WHO WE ARE
ECHO is an independent Belgian non-profit organization. We offer support to projects in Southeast Asia that create opportunities for underprivileged children and their families. In this way, we want to increase all children’s chances for a better future.
We would like to tell you more about our history and team.
Story of ECHO
The very beginning
Since 2012, Brecht Beke and Benjamin Van Brande have been frequently travelling in Southeast Asia. In 2016, they decided to explore the region together for a longer stint. They were struck by the varied need for development in the region. They visited inspiring projects and talked to numerous members of local NGO’s and projects. Inspired by the region and the many encounters, the idea of becoming involved in development started to grow.
After a long journey through Asia in 2014, Brent De Smedt decided to roll up his sleeves and become actively involved in the region. In 2017, he moved to Cambodia. With great passion, he joined a local Cambodian NGO to support vulnerable children. Embedded in the local community and confronted daily with the poignant situations in which children have to grow up in the region, the idea grew to do even more. Brecht, Brent and Benjamin decided to turn their joint idea into action. Kevin Aerts, who had traveled through Asia as well, joined in.
In Asia, Brecht, Brent, Benjamin, and Kevin noticed that a lot of projects and organizations are troubled by financial mismanagement and a low ethical standards. They wanted to contribute to a good cause, but often lacked confidence in the effective use of their contributions.
This spurred the team to develop an alternate approach. They wanted to support projects that they, or a reliable contact, had visited and screened thoroughly. Projects that accommodate the criteria listed on this website. And, they want to handle this in as transparent and ethical a way as possible. The idea behind ECHO started to grow.
And in 2018...
In early 2018, Brecht revisited Cambodia to volunteer at the children’s NGO where Brent was active. During this time, he also met other Cambodian development organizations. He was struck by the impact of these organizations on the children and their families.
Brecht was highly impressed by the passion of the local teams and by the rigorous ethical standards some of them maintained. For these reasons, the first well-selected organizations claimed their place on the list of projects deserving support. ECHO was born.
ECHO’s board and local contacts continue the search in Southeast Asia for transparent, local organizations that have a big impact on the wellbeing of underprivileged children. They aim to find more projects that deserve your support.
Who is who?
BRECHT BEKE (chairman)
Brecht studied Psychology. He is a worker for equal rights, effective project work, social impact, and learning and development for children and adults. He has been volunteering for years in scouting and as a homework counselor for underprivileged children. Brecht has over 10 years of experience in HR, where he focuses on training, coaching, diversity, and recruitment.
Because of this experience Brecht understands the impact of social difficulties and the importance of someone’s background in their development and wellbeing. He supports ECHO with great enthusiasm, to create a positive impact on the development of children and families in Southeast Asia.
BRENT DE SMEDT (vice chairman)
Brent studied psychology. He built an extensive career in HR and communications before moving to Cambodia. He now dedicates his time to projects that support vulnerable children in the country. His passion lies with children and the environment, as he sees both as the key to a better and sustainable future. He believes that ensuring the wellbeing and development of children, with access to qualitative education, creates the foundation of any country’s future: children are tomorrow’s leaders.
Brent grew up in a socially engaged environment, learning the importance of caring for others and working towards a more equal and just world. These foundations have strongly shaped his vision on society and motivate him as a development worker. Brent is an essential contact with ECHO’s local partners.
BENJAMIN VAN BRANDE (secretary)
Benjamin studied Psychology. He has been working for OCMW Gent for many years. This, state-run welfare organization centralizes the right to a dignified life. Benjamin’s expertise is in the field of Learning & Development. He is responsible for, among other things; training concerning diversity, the support of internal trainers and all training within the department for elderly care.
Benjamin has the strong conviction that everyone deserves the same chances and opportunities to better their own life and enrich their environment. To him, education is the engine of change. His motto is ‘Live and Learn’. With ECHO, Benjamin wants to help to make Universal Human Rights a reality.
KEVIN AERTS (Treasurer)
Kevin has been working as a business analyst for the financial department of a large Belgian retailer for just under 10 years. He studied Psychology, but switched to IT and Finance in due course. He is passionate to learn and has gratefully grasped the chances he has been offered. Based on his personal experience of opportunity, Kevin has committed himself to support ECHO. He wants to support children so they can self-actualize and have the chance to grasp their own opportunities.
In the past, Kevin already has taken the role of treasurer in another local organization. He has attention to detail, is analytical, and always enthusiastic. He is the right person to manage the data and ensure rigorous privacy arrangements.