This last April and May, I had the pleasure of participating in the Teen Action Fair and Global Citizen Day, respectively, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has partnered with UNICEF for numerous development initiatives. Most notably, the two organizations have worked together to reduce the worldwide burden of polio through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and developed the Global Newborn Action Plan to reduce child mortality. Here in Seattle, I work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bring awareness of global issues to local Seattleites.
At the Teen Action Fair, two University of Washington Campus Initiative students joined me to educate 900+ attendees on water issues, the national human trafficking hotline, the Girls Count Act, and Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods. University of Washington sophomore Rachelle gave a compelling five minute lightning round talk on her work as a campus club member and how young people can make a tangible global impact. Her words were especially impactful as the day of the Teen Action Fair, April 25th, was also the date of the first major earthquake that hit Nepal this year.
In April, high school student and Gates Foundation Teens Take Action program participant Lamson taught visitors at Global Citizen Day about numerous UNICEF technologies. In one activity, he had participants mix and drink salt, sugar, and water to simulate an Oral Rehydration Salt, a technology used to treat severe dehydration. Lamson said, “My interest in UNICEF and international development has skyrocketed after tabling. Everything that UNICEF does as an organization has really resonated with me and continues to shape what I want to pursue as an occupation. Thanks to my wonderful tabling experience, I have a rough idea of what I want to do in my life for the future.”
I enjoy meeting humanitarians all over Seattle through working with the Gates Foundation Visitor Center. Students such as Lamson and Rachelle are developing skills to become effective leaders in international development while other locally-based non-profits are cultivating the culture of global awareness and altruism that makes Seattle an easy place to be a Global Citizenship Fellow.
As I apply to medical school in hopes of one day working with UNICEF as a physician, the Fellowship has a been an ideal setting to work as an educator, leader, learner, advocate, and voice for those without one. Although my email inbox fills quickly every morning with notices of new flooding deaths in Southeast Asia, food voucher funding cuts for Syrian refugees, and violence against girls in Nigeria, what keeps me optimistic are the students, volunteers, and partners that strive for an equitable, peaceful world. In my time as a Fellow, we’ve already seen preventable child deaths decrease from 18,000 per day to 16,000 per day, which is 16,000 too many.
As former UNICEF Executive Director James P. Grant said, “Children should be the first to benefit from mankind’s success and the last ones to suffer from its failures, for it is on how we bring up our children that our civilization is measured, our humanity is tested, our future is shaped.” I look forward to continue working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center to bring the importance of the world’s children to the community I have called home for nineteen years.
For more information on education and advocacy work in Seattle, contact Sylvia Stellmacher, Global Citizenship Fellow, at firstname.lastname@example.org