This National Volunteer Week, April 16-22, UNICEF USA recognizes the grassroots organizers who give back to their communities while helping the world's most vulnerable children.
Week in and week out, UNICEF USA volunteers spend hours working for a cause they are passionate about. Where did that commitment begin, and why do they choose to dedicate their time to UNICEF? We asked a few to share their stories:
Kelly Goodwin and Stephanie Davis: teachers standing up for child rights
Both dedicated teachers in the Houston area, Kelly Goodwin and Stephanie Davis are also active volunteers, most recently advocating for the City of Houston to become the first UNICEF Child Friendly City candidate in the U.S. in 2022.
Kelly, a fierce advocate of child rights, still remembers the first time she saw a UNICEF advertisement on TV when she was a child. In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, she became a UNICEF UNITE team member. "I've always seen UNICEF as the epitome of true altruism, their goal of selflessly giving without expecting anything in return to save and improve the quality of life for children globally," she says.
I've always seen UNICEF as the epitome of pure altruism — their goal of selflessly giving without expecting anything in return to save and improve the quality of life for children globally.
UNICEF has provided Kelly with an "invaluable education acquired from volunteer experiences," and allowed her to meet people of diverse backgrounds: "These two areas have influenced my ability to advocate more effectively in various areas of human rights. Awareness, confidence and empowerment are critical in such global topics."
Being a UNICEF volunteer has also influenced and strengthened her understanding of children's needs, especially those with disabilities. Kelly serves children with disabilities in a professional and volunteer capacity. One of her roles involves being a volunteer ambassador for the Autism Society of Texas in Southeast Houston.
"The UNICEF mission is what I aim to achieve in all work areas as I continually work to defend and protect the human right of children while helping them fulfill their highest potential by advocating and promoting inclusion," she says.
Through volunteering for UNICEF, Stephanie "learned there is hope for the future. Children deserve to be heard because they have brilliant minds and should not be afraid to use them; they have solutions to various community issues and are excited to be involved in actively helping in any way we allow them to."
Through volunteering for UNICEF, I learned there is hope for the future.
Stephanie became a UNICEF volunteer in 2021, because of a course requirement at the University of Houston-Downtown. She examined many organizations but chose UNICEF. "It spoke to my heart because of their mission to advocate to protect children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential."
It was a perfect fit for someone with a "deep passion for serving others, empowering people to take action to create positive change and defending those who cannot help themselves."
Aman Bhogal: global service, advocacy and leadership
A UNICEF USA Youth Representative, UNICEF Club member and senior at Dulaney High School in Cockeysville, MD, Aman Bhogal became involved with UNICEF his freshman year in high school, immersing himself in "a new world of global service, advocacy and leadership" after attending his first UNICEF Club meeting. Through UNICEF, he learned how he, as a young person, can help other young people around the world.
The feeling of having contributed to something so impactful, knowing that we genuinely were able to help the lives of children through substantial support, has become one of my consistent drives for helping make these types of projects even bigger and better.
With his UNICEF Club, Aman has organized fundraisers and events, like a recent car wash to support a UNICEF project aimed at supporting childhood development in Zambia. His club raised over $660 in a single day for the initiative.
It also proved to be a learning opportunity for many of the students involved, as many didn't know much about what UNICEF does. "The feeling of having contributed to something so impactful, knowing that we genuinely were able to help the lives of children through substantial support, has become one of my consistent drives for helping make these types of projects even bigger and better," he says.
The connection to a global network of youth volunteers has proven indispensable for widening Aman's understanding of different cultures. Through a pen pal program, he regularly exchanges letters with a student in Germany, gaining "new insights and views." He plans to restart the project with his local UNICEF Club, to provide students with a way to meet other youth changemakers from around the world.
Want to make your community and the world better but don't know where to start? Check out UNICEF USA's volunteer opportunities.