We feel so blessed to have such an amazing community of ambassadors who follow their passions and lead by example. This week, we spoke with one of our Luminaries Su Chun, a lawyer and yoga teacher in Toronto, Canada. She is the co-founder of KEY Education Project, a Canadian charity empowering youth through scholarships and mentorship in developing countries. KEY is Su’s passion project, her expression of inspiration from travels and gratitude for the freedom and opportunity she’s been given to receive an education and pursue her dreams.
How did you start your own charity?
I never wanted, or sought to start a charity. KEY is something that just happened. A few years ago I was in Nicaragua on a yoga retreat for a fun girls trip, when I heard a story about a man named Luis who used to be a bartender at the surf camp I was staying at. One day, while serving drinks, a tourist asked Luis, "If you could do anything in the world, what would you do?"
Luis said, "I want to be a doctor."
So the tourist went back home, raised funds and sent it to Luis. In his late twenties, Luis went from tending bars to attending medical school – the first in his family to ever go to university.
After I came back home, I was put in touch with Luis and he shared the impact this gift had on his life – how he knows so many who don’t even dare to dream because an education is financially impossible. I looked for a charity I could donate my money to, but couldn’t find one. There were no organizations supporting continuing education in Nicaragua.
I had no experience running a non-profit, but a few months after that trip, I took a leap and started KEY Education Project, and my life has never been the same.
What is KEY Education Project?
KEY stands for Knowledge Empowers You. It’s not a hand out, its simply bringing a little balance to the darkness and stark poverty in this world. KEY is currently supporting 18 university students in Nicaragua, each of them empowered to follow their dreams and forever change their future.
Each student leaves their mark on me. They inspire me to live each day with gratitude and compassion. They teach me the meaning of perseverance and that it’s never too late to start something new.
With each scholarship, I see the ripple effects of all of our donors’ generosity. Last year we awarded a full scholarship to Indira, a 21-year-old 4th year medical student – the first in her family to attend university – who was about to drop out due to lack of funds. Indira comes from a single-parent family and when she was 10-years-old, her mom left the country to find work abroad as a house cleaner. Indira was left to care for her younger brother and sister, and she feared her life would be the same – cleaning up after others and struggling to make ends meet – but she dreamed of becoming a doctor and helping her community.
Her grandfather has been using his pension to support Indira’s medical school tuition, but got sick and due to medication costs, has been unable to support Indira. With a KEY scholarship, Indira is now in her final year of medical school. It’s a huge weight lifted off the shoulders of her grandfather, and it’s an inspiration to her siblings who see life can be different.
Indira shares her heart of gratitude:
“It is an honour for me to have touched your hearts with my story, to have you believe in me and help me. You are now part of my humble and sincere story. I thank you from my soul, because now I know there are people – you – who are causing a revolution and that revolution is changing the lives of those you sponsor. You are making big changes in the world.
Receiving this scholarship is an immense shock to me and fills me with happiness. It has given me and my family peace of mind, knowing that I will be able to contribute to and serve my community.
This scholarship from KEY Education Project is very important for me, and thanks to you I have new hopes. I now see light that I didn’t see. Because of all of you, I can continue my studies and graduate. I will not tire of thanking you; thank you, THANK YOU, KEY.”
In December 2017, I met Indira, and with that first hug, her entire body shook. I could feel every ounce of her heart. She said her grandfather wished he could come visit, but the bus ride was several hours and he couldn’t make it, but he was so excited that we were meeting.
What lessons you've gained from this experience?
Seeing the outpouring of love and generosity from our KEY family leaves me in a perpetual state of awe. There is a lot of hate and tragedy in this world, but the students and our supporters give me hope. In the three years since we started KEY, my heart has expanded a million times over. I’m continuously humbled and inspired and reminded of the importance of our work. I’ve seen the power education has to break cycles of abuse and poverty, I’ve seen parents’ faces bursting with pride as their sons and daughters cross the stage in cap and gown. I’ve received the mothers’ words of gratitude, as their hands cup mine, shaking, their eyes flowing with tears.
“Love begets loves.” – Marlene, a dentist and mom in Singapore whom I’ve never met in person, but organized a yoga fundraising event for KEY.
“Giving brings such joy to both the receiver and the giver. Giving from our heart does not make us feel that something is missing in our heart. Giving from our heart FILLS our heart.” – Synne, a 13-year-old from Norway
I never met Synne in person, but she reached out to me last year asking if she could fundraise for KEY with the goal of raising enough for a full scholarship. She made flyers and a website and went door to door, asking her neighbours for empty bottles in the middle of winter so she could recycle them for money. In two weeks, Synne raised enough money to fully support Carlos, who is studying English and wants to teach the children in his village.
“When yoga can change your life … and that of another person in the world.” – The perfect description of karma yoga from Valentine in Quebec, who holds regular donation classes in support of KEY at Studio M Yoga.
These are only a few of the countless donors and supporters who give of their time and talent to support KEY. When I tell the students of all of the events and all of the people around the world who are giving and supporting their dreams, they are, like me, completely overwhelmed. It’s shocking to them, that someone who has never met them, would care so deeply and believe in them. They tell me that they feel worthy, that it makes them feel loved.
Anything else you’d like to share?
A hugegracias to Inner Fire for believing in KEY. Every single dollar donated to KEY goes directly to student scholarships – the co-founders and directors personally cover all travel and other administrative costs so donor impact is maximized and in a country like Nicaragua, where the average income is 2USD/day, each dollar makes a difference. In addition to scholarships, KEY provides ongoing leadership training and mentorship to the students, to ensure their success and hearts for giving back to their community.
Together we can be the change.
Bring light to darkness.
Turn dreams into reality.
One scholarship at a time, one life at a time.