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01 May 2016 10:00

A team of volunteers from Etihad Airways brought joy and happiness to underprivileged children at the Choice To Change Elementary School (C2C) in Dhaka by joining the youngsters for their annual fun day. 

With Bangladesh cricket star Mushfiqur Rahim also dropping by, more than 130 boys and girls at the school – set up by a former member of Etihad Airways’ cabin crew – enjoyed a great day out with the visitors.

As part of Etihad Airways’ corporate social responsibility efforts, the airline’s iVolunteer programme engages volunteers from across the airline to participate in various activities and support charitable causes around the world.

The visit by eight volunteers from Etihad Airways’ head office in Abu Dhabi, led by Environment Officer Luzelle Berger, coincided with the airline’s 10th anniversary year of operations in Bangladesh.

Aside from joining in the fun day of activities and a picnic at the National Zoo, the volunteers took much-needed items, including blankets, school supplies and toys, to support the children and their families. They also visited homes seeing first hand their living conditions in the city’s slums.

As a thank you gesture, the children, as young as four, staged a talent and cultural show for the visitors.

The Choice To Change Foundation was launched in July 2010 by former cabin crew member Eva Kernova, a Slovakian national living in the United Arab Emirates, and Sunil Baroi, Executive Director, who Eva met during her travels to Bangladesh. The non-profit organisation supports poverty-stricken children in the slums of Dhaka by providing free education, food and basic health care.

Importantly, C2C is one of the first schools in the Dhaka slums to teach the local curriculum in English. Coupled with low student-to-teacher ratios and over 1,000 visitors and volunteers since its formation – a large part being Etihad Airways employees – the C2C school is giving children a real chance to break the cycle of poverty and improve their lives.

Etihad Airways has supported Choice To Change since 2013 by providing flight tickets to Foundation staff and to volunteers. The organisation is also one of the beneficiaries under the airline’s Etihad Guest Miles Reward Programme where members are able to donate miles that are converted to cash for the charity.   

Hanif Zakaria, Etihad Airways General Manager Bangladesh, said: “The Choice To Change Foundation has made a huge difference to the lives of so many young children and their families in Dhaka. At Etihad Airways, we have been delighted to work with the charity over the years in helping make a difference, no matter how small, and touching the lives of so many.”

Luzelle Berger added: “The visit was inspirational and touched the hearts of the volunteers. Having given up our time to visit and interact with the youngsters, we left Bangladesh with great memories – providing these wonderful children with great joy, great laughter and plenty of smiles.”

Eva Kernova, co-founder and Director of The Choice To Change Foundation, said: “Providing the children with better education and making them more confident about their future, is something that we couldn’t have accomplished without Etihad Airways’ contributions. We are very grateful for this partnership and delighted to have welcomed the many volunteers from Etihad Airways’ home in Abu Dhabi to support such a worthy cause.

“The children were excited and thrilled when Bangladesh national cricketing hero Mushfiqur Rahim arrived and joined them for the picnic. A special thanks to him for inspiring the children and to Leah Lane, a teacher living in Abu Dhabi, who kindly sponsored this picnic for the second time.” 

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