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Thank You, Volunteers!
This International Volunteer Day, UNICEF USA salutes all who volunteer their time and talents to supporting UNICEF's mission to save and protect vulnerable children around the world.
To connect with other UNICEF supporters in your community, visit UNICEF UNITE. "Uniters" are UNICEF's frontline advocates for children, based in the United States. There are many ways you can pitch in and help.
UNICEF employs more than 13,000 people around the world, specialists in all sorts of fields, from education to finance to civil engineering. A UNICEF staffer might spend the day negotiating the release of child soldiers, reviewing kids' health records or loading a cargo plane with emergency supplies bound for a refugee camp.
And then there are the UNICEF volunteers, individuals who donate their time and talents in support of UNICEF's mission, raising funds and raising awareness of critical issues affecting children. They might help out during an immunization campaign or lend a hand in a post-hurricane rebuilding effort. In these and other ways, volunteers play a vital role in amplifying UNICEF's impact.
Many U.S.-based volunteers lend their support by keeping the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF tradition alive. Students at Liberty Elementary in Dallas outdid themselves this year, raising more than $120. "I believe in the program," says first-grade teacher Andrea Brogan, who likes to make it a class effort. "When I was a kid growing up in New York, everybody went out with their little boxes and collected coins. My students are only six years old, but I think it helps them think more globally — to understand that there are kids out there who are like them, and have needs, and that this is one way to help."
Below, a look at some other recent examples of how volunteers have been supporting UNICEF. And to each and every one, and to all UNICEF volunteers everywhere: Thank you.
LAUNCHING A CAMPUS CLUB
While in her second year at the University of Georgia, Anjali Nair (above), a health promotion major minoring in Arabic, co-founded a UNICEF Campus Club, which promptly delved into some of the most urgent issues in child health. For World Immunization Week in April, Nair led the club's efforts to engage students in a discussion about the importance of vaccinating kids, organizing a panel of experts who covered topics such as vaccine myths and barriers to access. “One day, I’d like to work on research and educational programs around behavior that can help prevent infectious diseases like Zika,” Nair told UNICEF USA. “Hopefully, by then, there will even be a Zika vaccine." © UNICEF USA
HELPING GIRLS STAY IN SCHOOL IN MALAWI
Elementary school students who attend Public School 208 in Brooklyn, New York, held their second annual peace walk earlier this year to support the Kids In Need of Desks (K.I.N.D.) Fund, a partnership between MSNBC's Lawrence O’Donnell and UNICEF to provide schools in Malawi with desks and girls from Malawi with tuition. A few months afterward, Joyce Chisale, a 15-year-old aspiring doctor who received a scholarship through the program, traveled 8,000 miles to the U.S., where she spoke publicly about how the program changed her life and is changing the lives of so many other girls in need. One of the stops during her visit? P.S. 208, where she thanked students in person for their support. "Without being able to go back to school, my life would have been miserable," Joyce said. "Maybe I would have been married, maybe I would have just stayed home with my parents. But now they have given me hope." So far, students at P.S. 208 have more than $500 for K.I.N.D. © UNICEF USA
GETTING KIDS BACK TO LEARNING
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, one of the worst weather-related disasters in U.S. history, UNICEF USA worked with the city of Houston's departments of health and education, the mayor's office and non-profit partners to provide counseling and education for marginalized and vulnerable children in the hardest hit areas. Volunteers, meanwhile, helped prepare School-in-a-Box kits full of learning materials for students and teachers who had been displaced by the storm, to help them get back to learning quickly. Houston teacher Jackie Garcia, a UNICEF volunteer since 2010, (above, back row, far left) pitched in during the Houston Stack and Pack: "When UNICEF USA partnered with UPS, I had to be there," she said. © UNICEF USA
During the month of October, students at Oakcliff Elementary in Atlanta conducted a "Pump It Up" campaign to raise money for hand-operated water pumps for communities in need, selling bottled water every morning before school. "People need fresh water so they don't get sick," explained Stephanie, an Oakcliff fourth-grader and enthusiastic participant. Another benefit the students incorporated into their fundraising pitch: Installing these pumps often enables children to go to school — children who would otherwise have to walk long distances every day to fetch water for their families. "I'm so glad I am a part of this," said Abdulaye, 9. © Jeanette Karvis, resource teacher for the special education department and coordinator/supervisor of the Pump It Up campaign
American artists Max Frieder (above, back row middle, with green hat) and Joel Bergner (above right, in baseball cap) helped Rohingya refugee children paint a mural as part of a public art exchange. The painting sessions took place last May in a UNICEF-supported Child-Friendly Space in the Balukhali camp, located in the Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to the area from Myanmar since August 2017 to escape brutal violence, leaving many children traumatized and in need of humanitarian assistance. "Our main objective," Bergner said, "is to address critical issues related to armed conflict, trauma and social marginalization by developing artwork that promotes reconciliation, healing and community empowerment." © UNICEF/UN0213495/Sokol
HELPING POST-HURRICANE RECOVERY IN PUERTO RICO
Sadie Foster (above), a student at the City University of New York, was one of 500 college students who volunteered in Puerto Rico last summer, helping to repair roofs on homes that had been damaged during Hurricane Maria. UNICEF USA helped coordinate this effort in partnership with New York State. UNICEF USA President and CEO Caryl Stern called the project empowering for young people. "It is the ultimate 'kids helping kids' solution, which is at the heart of what UNICEF is all about," she said. Teams of a couple dozen or more spent two weeks each on the job, embedded with nonprofit partners All Hands and Hearts — Smart Response, Nechama and Heart 9/11. Local families were grateful. "I'm very thankful that the students are here helping," Yovany Andelis, a father of two from Isla Verde, near San Juan, told UNICEF USA. © Edison Sabala for UNICEF USA
Millennials are making a real difference through UNICEF Next Generation, a social network created in 2009 as an outlet for young professionals interested in supporting the UNICEF mission. NextGen member Brittany Letto (above) joined other NextGen members on a field visit to Mexico to learn more about the urgent needs of kids and families there, and what UNICEF is doing to address those needs. "The human connection I experienced that week had a profound effect on me," Letto said. "It inspires me to deepen my fundraising, advocacy and awareness building on behalf of vulnerable children however I can.” © Rebecca Yale for UNICEF USA
Top photo: Andrea Brogan, a first-grade teacher at Liberty Elementary in Dallas, with some of the students she helped Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF (from left to right): Samuel, Kaarma, Stella and Adi. © Lauren Wallace for UNICEF USA