Charity founder Eva Kernova on how you can help make a difference
Time Out Bahrain staff
As regional charity Choice 2 Change continues to expand, Time Out speaks to founder Eva Kernova about their aspirations – and how you can help make a difference.
It can be easy to see a problem and walk away from it. For some people though, like Eva Kernova, founder of The Choice to Change Foundation (C2C), this path was not an option.
Having heard about terrible living conditions in parts of Bangladesh, her drive to do something positive for people saw her taking a spontaneous flight to Dhaka back in 2010 to see for herself. ‘I don’t trust if I don’t see,’ Eva told Time Out in a past interview. ‘But what I saw I couldn’t believe. I couldn’t believe that it was 2010 and people were letting other people live like this. In our country pets have better living conditions. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t do something to help.’
Initially, the GCC resident made contact with a local charity worker called Sunil Baroi, who was already trying to find ways to help people in the slums of Dhaka. They discussed ways they could make a positive impact, and so, with some of Eva’s savings and his local knowledge, they set out to establish a school with the belief that education might just give the children a fighting chance of making better lives for themselves. By July 2010, the first school was opened in the Lalmati slum housing 30 pupils.
Now beginning its fifth year of operation, C2C has gone from strength and strength, through generous donations and devoted determination, and provides nearly 150 children with food, clothing and education. We catch up with Eva to find out what the charity’s plans are in 2015…
When Time Out last spoke to you in August 2013, you had 128 students and 10 members of staff. How have things changed? We are extremely happy that we made progress as a team. Our total number of students is currently 145 and we now have 19 full-time staff. This year we employed a social worker who is fully responsible for daily communication with the families of our students in the slum. In autumn 2013, we employed two new staff members at the office, and this has been very helpful in improving our daily operation in Dhaka. Also, our new headmaster is completely responsible for the quality of the performance of our teachers and quality of the education we provide. From 2014, we have changed our curriculum from Bangla to English.
What is your biggest challenge in 2015? In 2014, we increased the number of students and teachers as well as invested in the quality of the education. Now that we have combined the two locations into one school building, we have an additional overhead of transportation. We were blessed to have a couple of generous donations in 2014 that made it possible to cover all these additional costs but we realise that in order to maintain these overheads every year, we need to be more sustainable in our fundraising and get the whole community involved and not just a few big contributions. That is why we have prepared a list of sponsorship packages that show how much can be achieved even by donating a little. For example, it would only cost about USD90 (BD34) to buy ink for the school printer for the whole year or just USD65 (BD25) to create ID badges for the children. Every bit of support helps no matter how large or small.
What goods do you need most? We never say no to powdered milk as this is very expensive to purchase in Bangladesh – also stationery, paper, glue, stickers, creative material for crafts, secondhand clothes, blankets, toiletries… all of these kinds of donations help to lower our costs.
What’s next on the C2C Agenda? As the children get older, we need to start getting them ready for higher education. We did not just want to take them off the street when they are young and give basic education for a few years. We want to give them a real opportunity at a bright future. Our first goal was to teach them English as that will immediately give them an advantage in life and our teachers have done a wonderful job helping us achieve that. Now we hope to put them on extra courses outside of school hours to give them additional skills.