Every child has the right to education

Lander Paesen
11 January 2018
37 years ago, I came into contact with a Canadian doctor who provided shelter to Vietnamese and Cambodian boat refugees. Having worked for ten years as a volunteer, I was passionate about development aid. So in 1990 I started my own development organisation, Cunina. The best proof that even we as individuals can make a difference.
Sophie Vangheel


Sophie Vangheel – Founder and general director of Cunina.

Cunina – a Flemish NGO offering education to underprivileged children in the South via individual godparenthoods.

No child can choose the place where it will be born. Irrespective of their political, religious or social background, all children are entitled to quality education.

Goddess of the Cradle

Nowhere in the world can a child choose the place where it will be born. And yet this place is of paramount importance for the child’s further life.  With this in mind, Cunina – named after the Latin Goddess of the Cradle – left for disadvantaged regions in order to gradually help children break out of this vicious circle of poverty. To date, I have realized more than 130 education projects with Cunina. From the high mountains in Nepal to the poor Haiti, throughout the world our schools have managed to significantly  improve educational opportunities for children.  In this respect, our personal approach with the aid of individual godparenthoods clearly makes the difference. Thanks to these godparenthoods, mostly commitments for 12 to 14 years, more than 13,500 children had the opportunity to go to school: from primary to secondary education and in some cases even to higher education.

Thanks to these godparenthoods, mostly commitments for 12 to 14 years, more than 13,500 children had the opportunity to go to school.

Music & Arts School

In addition to the individual godparenthoods we have different projects that guarantee a strong local anchoring. I have just returned from Uganda, which is one of our six partner countries together with Brazil, Haiti, South Africa, Nepal and the Philippines. In Uganda we opened with bells and whistles a typically Belgian sewing shop, where youngsters aged 12 and 13 can enjoy being creative with textiles. Before the sewing shop, we had opened a dormitory providing protection from rain and malaria mosquitos to 250 orphans. Currently, we are starting up a ‘Music & Arts School’ in the Himalayas in Nepal, with the support of Tomorrowland’s Love Tomorrow Foundation.

Corporate social responsibility

I am very proud of what we have achieved with Cunina in the last 27 years. We have ensured education for so many children and what’s more, we have been able to do so without any government support. Unprecedented in Belgium! I refer to Alexander De Croo, Minister of Development Cooperation, who visited us in Geel on the day of my 69th birthday. I can honestly state that Cunina as an NGO has been one of the pioneers where corporate social responsibility is concerned. For instance, I visit a lot of companies in person in order to talk about Cunina and to raise awareness for our organization. As we can present an impressive number of achievements and as our operational costs are extremely low (8,93% in 2016), this is usually a success. Besides, our ambassadors (Nathalie Meskens, Sabine De Vos, Luc Appermont and Wouter Torfs) are of key importance. Time and again, they succeed in introducing us to the general public.

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