Thursday video: For Every Child (a lullaby)

Warning - you will be humming this melody all day long. /p>

No, really - they're still humming it in space, where Lullaby, the new UNICEF anthem, was broadcast late last year,and where sound is notoriously long-lived but hard to hear.

You may have caught Lullaby earlier, on UNICEF's YouTube channel.

This week's Thursday video brings you the Lullaby reprise. A stunningly gorgeous video bedded with the same swelling theme composed by UNICEF Ambassador Steve Barakatt, "For Every Child" goes out to the children of THIS world - and to the very grounded governments and changemakers who are charged with ensuring the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Enjoy, and feel free to hum along.

Draw a picture, create a better world

For the past 25 years, kids around the United States have been invited to submit their drawings to be selected as an official UNICEF holiday greeting card to be sold at Pier 1 Imports stores nationwide. The best part? 100% of the proceeds from the sale of these cards go to the United States Fund for UNICEF!

The contest is running now until March 5, so get your creative juices flowing, download an entry form, and draw a picture of what "Joy to the World" means to you.

2009 Grand Prize Winner (left) by Julie Hermann and People's Choice Winner (right) by Joe Peterson.
2009 Grand Prize Winner (left) by Julie Hermann and People's Choice Winner (right) by Joe Peterson.

The winner, who will be announced in April, will receive a $5,000 scholarship, as well as $500 worth of art supplies for their school. Additionally, 2010 marks the second annual "People's Choice Award," in which visitors to the Pier 1 website can vote on their favorite design from April 1st to April 15th. The "People's Choice" winner will also receive $500 worth of art supplies.

Enter the Pier 1/UNICEF Greeting Card Contest today, and join us in creating a better world.

Monday photo: Leaving no-man's land

This week's Monday photo comes from the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. It's a photo from Al-Tanf refugee camp, which has closed - we hope - for good. Established in 2006, when hundreds of Palestinian refugees fleeing persecution in Iraq were prevented from crossing into Syria, the border camp was never meant to be a home. But that's what the strip of desert sandwiched between a busy highway and a wall became. This month, the United Nations refugee agency transferred the last 60 people from Al-Tanf, ending their long exile in a bleak no-man's land.
A young boy helps pack up the last of the belongings of the Al-Tanf refugees.
A young boy helps pack up the last of the belongings of the Al-Tanf refugees.
UNICEF supported the children of Al-Tanf camp with recreational materials and counselling. The residents of Al-Tanf join about 2,000 other Palestinian refugees in camps inside Syria and in Iraq, according to UNHCR.

A special thank you from UNICEF's Nadine Perrault

On behalf of the children of Haiti, UNICEF child protection expert Nadine Perrault shares a thank you in a video interview to the volunteers and supporters of the US Fund for UNICEF. Perrault, who is normally based at UNICEF's Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office in Panama, was deployed to Haiti to support UNICEF's work on the ground, including efforts to identify and protect unaccompanied children. During her time there, she witnessed the life saving work of UNICEF and its partners.

To support UNICEF's continued efforts in Haiti, please visit

Max in Santo Domingo

Jennifer Bakody is an emergency communications specialist in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.She recently visited the Dario Contreras Hospital, which UNICEF is helping to support with doctors and supplies for Haitian children being treated for injuries after last month's earthquake.

The moment I arrived at the children's ward of Dario Contreras Hospital, I heard cries from the wounded. About a dozen injured young people lay in one room, some crammed two to a bed. Some had a parent by their side, some were alone. Amputated arms or legs were common, and it looked like almost everyone was in a cast. Blood-stained bandages were wrapped tightly around some heads. Other children were hooked to IV drips with medicines. One little boy had lost an eye.

From his hospital bed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 12-year-old Maximillien Francois reads to UNICEF Communications Specialist Jennifer Bakody.
© UNICEF Dominican Republic/2010/Camposano
From his hospital bed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 12-year-old Maximillien Francois reads to UNICEF Communications Specialist Jennifer Bakody.

This is where I met 12-year-old Maximillien Francois, whose mother brought him here for treatment about three weeks ago.

Max is in the 7th grade in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas. On the day of the earthquake, he was playing outside his school when a wall collapsed, crushing his leg. His only brother, his father, and a close cousin were all killed when another building collapsed on them.

Most of the hospitals that could have treated Max near his home were destroyed in the quake, but his mother managed to get space for them on a convoy leaving for neighbouring Dominican Republic. Doctors at the border said they didn't have the equipment to save Max's leg, and sent them on to the better medical facilities in the capital city, Santo Domingo.

Max's bed stands out from others nearby because it is covered with piles of books. He goes through about a dozen a day, and has read many twice or more. His favourites are detective books and Disney ones. He feels sad, he said, but reading and writing are helping him to relax. His intelligence and expressiveness seem beyond his 12 years.

"I feel demoralized," he told me.

Here's a child who just lost several close family members. He's badly injured, homeless and not in school. Demoralized is probably the perfect word for the situation " but it's one I would expect to hear from an adult.

Inspiration in Guatemala: hope is the last thing to die

Singer/Songwriter Jon McLaughlin, a UNICEF Supporter, wrote this blog post upon returning from his first UNICEF field visit in Guatemala.

I just returned from my first UNICEF field visit to the beautiful country of Guatemala. To say this was a great trip would be an understatement...I left the country encouraged and inspired by the people I met there.

Our group was made up of me, my wife, the 11 other UNICEF folks from the U.S., an interpreter and 3 UNICEF staff who live and work in Guatemala, and we traveled around in a small bus manned by a tour guide and driver.

We visited a variety of places, from Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City where we spoke to the brilliant staff of doctors and nurses, to the city of Quetzaltenango, where we met with members of the Parliament of Childhood and Adolescence. These amazing kids, ranging in age from 11-19, informed us about the jobs they have taken on as leaders in their communities, as well as representing their fellow youth at the national level of government.

U.S. Fund for UNICEF/Minah/2010
Jon McLaughlin playing with children at a UNICEF supported school.

The highlight of the trip was being around the kids. We spent time at a public day care center in Quetzaltenango taking pictures and playing soccer with the kids and visited an elementary school in San Cristobal Totonicapán, where we talked to the teachers about how the classrooms are run, what the kids are learning and how the kids get to and from school.

While in St. Cristobal, we also visited a health center for mothers and babies that are supplied with Sprinkles, a nutritional dietary supplement used to help fight malnutrition. At the center, they talked about how the Sprinkles worked, how they distribute them and, most importantly, how they are seeing results.

This trip was such a great opportunity to see the progress that UNICEF is making in Guatemala and the difference we're making in the lives of the people.

Probably the most sobering moment of the trip occurred when we visited a shelter for migrant children and witnessed roughly 40 Guatemalan migrants who had illegally and unsuccessfully crossed the northern border to Mexico waiting in the shelter for a bus to take them back to their homes. Standing there in that small room with the 40 Guatemalans who had been caught was very hard, very awkward, and very uncomfortable.

I know it has the 4th highest chronic malnutrition rate in the world and I am aware of the poverty, the governmental corruption and the need for education. But, I now know what a beautiful place Guatemala is after meeting the beautiful people who live there. And I now know some of the wonderful people working in the UNICEF offices who are committed to change. Their work makes me want to work. Their hope gives me hope. And, in the words of Cynthia, a 14-year-old girl from Quetzaltenango, hope is the last thing to die.

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1199 SEIU donates $1 mil to UNICEF for Haiti earthquake emergency relief

On Monday, January 25th, the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East donated $1 million to the US Fund for UNICEF for Haiti earthquake emergency relief. A press conference was held that morning to announce the donation. President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Caryl Stern, accepted the giant check on behalf of the children of Haiti.

Maria Castaneda, Caryl Stern, George Gresham (first row); Gerard Cadet, Johnny McCalla, Felix Augustin (second row)
© 1199 SEIU
Maria Castaneda, Caryl Stern, George Gresham (first row); Gerard Cadet, Johnny McCalla, Felix Augustin (second row)

The union, which has tens of thousands of members of Haitian descent, also announced a special fundraising drive that will take place amongst the 1199 membership as well as volunteer recruitment efforts. Other key attendees include the union 1199SEIU President George Gresham and Secretary Treasurer Maria Castaneda. Also on hand was the U.S. Fund's Chief Financial Officer, Ed Lloyd, who accepted a check for $25,188 representing donations collected from the membership of 1199.

Governor David Paterson and several local elected officials spoke at the event and all congratulated 1199 SEIU for their generosity in support of UNICEF's lifesaving work. The entire room stood in solidarity and commitment to the people of Haiti not only now, but in the months and years ahead.

NBA All-Star Jam Session: U.S. Fund in the house

In response to the earthquake that hit Haiti in January, the NBA has been supporting UNICEF's relief efforts by bringing attention to the crisis and much needed emergency assistance to the victims. The league's social responsibility initiative, NBA Cares, along with the whole NBA family"the league, teams, players, and fans"responded rapidly to the nation's dire need for assistance, and has already contributed $1 million toward UNICEF relief and recovery efforts.

The NBA All-Star Jam Session took place last week at the Dallas Convention Center from Wednesday, February 10th through Saturday, February 13th. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF had the opportunity to attend the four day event, which attracted more than 90,000 basketball fans.

U.S. Fund for UNICEF staff members Vlad Bernad and Sean Gay with former NBA star and NBA Community Ambassador Felipe Lopez at the NBA All-Star Jam Session. Felipe was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Haiti's neighboring country.
U.S. Fund for UNICEF staff members Vlad Bernad and Sean Gay with former NBA star and NBA Community Ambassador Felipe Lopez at the NBA All-Star Jam Session. Felipe was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Haiti's neighboring country.

Staff and volunteers engaged NBA fans and visitors, who got a chance to see first-hand actual life-saving items including an emergency shelter tent, a school-in-the-box and recreation kits and malaria nets among other items. Funds raised at the event will directly support rebuilding and recovery efforts in Haiti.

Mothers of San Andres Xecul love Sprinkles!

Yesterday we arrived at a women's health clinic in San Cristobal just in time for a nutrition counselling session for mothers. The session at the San Andres Xecul clinic was held outside, and all the women wore beautiful traditional clothing, carrying their children on their backs or holding their hands. They played a learning game similar to 'hot potato,' only with an egg. Whoever was holding the egg when the drum stopped would have to answer a question. The counselor asked, "What is the importance of folic acid during pregnancy?" -"Healthy development of the baby" the mother replied. -"Is she right?" All the mothers clapped and yelled "Siii!" and the game began again. After the game we asked the mothers about Sprinkles (also called chispitas or microvitals). Our questions were translated into both Spanish and the mayan language, Kiche, so all the women could understand us. One mother told us Sprinkles "makes our children healthy.They have energy now, they have appetites and they aren't sick all the time." We observed the monthly weight monitoring. I helped a mother measure her daughter's height and I placed a 4-month-old on the scale to be weighed. "All looks great!" the doctor smiled. I can't describe how that moment felt. We saw doctors handing out Sprinkles packets to the mothers and we learned that Next Generation's $175,000 donation for Sprinkles will help this very clinic! Next Gen's fundaising and donations will allow this clinic to hire more (much needed) staff, train staff, provide needed measuring equipment and mas Sprinkles for these families AND thanks to Next Gen we will be able to provide for even more families! Muchas gracias Next Generation!