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Natasha Questel, CEO of One Girl Can, in the building where their Canadian office operates in Coquitlam, B.C. on April 11.Kayla Isomura/the Globe and Mail

The organizer: Natasha Questel

The pitch: Helping raise $500,000

The cause: One Girl Can

Growing up in Trinidad with a single mom and five siblings, Natasha Questel got used to living with deprivation and being told that education wasn’t for girls.

Her mother didn’t finish primary school and the expectation was that Ms. Questel would get married or find a job. But she refused to conform. She completed her high-school and university education in Trinidad and won a scholarship to pursue an MBA at Western University in London, Ont.

“I had to fight a great deal in terms of overcoming everything from insufficient money to society, in terms of getting through education,” she recalled from Vancouver. “I remember having to really have a strong case for why instead of going out to work early on or getting married, I wanted to finish school, finish university and even come to Canada to do my MBA degree.”

After a successful career in business Ms. Questel changed course this year and became chief executive of One Girl Can, a Canadian charity that offers education, training and mentoring programs for girls in Kenya. The charity was launched in 2008 by Lotte Davis, co-founder of hair-care products company AG Hair, who grew up in South Africa and came to Canada in the 1960s as a child.

“I just found that I’m at that place in my life where I’d really like to give back and do something that’s even stronger in terms of value-based alignment,” Ms. Questel said. “Lotte as an entrepreneur believes in growing a not for profit from the perspective of bringing the same rigour, creativity, innovation and accountability that you’d find in the corporate sector. So it was a fantastic fit.”

Ms. Questel will be spearheading the charity’s major fundraising event on April 19, a gala in Vancouver called “I Want to Be.” The annual dinner raises around $500,000 for the organization and features presentations from girls who have benefited from the various programs.

“It’s really impactful when you hear the stories and how it’s not just the individual that we’re helping, but it’s an entire family with an entire community around them,” Ms. Questel said.

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