FEATURES

Bridging the gap between struggles and dreams

All children deserve a fair chance. To help them get it, AkzoNobel and Plan International Netherlands started the Education Fund – providing mentorship and education. On its 25th anniversary, board member Charlotte van Meer shares why we do it.

As a lawyer who has enjoyed opportunities to grow throughout her life and career, Charlotte van Meer is well aware many others don’t have the same privilege. It’s one of the reasons she’s made “giving back” part of her lifestyle, and how she’s recently joined the Education Fund board.

Currently Head of Legal for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at AkzoNobel, Charlotte says: “Already after practicing law for some years, I started to miss a feeling of fulfillment. I looked for something to do on the side. During a family member’s illness, together with some friends and family, I set up a foundation and information portal for pancreatic cancer patients. It was about doing something good, but also finding strength in helping others.”

“That’s often how it goes,” she says. “Something touches you personally and you find a way to help. There are so many causes to care about. Everyone’s efforts, no matter how small they may seem, can make a difference on so many levels.”

We want to help

Charlotte found that getting involved in one thing led to many others. She’s organized fundraising events, scholarships and a very successful drive to collect winter clothing for refugees – the response from her colleagues at AkzoNobel was so overwhelming, she had to rent a trailer to transport all the donations!

She’s not surprised she’s encountered so much support for her initiatives. “AkzoNobel is made up of so many caring people. In my experience, when we see a need, we want to help in any way that we can. It feels nice to be doing something good together with your colleagues.”

“As a company, we actually call all the things we do in and for society ‘AkzoNobel Cares’. It’s our commitment to creating shared value and making a meaningful difference in people’s lives. Sometimes it’s something close to our business – like providing new paint for a school. Other times we need to invest a bit more time and effort, really understand the need that exists, maybe provide training and support. We need to think outside the box and work together.”

The Education Fund celebrates 25 years

“The Education Fund is one of our long-running programs, celebrating 25 years this month,” says Charlotte. “It’s a joint partnership with Plan International Netherlands to give children and young people education, training and mentorship that will help them build a brighter future for themselves and their communities. We have such a great partner in Plan – we really share the same desire to empower children, especially girls, so that they can take charge of their own futures.”

Over the years, tens of thousands of young people around the world have taken part in more than 50 Education Fund projects. The most recent project kicked off last month in Jia County, China, where we’re helping girls develop in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

“Now that I’m on the Education Fund board, I look forward to seeing what I can bring to the program,” Charlotte says.

Leveling the playing field

Charlotte knows how life-changing education can be. But she’s also mindful that we’re not all starting from the same place. “You need the basics in place to be able to make a decent living and build your future. That’s why the Education Fund is so important. Even something that seems very small can make such a big difference. For young people who grow up in challenging circumstances, some support from the Education Fund can bridge the gap between overcoming their daily struggles and realizing their dreams. It makes a better future possible. We all have the power to uplift others who aren’t getting a fair chance.”

For anyone who wishes to make a personal donation, please visit planinternational.nl/donation-education-fund.