On November 3rd, 2017, the UNICEF USA Midwest Region hosted its 7th annual UNICEF Chicago Humanitarian Awards Luncheon. The goal of the event is to highlight the work of our fellow Chicagoans doing extraordinary work to improve the lives of children in the U.S. and abroad. This year’s theme, Children Uprooted, discussed the plight of vulnerable youth impacted by the global migrant and refugee crisis. UNICEF Mexico Representative Christian Skoog provided insight into his role, including the organization’s recent earthquake response, and to speak to UNICEF’s work with children affected by violence in-transit from Central America to Mexico.
The honorees this year were:
- Suzanne Sahloul, Executive Director and Founder of the Syrian Community Network,
- Dr. Zaher Sahloul, Executive Director of MedGlobal,
- Maria Woltjen, Executive Director and Founder of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, and
- UNICEF Next-Gen Chicago Humanitarian Steve Lehmann, Founder of Threadies.
Upon arriving, guests browsed fair-trade gifts from around the world in our UNICEF Market, along with inspired-gifts which send vital supplies to children in need. The supplies were set up under a UNICEF tent like those used to provide safe places to play and learn to children around the world.
The lunch program included comments from each of the honorees and Senator Richard Durbin, who gave a passionate speech honoring the award recipients and highlighting the need for continued action. Colleagues from the offices of Representative Mike Quigley and Representative Brad Schneider also attended. The presence of such strong champions for children builds on the success of the Chicago Congressional Action Team’s visits to Congressional offices during August Recess.
“Throughout history, America has led with compassion and care all around the world. We turned to great organizations like UNICEF and said we want to be a part of your effort...What you do today in honoring four individuals is a testament to that same value, same commitment.”
After the lunch, interested attendees and volunteers joined the honorees for a discussion about ways that guests can take action and make a difference in their own communities.
The UNICEF Chicago Humanitarian Awards Luncheon is truly a team effort. This event would not have been possible without the help of our dedicated luncheon committee and volunteers, including co-chairs Amy Brown and Jen Zaugh, and Midwest Board Chair Ashish Prasad. The committee organized logistics while volunteers built tents, checked in guests, and collected donations. In all, the luncheon demonstrated how UNICEF USA’s local advocacy efforts can ripple beyond individual cities, districts and states. With the sustained help of our supporters, we can continue to work towards a world where every child receives the same fundamental rights.