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Marysia Gunderson is a MIA- based American Airlines Flight Attendant and “Champions for Childre” volunteer. She collects currency donations on flights from American Airlines customers to support UNICEF’s Change for Good program.
In May 2017, I participated in my first field visit with UNICEF and American Airlines. We traveled to Nicaragua and after an incredible four days, my heart and soul was truly moved. To say I have been humbled by my experience would be an understatement. The country was full to the brim of beauty, love, intelligence, talent, and more. I’m so happy I had the chance to see first-hand how our collections on American Airlines are directly making an impact on the lives of children.
When we arrived we were met by UNICEF staff and immediately learned how UNICEF works collaboratively with local and national governments, and non-profit organizations to carry-out and programming and sustain long-term impact. We then spent the next 3 days visiting schools, health facilities, and more – learning how UNICEF is working to meet its goals for the communities in Nicaragua.
On our first day, we went to a hospital that was certified in providing pregnant women with information and techniques on breastfeeding – which I learned is a successful method used to help decrease infant mortality rates, especially when used in the first few hours of life. I saw the smiles of the proud mothers as they showed off their healthy, adorable children to us.
One day two we visited a local elementary school and saw newly installed bathrooms and toilets for the students. I spoke to one of the teachers who told me that there used to be one bathroom for over 200 children before UNICEF’s support. Now, there were bathrooms in each classroom for children to use – helping them to stay healthy and strong so they can focus on their education.
The final program that we visited was a program for at-risk youth where they received job-readiness skills in masonry and plumbing – this program was directly supported by American Airlines collections. I got a chance to speak to these kids who described how their lives have changed for the better due to the program - I was truly inspired.
From this trip, what I learned was that UNICEF is doing amazing work to provide basic human rights for children. These rights include medical care, proper nutrition, clean water, and quality education. I've seen personally how every little cent makes a difference in the life of a child and how UNICEF makes every dollar stretch to help as many vulnerable children as possible.
All in all, my trip was life-changing, humbling, and so inspiring. I was so inspired to see that there still so much good in this world!
To learn more or to get involved, please visit www.unicefusa.org/changeforgood