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Beth Callahan, a Dallas-based American Airlines Flight Attendant and “Champion for Children” volunteer, collects currency donations on international flights from American Airlines customers to support UNICEF’s Change for Good program.
As a Champion for Children for UNICEF’s Change for Good program on American Airlines, I was honored to be selected to participate in a UNICEF field visit to Bolivia. During the trip I was able to see first-hand how the money we collect from our generous passengers is put to use in the field.
When we arrived in La Paz we went to El Alto where UNICEF support is critical for a passionate group of community activists. At Ecojovenes, a media outlet which targets youth through radio broadcasts and provides educational programming and public service messages about children’s rights, we met and interacted with a group of inspirational young leaders who are committed to making a positive change in their communities through the use of media.
We then travelled to the isolated Amazonian region of Bolivia where we spent the next couple of days. This area is highly indigenous and the communities we visited were remote. We went to a UNICEF-supported hospital, San Martín de Porres in Ibuelo. The hospital focuses on maternal health and breastfeeding initiatives and received its certification as a “child friendly hospital” while we were there. I was really impressed with the level of care at the hospital and how it has adapted its practices to accommodate the cultural sensitivities of its patients. Many of the women have never seen a doctor, are young, and travel far from home to have their babies. Some members of our team were fortunate enough to witness a live birth of a healthy baby girl, which was a particular highlight of our visit there.
We then visited La Misión, another rural community where we were warmly welcomed with a wonderful presentation given in our honor. The Yuracaré people are incredibly thankful to UNICEF and American Airlines for their support in promoting prenatal and maternal health, breastfeeding initiatives, and dental care. Thanks to Change for Good donations, UNICEF was able to provide the communities with canoes used to transport patients, healthcare workers and medicine to communities that are only accessible by river.
We also visited a Hope Library in Entre Ríos to see how UNICEF is helping to achieve greater literacy among children and adolescents. This library was very impressive with hundreds of books and two large computer and audio/visual rooms. We met students who come here regularly to expand their knowledge and computer skills by doing research on the internet.
Our final visit was to the Ayoreos community and to the Centro de Salud 18 de Marzo clinic which treats the community and educates them on the prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission. The Ayoreos are an insular community living in abject poverty; visiting them highlighted some of the challenges urban indigenous groups face. However, thanks to UNICEF, the doctors and staff of the clinic have made progress in gaining their trust over time, facilitating great success providing HIV/AIDS treatment to mothers and preventing the transmission of the virus on to their children with a 100% success rate.
I was so honored to be selected for this UNICEF field visit to Bolivia. It really opened my eyes to all of the hard work that UNICEF does around the world with the most disadvantaged children. UNICEF is truly making inroads and progress in many areas, and with the help of our Flight Attendants and Admirals Club staff, more children are helped worldwide. My visit has really inspired me to do more and recruit Flight Attendants for the Change for Good program. Every penny counts.
To learn more or get involved, please visit www.unicefusa.org/changeforgood.