slovakia, and to get education for free. Even though I would be just complaining about that, we’re taking things for granted.

Nick: It takes to see these countries for us to actually then realise that we are extremely lucky.

Eva: When you go back to the statistics, the country, now there’s more than 50% above 15 years illiterate. They just never went to school.

Nick: Right

Eva: Most of the parents of our children are those that they maybe.. maybe access to school for one year, and that was it. They do not have money. 36% of the childrens fathers are day labourers, which means that they are going on the side, they’re building something… or they’re breaking bricks, they’re rickshaw pullers… you know like these very basic ones. And 71% are uneducated… so, none of them actually received any education before.

Nick: Wow, that’s a large percentage isn’t it.

Eva: Yeah! Similarly, the mothers also mainly uneducated. They remain in the house as simple housewives, or just having like simple jobs.

Nick: yep

Eva: Imagine the family of four, they’re living in the slums. The rent that they pay is actually 60% of what they earn. The earning, monthly earning for someone who is let’s say a rickshaw driver, and then a mother who would be a cleaner or maybe she will be just breaking the bricks. They will earn maximum 350 dirhams, 400 dirhams per month.

Nick: 120 USD per month, approximately… that’s crazy!

Eva: …and that’s when both are working

Nick: …that goes to rent, wow!

Eva: …so that leaves a majority of the students that they enter the school, in complete poverty level.

Nick: Yeah, okay… Wow!

Eva: This is usually the profile of the family that we work with.

Nick: Yeah, Wow!

Eva: You know, there are people who are more poor, there are people that they’re getting a little bit better. The family with two parents, it’s doing better than someone who it’s only one parent, single mother. We have children that they’re orphans. So, culturally speaking they just… they just don’t see the importance of the education as much because they’re just… they’re just suffering. They just go from day one to day two…

Nick: just getting by… yep!

Eva: you know… they do not have money to eat, why should they go to school? You know... so, the government provides ultimate support… like, it’s of course… like Bangladesh Government is trying to do their best to, you know, provide education for everybody…

Nick: Yep

Eva: …But the extra that comes with it, let’s say transport, let’s say uniforms …is not given for free. So, it’s a struggle, it’s something that you just do not realise the way they live. You know, just going through the slums, wherever you go… whether it’s India, Bangladesh. It’s the same, you see poverty everywhere. You see lost children. You see… You see them with a big smile. But, still… you can see that there, there could be so much more... There are so many slums, we helping only two slums at the moment. And imagine that you have a population basically the size of Washington DC moving to Dhaka every year from the villages. So the density…

Nick: …Plus ten times

Eva: you just, you cannot understand that people can live so close.

Nick: On top of each other…

Eva: …on top of each other, so it’s still expanding… you can see that the slums are important for them. A lot of people really struggle in Bangladesh, and in villages… let’s say they’re there because of asylum, or just… no matter what natural disaster that they’re facing, or economic situation that they’re in. They’re forced to move because there’s no opportunity. They can either beg, or they can either have a job. You know it’s the third largest garment industry, you know… Bangladesh.

Nick: yes, yes…

Eva: So, they still have a job, they still would find something at least. Something like that, instead of sitting in the village and they would have nothing to eat… so that’s why they compromise and they go to the slums, and they live there in the shack, which is like, you know… 3 by 3 metres, and seven people living there on the floor… and that’s how you see it. That people surviving and living, and it’s still happening as we speak.

Nick: It’s certainly very courageous of you to become involved in something so engrained to a country’s society. What was it that gave you the courage to become involved? was there a specific thing, or someone that was able to help you?

Eva: I was very lucky, and grateful to this day that I found Sunil who was involved in a different charity. He was coming from a very poor background, you know he never knew his father, and his sister was supporting him, his mother was working hard so he got into a scholarship that was also one of the sponsors that was actually paying for his school. And he made a promise to himself that when he finished the school that he would like to help other children the way it’s been helped to him. He was very positive in the sense of like “Eva, if you want to do something, and you trust me, we can do something, do you want to?”

Nick: Okay

Eva: And I say “Well, I’m 100% in it, what are we going to do?” “Can we just pick a few kids, and just support them in their education?”, and he said “well, it’s fairly easy, we can pick 20-25 kids in the slums, I’ll need maximum $1000 a year, and we will just educate them in the slum. One teacher, one carpet, few books… like, let’s just do this”. That basically gives you a little bit of the inside of who he is as a person. And over the years he proved himself, and I felt, yes, I can really trust him. And he’s someone who’s been there for the children, who’s been there for us, and who’s been there for volunteers, and all visitors. I just had this ultimate feeling that I wanted to do it with him. So, he would be the one who was in charge of the operation. My part would be to spread the word, do the PR and talk what I witnessed… and encourage other people, and kind of like infect them with your enthusiasm. Because… And that was not a strategy, it was for me, I was full of it. I was so passionate, and I still am, because I believe that I was meant to be there at that time. So, for me, Choice 2 Change was like… in my head, I didn’t choose this particular name of the charity. It was for me, like how was this possible, that these children live in this condition? and I’m making the choice. How am I going to spend my free days? How am I going to spend my money? So, Choice to Change was the way that I wanted to live. And it was a promise that I made, not to them in Bangladesh, but to myself.

Nick: to yourself, yeah

Eva: How am I going to live in the future? And so, Choice 2 Change, it can apply to many of like… you know, as a slogan. It can apply, not as a name of a charity, but the way we live. It was very much a…let’s do something, the call, the choice that we’re making. We really grew up organically. So, that’s how it all started!

Nick: It’s a great slogan to have isn’t it, not just for a charity, but for everyday life... Now, Eva, can you tell us specifically about ‘The Choice 2 Change’?

Eva: So, ‘The Choice 2 Change’ educates more than 178 children in Bangladesh, specifically Dhaka. And we chose to work with children from slums Khilket and Lalmati. We started in two locations, cause I wanted to make sure of accessibility to the slums from the airport, because I was crew ultimately at that time.

Nick: Ah, I see

Eva: It would be easy for me to access. Because it would be cheaper and the budget would be lower if we were to open the school outside of Dhaka, but it was not feasible for me in terms of having a short layover, because I was just working around what is there. So that was my flights to Dhaka, I would stay there one day. I was very much interested to stay closer and being able to access the place, also for my fellow crew. So, encourage others to see children, and seeing the slums because I really wanted to share that experience with everybody else.

Nick: Yeah!

Eva: So, there is no way that somebody could enter and go out of the slums, and be just the same as they did before.

Nick: …not feel a thing

Eva: you just, you know… it was confronting the reality. So, the planning went from 25 children to being, based in one slum. Giving them the chance of learning how to read, write, and count, that’s it.

Nick: Okay!

Eva: For me, ultimately it was the English, very big deal. As I say, like, if they would just know how to speak English, if they would just know how to use English in their daily setting, I believe that there is no way they would not be able to get a better job. You know.

Nick: It opens up opportunities doesn’t it.

Eva: Open up opportunities. It happened in my life as well. Whenever I look back, when I was 25, I decided to change my life… finished my university, I went to America for two years. I learnt English. I’d never studied that at school. If you have that drive, and you have that opportunity, you know, it’s up to you to grab it, and  really use it. I really felt that English changed my life a lot... so, that was one of my main and key requests to him. Was ok, we’re going to teach them how to write, count and read, but also in English… so, English was a requirement! Plus, having cabin crew coming in, I want the kids to understand them, have a conversation. You know, that was very much like it evolved itself. That was my idea, and Sunil supported me in that. 

Nick: You really do need like-minded individuals all pulling in the same direction to make something like this succeed.

Eva: Couple months later, when I was just going around speaking to everybody, talking to Etihad crew, and getting some in-kind donations all the time… and it was not really registered, like, it was nothing. I had two valuable assets, which was one cabin crew, Mariusz, and then flight crew, Mark. These two guys were able to help me and Sunil to get the charity into completely a different level.

Nick: Mmm

Eva: So, it was for us to really open up the arms. Not only visitors, but people who really want to make a difference and really want to get involved. That was a crucial point for us to really get through the registration, get through the interviewing different personnel, hiring teachers, of course you had more people to help you, have more money to come into the budget. So, it was not $1000 a year anymore because we wanted to become more structured, we wanted to help more children, but everybody was responsible for a certain budget. So, as I’m saying, it was, it was organic growth of the charity that helped… it’s not Eva or Sunil who did something. It started, that seed that was there… and I’m happy that I was a part of it.

Nick: Yep

Eva: …but we run it as a team together.

Nick: yeah, cool

Eva: …We run it as a people… like-minded individual who really wanted to do something, and that’s what it’s all about. And once again as a cabin crew, you’re able to access a lot of different charities, to take the part in it. Whether it’s active or passive, active in terms of organisation that you wanted to manage, you want to take a certain part in that, or passive where you’re just spreading the word and encouraging people to do something you know in terms of sponsorship, or just being a silent ambassador.

Nick: No matter what kind of input you are having, I’m sure it’s a very rewarding experience.

Eva: Working in Etihad, we got a lot of support from them, so we would have a PR coming from Etihad, we would be signing up with Etihad guest miles.

Nick: so, an official partnership?

Eva: …we do have an official partnership

Nick: Wow!

Eva: But, everything went into a certain point… after some time, you know

Nick: That’s amazing, yeah yeah!

Eva: Really, it was more the merrier. What was very interesting, was the cause that was connecting all of us, and really, we wanted to make a change together.

Nick: Now Eva, can you tell us about how the foundation was set up? To let anyone of our listeners know, who is considering starting a charity… Were there any legal aspects you had to be aware of to be able to proceed with things appropriately?

Eva: So, Choice To Change foundation is an organisation that sponsors now 178 children, that we support…

Nick: Yep

Eva: …and we’re running the school that is fully registered by the Bangladeshi Government, We also obtained NGO award certification (non-governmental organisation) or approval which was very difficult after 3 years of trying, and through the network of many individuals that came and visited us ,we were able to succeed in this process, which was very important for us to make sure that we know what we’re doing.

Nick: And, did you have a specific role in this?

Eva: So, I’m not based in Bangladesh, I’m based in UAE, and I was working on the part of registration. So, we’re officially registered with Emirates Red Crescent since last year, and that would allow us to run events, and doing things with Emirates Red Crescent, which also took us many years to, to reach. So, in terms of registration we are exactly where we’re supposed to be, which was one of my key goals. If we start something, we need to do it correctly, and we need to do it the way that is legally obliged by the country.

Nick: Yep

Eva: So, the first was the process to be registered in Bangladesh. And then the second thing was if I want to spread the word, and run the events in the UAE, that was another thing.

Nick: Right, I see!

Eva: It was realising and saying, going backwards. I learned this big lesson, and it’s just really… deal with one step at a time. Be positive and a lot of miracles can happen, and really just bringing people together in our life for this charity work, one day at a time, do your best as much you can.

Nick: that’s amazing!

Eva: …And I’m happy that we are able to support now… it’s only 178 children after 9 years. Somebody would say, “why not more?”, but for me, and that was the ultimate belief was… I just want to deliver what I promised to those children we started with.

Nick: yeah

Eva: Because a lot of charities, they start with this dream, which is important to have, but they kind of get lost in a way of organising themselves, or fundraising…

Nick: Yep

Eva: …they will find difficulties to run the organisation when it’s bigger, and then it’s…

Nick: and the quality sort of drops as well.

Eva:  …into the end of it, which I never wanted to experience. So, luckily enough, now after 9 years we are still functioning, we are getting more organised. We are getting stable in a sense of really delivering what we promised from the beginning. We have Bangladeshi registered curriculum, and it’s the first slum school which is delivering this curriculum in English version. We had two schools, two locations, but it was also unsustainable for us in terms of organisation, so what we decided was to start busing the children, transporting the children from one slum to another one.

Nick: yep

Eva: …and we’re renting a three storey building, which consists of a classrooms, and , shower facilities, also we have a nurse room where they come for monthly check ups, we have a doctor coming in visiting, and we have an in-house nurse, so these children are getting food, they’re getting uniforms, they’re getting school bags, nobody needs to pay anything.

Nick: Mmm

Eva: Also, we try to take a little bit of… teaching the community, like they need to... Anything that is given for free it’s not good, they do not see the value of it… but it didn’t work, because they really have not much. You know, so, we very much stick around the plan of doing the budget for the whole year, covering everything 100% for those children, and really seeing that they are motivated, learning also about the community.

Nick: Any specific student profile?

Eva: In terms of the profile of the students and the families that we work with, it’s 53% of the student’s females, and majority of the students are aged between 8-10, followed by the younger students at the age of 4. Students are Muslims, so we work with the Muslim community. And in terms of family size, the majority of the students the families would be the size of three siblings. C2C is one of the first schools in Dhaka slums to teach Bangladesh curriculum in English, so English is a very big part for us. This choice was intended to give C2C the highest chance to prepare them for a job after they complete higher education or vocational training. Students attend school 5 days a week from Sunday to Thursday. We have 19 full staff, which consists of 10 teachers…

Nick: 19 now, wow!

Eva: 19, one nine! Which consists of a full-time nurse, we do have a headmaster, we have a social worker, we have a project coordinator, we have also cleaners and cooks. All C2C teachers have attained college level qualification as teachers. Soon the first graduates will leave the school and will either get in to higher education, or training, or employment. That’s where we’re at, at the moment.

Nick: Yep

Eva:  So, we have students right now that are reaching grade 8. To maximise student outcomes, student teacher’s ratios are kept to 20, with a teaching staff of 18, from which 10 actively involved in delivering our learning of our C2C students. Each year C2C students take an exam in line with the Bangladesh curriculum and they’re rightfully proud that the average pass rate is 94%. In the year 15/16, the senior class took mock exam for their school leaving certificate, and 95% passed their mock exam.

Nick: How do you bring these children into Choice 2 Change? Sunil, obviously gets to know the families? How does he go and find…

Eva: You don’t need to find them, we have a waiting list already.

Nick: Oh

Eva: There’s so many children… I don’t even run these numbers cause it’s overwhelming, you know. Let’s say, in one slum there is about 1000 people living there. There’s so many children that just need to go somewhere, and we have just 178…. It’s not much. So, in Bangladesh, there’s over 5000 slums like that, 5000, and we’re only serving 2… Imagine!!

Nick: 5000 slums… and how many children per slum do you think?

Eva: It’s impossible to say, I don’t even say because they did not even count... they don’t know

Nick: they get born…

Eva: You don’t know! It can be just an estimate… So, what I’m saying is that when we do the selection, we do have a waiting list now, so children really want to be a part of the school.

Nick: Yep

Eva: And, what we’re trying to make sure is we really work with a family that are dedicated, and they want to keep their child in.

Nick: Yep

Eva: Our retention rate is 93%, so we do not have a big drop-out rate. Our director, who’s the co-founder, Sunil, he lives in the school.

Nick: Ah, okay

Eva: So, he’s in charge of the school, not from the point of just organising it, but he learnt a lot about the slums itself. He knows what the family is going through. We know each and every family personally before they enter the school, because we want to have motivated families. It’s not only giving free education and food for your child, but it’s someone who really wants to succeed in life, and they see that now. They are very sensitive… they didn’t know exactly who we are, why we’re doing this? You know, is she Christian? is she Muslim? is she Hindu? Why are they doing what they’re doing? And why are these white people coming in? They would always call us “Bidēśī Bidēśī”, that’s the Bangladeshi word for foreigners.

Nick: Yep

Eva: It was quite interesting, over the time they learnt who we are, that we’re able to support, let’s say medical emergencies. We had families that they were suffering really with serious illnesses. They would have loss of parent, and we would cover the cost of the funeral, or just to transport the body from the city. Or we would pay for a child that had a problem with the kidney who was close to kidney failure, so we would pay for the… not only for the medicine, but also for the visitation of the doctor. What is interesting to see, there is not only basic medical care, you know. Something happened to them in the street, that’s it, you’re going! So, for us what’s really good, and what helped us also in terms of belief from the parents is that we were there in terms of emergencies, in terms of medical help.

Nick: yeah, okay.

Eva: So, we learned a lot about the community, they learned a lot about us, and I think it’s now a partnership.

Nick: It’s amazing you’ve been able to get this connection with the families. Do you have any kind of programmes going that keeps them engaged?

Eva: We’re doing a lot of awareness campaigns, so, not only cleaning campaign. There is also a health campaign, early marriages campaign encouraging them not to marry the children early. So now they’re changing that attitude, and we do have families that they appreciate the fact that we are there. We do have nursery, and kg, and then we go from grade 1 to grade 8. Now we did… the oldest children, they passed their exam. All of them did so well. So, we had 96% passing rate…

Nick: Wow!

Eva: …which is excellent.

Nick: That’s amazing!

Eva: Imagine, those children coming from the slums, and they’re exceeding… They’re actually much better than those that they’re in Government school, or those that they’re coming from the middle class.

Nick: It’s crazy the amount of potential, doesn’t matter…

Eva: Because they’re motivated, they really appreciate it… they’re motivated

Nick: Super amazing!

Eva: That’s what you see, that’s what you feel when you come in. They’re happy to be there, they have a big smile, they don’t compare themselves to anybody else. They just happy to be able to go to school.

Nick: The privilege of it

Eva: Not like us, “Oh, I have to go to school”…

Nick: No I know, that’s it

Eva: They’re happy to be there.

Nick: yeah, yeah!

Eva: So, in terms of selection, it’s very simple. You know, we do have a one child per family policy.

Nick: Ah, I see

Eva: …so we do deliver as much, you know, as possible in terms of the knowledge. There was a family, because you have the eldest one, they go to school, they can teach the siblings.

Nick: Yeah, okay

Eva: Which is sad because we would love to support more, but still we have restriction in terms of financial support… you know, so… so we do have to follow the curriculum that’s been assigned by Government. Of course, they have to complete the grades, as been assigned. They need to pass the SSC exam, and the PSE exam. So, for all this we have to have registration done. So, as we growing organically, we’re getting this registration… we’re growing with those kids. So, we have now grade 8, and legally they can be employed in two years.

Nick: Ahh, okay… so, in regards to this, what kind of goal do you have for these children?

Eva: So, so far… now my main goal is to be able to provide… until then, the proper registration… when the kids are… Because there are some of them, they just don’t want to continue, because they need a job. At that time, I want to prov… as the Choice To Change foundation, want to provide them the Vocational Training, where they have a choice. Either continue with us, or being sponsored by somebody and getting into a different school, which would be under our supervision.

Nick: Right, I see, yep!

Eva: Or they will get a job through UCEF, which is a foundation that is based in Bangladesh, and they will get professional training… couple months they will be able to have a job placement.

Nick: Okay, right

Eva: So, it’s basically a solution, from 8 to… where you really want them to succeed. It’s not just giving and providing what I just said. You know, I’m just trying to be positive and say “ok, it’s great… this is where we are”, but the long run. In the long run, definitely we would love to give them a better placement, better job than they would have.

Nick: just to provide them a better future I guess

Eva: Absolutely

Nick: Yeah, when I was looking at their mini profiles, many of the children talk about being a doctor in the future. In terms of being a doctor, for me, I would never be a doctor, but I mean I never had a dream either. But these children, they have…

Eva: I believe they will… I believe that there will be. There will be some of those children that will surprise us in the long run.

Nick: Yeah, amazing!

Eva: I’m very positive about that. I do believe that they are motivated, and we have a great team of teachers that are doing a great job to motivate them, and really you can see that a lot of change in the few years… when I see that they, they have that dream and they aspire more.

Nick: It’s the self-drive, but do you think a key aspect would be the sponsorship? …to make sure they have some kind of sponsorship leading on from school, so they can then attend a college or something like that. Is that what it comes down to?

Eva: So, this is what we’re working towards… As I say, like, this is… one, we have a yearly budget, and we have children that needs to be supported and sponsored. So, what it’s our ultimate goal is to get the sponsors, not for one year, but to be there for them until they really finished university. That’s why we try to connect them with a child, and they can send the letters, and the child is sending letters and report card, so they know how they’re doing in each and every subject. So, you have all the information that you need about the level of studies that they enter. They would really see that the child succeeded until the university level.

Nick: I think, now I mean, if you’re sponsoring a child… For me, I know if I was doing it, umm, and I sponsored a child from the age of 5, I don’t think I could stop, if that child then stays with the foundation until age say 12, 13, 14, 15. I’d still think you’d have some kind of attachment to the child...

Eva: …yes, yes!

Nick: …and want to keep on doing something for that child, until they reach a point where they can support themselves.

Eva: You know you do have these very personal stories, and when you ask me about particular ones, you know it’s hard for me to really go in to one individual story, because there are so many.

Nick: …well, I saw on the website, like a little mini portfolio of a lot of the children, I found that really quite touching.

Eva: To be honest, I didn’t want to do it from the beginning. I really wanted to make sure that we do have corporate sponsorship. But they’re not orphans… I didn’t feel that sponsorship was right for those that had a full family, you know. But, what I learned later on was that personal attachment was very good for the child as well, because they appreciate someone covering education.

Nick: yeah!

Eva: There was someone who was out there, that was covering those families. It was actually powerful to see the response. So, we have more than 80% of our budget covered by individual sponsorship, which I realised later on that was actually a good thing that happened.

Nick: This individual sponsorship, was it $50 per…

Eva: per month

Nick: per month, ok, so that’s…

Eva: it is affordable. So, over the period of 9 years, we were able to fundraise more than $400,000…

Nick: Wow

Eva: you know, so that’s coming all together. What I feel is it’s very rewarding

Nick: Is it just this immense sense of pride?

Eva: I was thinking about this question a lot. You know, I feel extremely grateful… I feel grateful that I was there at the right time, and I was able to meet someone who made it happen.

Nick: yep

Eva: I’m happy for them, because even if they would drop out now, I know that they learnt something… they learned how to be compassionate, how to be open to different cultures. The visits of the cabin crew changed them a lot, they became more confident, they were seeing people who came there from Australia, from Africa, from America. They came into their classroom, and they were asking about these countries, and they wanted to learn more and more, and the passion was not a dream of mine for them anymore, it was their passion that it really… you can see that when you walk into the classroom, they really want to learn because they really want to communicate with you, they want to really  share. I think it’s a big achievement in that sense. It’s actually having a dream, and still, English is a big part… and they’re fluent. They’re fluent in the sense they can understand what you’re saying. They’re able to get back to you and reply. We have girls that they would also be forced to get married, but they didn’t because they just stick with us, and they say “no, I want to finish the school first.”

Nick: Nice

Eva: And they really made that difference

Nick: We’re going to leave you there, just to contemplate things so far in Dhaka and ‘The Choice To Change’. We’ll be back to continue this interesting story about this charity for the next podcast, so we look forward to having you back, and sharing some more information with you.





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