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Third Graders Take Over UNICEF USA Meeting on World Children's Day

January 16, 2018

World Children's Day: Step aside, children in charge

By Tori Curbelo 

If you're reading this blog post chances are you most likely support UNICEF's mission of standing up for the world's most marginalized children. Like you, I also consider myself to be an advocate for children. I believe every child deserves food, a home, a safe environment, and a bright future. If you had asked me before World Children's Day this past November, I would not have been able to remember the last time I had asked a child about his or her point of view. Isn't that surprising? 

As advocates, educators, and fundraisers, it's important that we seize moments to reflect and hear from those whom we advocate for. How can we support children if we never listen to them? Listening to children requires intentional moments where we ask youth about their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. We don't always have to assume, or fill in the gaps.  

 Article 12 of The Convention on the Rights of the Child reads: 

States parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. 

If you ask and listen, we can hear what children need.  

World Children's Day on November 20 is a day that reminds us of the power of children. This year, UNICEF encouraged the public to organize a #KidsTakeOver. Which begs the question, what exactly is a kids "take-over"? The UNICEF website states that it is: 

A fun day, with a serious message, when kids ‘take over’ high-visibility roles in media, politics, business, sport and entertainment to shine a light on the most pressing challenges faced by their generation

It was a call to action to uplift the voice of every child, even the child that may not usually have a platform to share.  

Here at UNICEF USA, third grade students from a local NYC public school led an ALL STAFF meeting. At first, I was unsure about how the day would go. Would the third graders be nervous to speak in front of adults who may be three, four, five, and six times their age? My colleagues and I had some ideas, but nothing in our agenda was concrete. It would soon be filled with their vision of how they wanted their meeting to look like.

"What are some objectives you have for the meeting?" Was one of our first questions for the students. They provided some goals that we could possibly review with our colleagues. "How would you respond if you were asked this..." The students worked together to formulate answers. After drafting the content with the students, they were ready to speak amongst our colleagues.  

Aside from our team and a few others, no one knew before the meeting that the students would takeover. The hour kicked off with our Chief Development Officer & Executive Vice President, Barron Segar. As his role would suggest, Barron covered some of our organization's development updates. He was not in charge for too long before the meeting was interrupted by two of the students.  

"Do adults always talk this much?" Asked one of the students as she walked in and interrupted the meeting.  

Another student asked Barron, "Do you know what today is? World Children's Day" 

"And we're here to take over!"  

The rest of the class poured in to abruptly change the agenda from development updates to World Children's Day as they: 

  • Shared their meeting objectives 
  • Answered staff questions about their views of the global world and children's rights 
  • Lead the staff in UNICEF Kid Power Ups 

One of our colleagues asked the students what children need. The student responded that,

Children need food, shelter, and most importantly ice cream

As simple as the answer was, it was spot on. I'll explain why. Currently, it's estimated that 1 in 4 children are chronically malnourished. Additionally, 30 are uprooted, and fleeing conflict and other harmful conditions. Children need food and shelter to fulfill their existence as a happy child who can enjoy simple pleasures such as: an ice cream, or spending time with family.  

The children weren't finished taking over. They hopped on a train with UNICEF USA staff and their teacher Chris Pomboyno to NASDAQ. A big sign near 42nd Street Time Square read to the crowds, "NASDAQ  Welcomes UNICEF USA November 20, 2017". Quickly following, the children once again took over. Images of the third graders one after the other appeared to remind everyone in Time Square why every child deserves the best. 

How do you celebrate World Children's Day? I recommend marking your yearly calendar and checking in with us next year to see what you can do to recognize youth. It goes without saying that we should live everyday as World Children's Day. Find out how you do so by visiting: https://www.unicefusa.org/supporters/volunteers.