In April, four Champions for Children joined representatives from UNICEF USA and the UNICEF Change for Good Team on an inspiring UNICEF field visit to Antigua and Barbuda.
Champions for Children Johnny Guzman (MIA), Gaby Jimenez (DCA), Irene Ruiz (PHX), and Jason Parks (PHL) saw firsthand how their collections from the Change for Good program on American Airlines were helping UNICEF improve and save the lives of children, families and communities who were affected by Hurricane Irma, Jose and Maria in the Eastern Caribbean.
On day one of the visit, the group traveled by boat from Antigua to Codrington, Barbuda. Upon arrival, it was clear how badly the village had been hit by the hurricanes.
The first stop on the trip was Holy Trinity Primary School. They saw how the temporary learning structures built after the hurricanes were being used to encourage learning months after the disaster. Champions played with the students, engaged with the teachers, and heard from the Principal how important UNICEF’s presence was to restoring normalcy for the island of Barbuda.
“After our first school visit something clicked,” Gaby Jimenez said. “I saw for myself the impactful good UNICEF was doing for these children.”
Thereafter, Champions were taken on a student-led tour of Codrington Village where they learned more about the history of the town and how UNICEF, with its partners, were working to build back better in Barbuda.
“How could I even imagine an island in the Caribbean ocean, almost completely flattened and destroyed by two hurricanes?” said Johnny after the tour. “I looked into the eyes of a child who has experienced one of the most terrifying natural disasters anyone could have ever experienced. I received a new, profound respect for UNICEF and the work they do to make sure that that child is still healthy, still laughing, and, undeniably, still resilient to forces outside his or her control.”
On the second day, the group visited two additional schools in Barbuda: Cody Pre-School and McChesney George Secondary School. At Cody Pre-School, Champions saw firsthand how UNICEF is working with the ministry of education to build curriculums for 3 and 4-year old’s that encourages early exposure to STEM. At McChesney George Secondary School, the group participated in a discussion with students about passion, purpose and how that leads to a career – they found out that there are future doctors, lawyers, and even flight attendants in the group.
“In every school we visited, we were so well received and thanked for what we do. It was personally so rewarding to see the children’s smiling faces, happily sharing their joy of learning, all because we choose to participate in this awesome program!” said Irene Ruiz.
On the last day, Champions traveled back to Antigua and visited two additional schools, S.R. Olivia David and the J.T. Ambrose primary school to learn about UNICEF child-friendly school model and school safety model. At J.T. Ambrose, they saw how UNICEF is working with the ministry of education in Antigua and Barbuda to provide a wholistic approach to ensure a well-rounded education. At S.R. Olivia, Champions learned that the school was investing time in emergency preparedness and running monthly drills to ensure all students and faculty know what to do should an emergency occur.
“I’m coming home from this adventure revitalized, more giving, with a fuller heart and more passion. I am more compassionate, thankful, grateful, and completely humbled,” reflected Jason Parks. “Thank you, UNICEF and my fellow AA Change for Good Champions. My heart is forever changed and my eyes are more open than I ever thought possible.”
To learn more or to get involved, please visit www.unicefusa.org/changeforgood