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. When we found a dream house with a view of the sea, I thought I was in Paradise. But this feeling faded with time and 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 about ten years prior to help young women in need in Burkina Faso. I tell the story in an Op-Ed in the International Herald Tribune.

I traveled with Gilberte and her husband to Burkina Faso in 2009 and 2010, staying both times 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.

Young women face the same challenges in Burkina Faso as they do in many other parts of the world, but the Government is 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 young women finish secondary school or get training in vocational school.

I could not help getting more involved. I worked alongside Gilberte, but I wanted to do more. Why not support young women at the university level, I thought? Two of Gilberte’s young women got 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 young woman a grant of about $1,000. I have visited each of them since, and they are both doing well.

This experience motivated my son, and a few of his friends to join my cause in the States. Together we established Chance for Change and are continuing to change the lives of these hard-working and inspirational young women.

New York, New York

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