Avanse, Ah-Vahn-Ss

Haitian Creole word meaning to move forward, advance.


Avanse is a nonprofit whose mission is to advance the lives of street children in the world’s most neglected and violent slums.     We accomplish our mission through four levers: Outreach, Rehabilitation, Education and Reintegration.

We bring opportunity to the slums to ensure street children move forward and rise above their circumstances.


Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
— Helen Keller

Jeannette Pawula

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Jeannette Pawula is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Avanse since 2010. She brings her extensive international experience of working with street children & collaborating with international NGO’s, and leads overall strategic and operational responsibility for Avanse’s programs, growth and execution of its mission. Jeannette currently serves on the advisory board of StandUp for Kids, a non-profit working with street children in Chicago. She is also a member of the Consortium for Street Children Network and the Chicago Council for Global Affairs, and was a participant in the Nexus Global Youth summit at the United Nations.




Program Developer

Ellie serves as our Program Developer in Chicago. She joined our team in 2018. She received her B.S. in Political Science, Social Welfare and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, while also completing a Certificate in Global Health that included a health outreach project to Uganda, East Africa. She is currently working towards her Masters in Public Health from top-ranked Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her intent is to focus on Maternal and Child Health, building on her experience working with Domestic Abuse Survivors and Chicagoland Refugee populations.



Kim Merkel

President, Associate Board

Kim Merkel has been involved with Avanse since 2016 and was appointed President of the Chicago Fundraising Board and began serving in November of 2017.  Ms. Merkel currently works as a Project Manager for Mission Critical facilities at Environmental Systems Design and formally worked as a Mechanical Engineer for Sargent & Lundy.  Previously she was also a High School Math teacher and still loves to teach 4th graders an introduction to Robotics as part of an after-school program. Ms. Merkel received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and her Master's degree from National-Louis University.  She is also an accomplished triathlete.  In her spare time, she loves to attend networking events to continue to broaden the Avanse network to ensure no child shall have to live on the streets.


Varun goyal

Associate Board Member

Varun R Goyal, is an entrepreneur born and raised in Chicago. He is involved with many businesses in the Chicago area and abroad. They range from start-up companies, restaurant/bars, hotels, investment firms globally, healthcare company and film/TV.  He received his MBA in Analytical Finance and Marketing from Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management in 2011.  He has a passion for educating and grooming street children across the world!


Becca Forth

Associate Board Member

Becca has been involved with Avanse since January 2018 when she began serving on the Associate Board.  She is passionate about helping those in need, especially by giving children a chance to grow and prosper.  Becca received her MBA from Kellogg and is currently working at a start up firm in the Loop.  She also has a degree in physical therapy and worked many years as a physical therapist treating patients of all ages.  In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, enjoying her friends and family, and teaching Pilates.