A girl attends Heart Strings, a multi-sensory exhibit that teaches visitors about the impact of  UNICEF's work for children.
Youth Voice

Heart Strings: A Place Where Changing the World Feels Within Reach

A new multi-sensory exhibit touring the U.S. introduces children and their families to the power of UNICEF to change lives and empower the next generation. A UNICEF Youth Representative shares her impressions of this inspiring installation.

For many people, their first school field trip is a milestone moment in their childhood. What could be more exciting than the adventure, newfound freedom and often chaos that ensues when leaving the classroom bubble for a day?

Sometimes, despite all the new sights, stories and experiences, all a student takes away is some new inside jokes with classmates. There's nothing wrong with that, but the best field trips can inspire, spark a lifelong interest or even, in some rare cases, ignite change.

That is what Heart Strings, UNICEF's interactive exhibit, sets out to do on its tour across the U.S. Here, children and young people aren't just spectators. Upon setting foot in the space, they become an integral part of the experience and walk away from it with the knowledge they belong to a global network of inspiring youth who are just as eager as they are to change the world for the better. 

Trisha, 18, a high school senior and UNICEF USA Youth Representative from Southeast Texas, stands beside a sign at the Heart Strings experience-for-good in Houston..
As a child, Trisha, a high school senior and UNICEF USA Youth Representative from southeast Texas, lived in a community that lacked resources, which inspired her to support children’s access to essential services like public spaces, education and health care. © UNICEF USA

An immersive experience that invites participation

Trisha, an 18-year-old high school senior and UNICEF USA Youth Representative from southeast Texas, not only attended the recent Houston Heart Strings exhibit, she was also featured in it. “All the interactive features will be hard to beat,” she said. The exhibit's immersive design ensures that “regardless of age, you will be able to learn about UNICEF.” Trisha's favorite part?  “Reading and listening to different youth stories and gaining more insight into UNICEF’s work, including how it helps young individuals overcome struggles.”

Stories are a central part of Heart Strings. Everyone can participate by listening to and reading the stories of children around the world — and by adding their own story on the spot. Visitors can speak into voice amplifiers, explaining what they want for the future and why.

"I wish for every child to get to know and experience their rights," one visitor said. "I want kids to go through life not having to worry about things like hunger, war or getting an education ... to just be kids," said another. Their voices can then heard by other attendees as they are magnified under a dome creating an interactive experience, a kind of live poetry session. In another part of the exhibit, visitors can enjoy following different dance styles from around the world and learning about what childhood can look like, depending on where one is born.

Trisha, 18, stands beside a photo of herself at Heart Strings, an interactive exhibit designed to illustrate the impact of UNICEF's work for children worldwide.
Trisha, 18, is featured in the Heart Strings exhibit. Her plans for the future? “More advocacy! No matter where I end up in the future, during and after college. In whatever way I can, I will ensure that my time is dedicated to uplifting UNICEF's mission and continue working towards making sustainability a reality for youth globally. Currently, I am working with local youth to host a district-wide UNICEF Clubs meeting where they can advocate for each other and learn more about each other's work.” © UNICEF USA

A celebration of the power of youth + UNICEF around the world

The whole experience feels both “empowering” and “surprising,” said Trisha. A longtime UNICEF volunteer and advocate, she said she did not realize the scope of resources UNICEF helps to provide for youth globally. There were multiple instances throughout Heart Strings where she “was amazed at the stories of different youth from various areas of the world who have brought about positive changes in their communities through UNICEF’s help.”

"It is no secret that the impact of UNICEF has reached far, but seeing said impact in person through interactive features genuinely opens your eyes to the multiple injustices in the world that UNICEF advocates for on a daily basis,” Trisha said.

I left feeling more knowledgeable about UNICEF's work and ways to elevate youth voice, but dreaded having to leave the exhibit and the beautiful world it created. — Trisha, 18

As for how she felt after the exhibit, the word that comes to mind, she said, is “bittersweet ... I left feeling more knowledgeable about UNICEF’s work and ways to elevate youth voice, but dreaded having to leave the exhibit and the beautiful world it created.”

She is now more determined than ever to continue her work “empowering and influencing youth.”

Heart Strings sets out to do exactly that, showing that lack of experience or age aren’t obstacles to transforming the world. Rather, the imagination and resilience of youth are strengths and taking action doesn’t have to be something faraway; it is within reach. All one needs is to be inspired – maybe even on a field trip.

Are you ready to travel around the world in 45 minutes, through eight interactive zones that unveil the extraordinary power of the youth voice? Good news: Schools, clubs and youth organizations in and around Atlanta, Boston and Chicago get to experience this educational, impactful journey at no cost.

Register your school now to request your free tickets and our UNICEF USA team will be in touch with more info.


TOP PHOTO: A visitor to Heart Strings, an interactive multimedia installation currently touring select U.S cities, speaks into a voice amplifier to share her hopes for the future. The exhibit illustrates the impact of UNICEF's work to change lives and empower children around the world, and encourages young people to get involved on the issues that matter to them. © UNICEF USA