Meet Our Team

After moving to New York City, I was lucky enough to be introduced Fred, and was later thrilled to join the Chance for Change team in 2015. I have worked with a variety of international nonprofits, currently at The Rockefeller Foundation and previously as a writer for a communications and consulting group addressing humanitarian issues. I have also gained experience working with political groups, the U.S. government and a European think tank. In the summer of 2018, I was a State Department intern in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where I got to meet several of our beneficiaries. A graduate of Georgetown University, I have a degree in Government and International Relations and spent a year in France studying international affairs and French politics at Paris VII Diderot and Paris IV Sorbonne. As a former teacher at an inner city charter school, I have seen firsthand just how essential education is to opportunity. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with and for our amazing students. In her free time, she enjoys travel, scuba diving and studio art.

Nora Updegrove

President

Nora joined Chance For Change in 2015 and has worked with a variety of international nonprofits, The Rockefeller Foundation, and previously as a writer for a communications and consulting group addressing humanitarian issues. Nora is the President of Chance for Change. In the summer of 2018, she was a State Department intern in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where she got to meet several of our beneficiaries.

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.

FRED ECKHARD

President Emeritus

Co-founder and CEO, Frederic Eckhard, retired spokesman for United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and 20-year veteran of the U.N., spearheaded the Chance for Change project after visiting Burkina Faso in 2009. He was deeply inspired by the optimism and spirit of the young women he met despite their many obstacles. Fred saw an opportunity to significantly change the lives of these young women by sharing their stories and collecting donations on their behalf from his extensive pool of friends, colleagues, and associates around the world. Fred will travel again to Burkina Faso in January 2020, but will limit his travel around the country because of the deteriorating security situation there.

In 2008, I became a father with the birth of my daughter, Juliet.  In 2012 we celebrated the birth of my son Jan. The experience of building my own family has renewed my sense of responsibility not only to my family but also to my neighbors, community and the world in which we live. I watch too many documentaries that leave me disheartened about the state of the world we live in.  That sense of concern has inspired a deep desire to take action in any way I can.

When my father presented me with the idea of this project, it was as though that answer had fallen into my lap. This charity has enabled me to contribute to these women who are so committed and inspiring. I admit there is a selfish motivation – it feels really good to help! I recommend that anyone who does not have a project like this in their life find one. It not only changes the lives of others, but it will change your life as well. You’ll love it!

JAN ECKHARD

Vice-President, Treasurer

Co-founder Jan Eckhard, inspired by his father’s efforts, established Chance for Change Inc. in 2011. Jan has worked in the music and entertainment business for seventeen years. He is happily married and a father of two beautiful children in Bloomfield NJ. Jan is Vice President and Treasurer of Chance for Change.

My life’s work has been in the field of education. I was a classroom teacher for 30 years before retiring in 2012, and continue to work as an elementary school consultant. I am is certified as a Responsive Classroom trainer and as a Parenting the Positive Discipline Way group leader and offers classes through continuing education programs. I draw upon my own experience of being a mother of two sons and two grandchildren and enjoy visiting Hawaii with my husband, Zoran.

I have always been inspired by my brother Fred’s career in the UN and was particularly passionate about his co-founding Chance for Change. I became a board member in April 2015 and believe that educating women is the optimal way to strengthen developing communities. I am is pleased to be involved in such a worthy cause and gratefully join my brother and nephew in furthering their mission.

NANCY KOVACIC

Administrative Coordinator

Nancy was a classroom teacher for 30 years before retiring in 2012, and continues to work as an elementary school consultant. Nancy became board member in 2015 and believes that educating women is the optimal way to strengthen developing communities. Nancy is the Administrative Coordinator of Chance for Change.

MARIAM ILBOUDU

Burkina Faso Liasion

Mariam Ilboudu is a communications consultant in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; she previously worked for the UN Population Fund office there. She is an officer of the Burkina Association of University Women, and handles the financial affairs of Chance for Change.

I was working for the UN Population Fund in Ouagadougou when my friend Christiane contacted me about an American she had just met who had asked her to handle the finances of a new NGO he started, the Burkina Women’s Education Fund with a US affiliate, Chance for Change. “I’ll do BWEF,” she said, “if you do CFC.” I’ve known Christiane for 30 years and have been a member all that time of her own NGO, “Burkina University Women.” How could I say “no”?

As a video editor, I’ve seen a variety of stories and messages from corporate and non-profit brands. Working in documentary film, telling the stories of people in need has always given me the greatest satisfaction. Now with social media, we can tell stories from across the globe and find ways to help everyone in need.

After attending the first Chance for Change event, I knew this organization was truly about giving. Everyone can give back in different ways to help make the world better. But the first step in helping a community has to be in education and offering equal opportunities for both men and women. My cousin Jan asked me join Chance for Change so the organization can continue to bring educational opportunities to women in Burkina Faso. I’m thrilled to donate my time and skills to aid other women toward access to a brighter future.

HOLLY BUECHEL

Technical Media Coordinator

As a Video Editor and Producer, Holly joined the team in 2014. Holly has worked with non-profits in video production for the Girl Scouts USA, US Fencing, and Blue Engine - an educational support program in New York City. Holly also works with women in sports and leadership. She is excited to manage the behind-the-scenes work of the organization. Holly is the Technical Media Coordinator for Chance for Change.

Over the years, I have had many experiences with friends and colleagues who were working in different capacities for various charities around the world.  I was exposed to inefficiency, lack of transparency and money and resources being wasted. More often than not, I saw a significant portion of the money going to salaries, banks, overhead and extravagant fund raising events.  This was consistently disheartening to me and until recently, kept me from getting too involved.  So when Jan approached me to help his father with this cause, I was half skeptical and half challenged to see if we could do better.

Not knowing a lot about Burkina Faso, I started to research it’s history, economy, politics, and education system.  In doing so, I learned of the struggle that women in Burkina Faso face just to get the most basic education.  When I found out that for less money than most of us pay for a month’s rent, a Burkinabe young woman could receive a full year’s tuition, I was truly inspired to get involved.

We want to make Chance for Change something unique:  a pure charity.  We give full transparency to the donors, the great majority of the donations go directly to the young women, and we promise our beneficiaries, that if they work hard in their studies, that they will not be denied the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

With the help, generosity and support of friends, family and colleagues, this vision has become a reality.  I couldn’t be more proud of our success so far and I am very excited for the future of our beneficiaries in Burkina Faso.

BLAIR WELLS

Supporter

Co-founder, Blair Wells, is a Grammy winning recording engineer and music producer living in New York City. Inspired by the stories that Fred would bring back from his trips to Burkina Faso, Blair eagerly joined the cause to help educate these inspirational young women half a world away.