Hello from Fred Eckhard


When I retired as Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Spokesperson in 2005, my wife Kathryn, who is a Scot, proposed that we move to Brittany, in northwest France, where the weather is a bit like Scotland–windy, rainy, changeable, but nicer. We found a dream house with a view of the sea. I thought I was in Paradise. But I developed this gnawing feeling that it was time to give something back.
And, as so often is the case, circumstance came into play. The woman we bought our house from, Gilberte Saint Cast, had started a humanitarian organization in 2000 to help girls in need in Burkina Faso finish secondary school. For the story, as I described it in an Op-Ed in the International Herald Tribune:

I traveled with Gilberte and her husband to Burkina Faso in 2009 and 2010, each time for a couple of weeks. What struck me most was, yes, these were among the poorest people on earth, but they were brimming with optimism and ready to work hard.
Girls face the same challenges in Burkina Faso as in many other parts of the world, but the Government was striving to meet a target set by my former boss, Kofi Annan, in his Millennium Development Goals—namely equal educational opportunity for boys and girls. A little financial push from Gilberte was helping about 45 girls finish secondary school or get training in vocational school.
I couldn’t help getting more involved. I worked alongside Gilberte, but I wanted to        do more. Why not support girls at the university level, I thought? Two of Gilberte’s girls received their secondary school diploma in 2010 and each wanted to go to university to study accounting. I, with the help of my son, who lives outside of New York, raised enough money to give each girl a grant of about $1,000. After five years of support, they each have now finished their Master’s.

In 2011, two more of Gilberte’s beneficiaries graduated. And there was a third, formerly supported by her and now at university without any help, whose parents could not afford to pay her tuition any longer. So we stepped in. These three, plus the two girls we started helping the previous year, made five girls in all whom we were supporting in 2011-12.
Gilberte felt a bit overwhelmed by all of this and pleaded with me to start my own association that would work hand-in-glove with hers. I did and I called it The Burkina Women’s Education Fund, or BWEF.
When I visited Burkina Faso in January 2012, I interviewed ten more girls who needed financial help for their university studies. One of them was repeating her last year of secondary school, and BWEF would support the nine others at university for a total of 14 beneficiaries in the school year 2012-13. Pshew!
I’m a glutton for punishment, so I went back to Burkina Faso in January 2013 and lo and behold I interviewed five more who were desperate for help. Frankly, I didn’t know if I could do this. But we forged ahead.
My wife and I live in a little fishing village, where just about everyone knows everyone. So with the help of our friends and neighbors, I organized a Car Rally and a wine tasting (I love wine). These events not only raised money, but also helped integrate us into our community.
My former UN colleagues, as well as other friends and family members, have been very generous all along. Each year, we’ve raised enough money to support the ever-growing number of beneficiaries. I’m counting on all of you this year to help me raise the 30,000€ or $33,000 needed to help our 21 beneficiaries for the school year 2015-16 and perhaps ten more in the new school year.
It doesn’t sound like work, does it? In fact, the slogan I chose for the Burkina Women’s Education Fund is, “Do Good, Have Fun”. I hope you’ll help.
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Email: info@chanceforchangecharity.org