You might be wondering how I got involved with UNICEF USA. That is a good question because I did not go to a Kid Power School or have a UNICEF club in my high school and university. I didn’t participate in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF either, even though I wish I had those opportunities as a first generation Mexican child growing up in a low income community in Los Angeles.
In 2017, while taking an online class with Stanford University focused on international women’s health and human rights, I had to interview an organization in my city for a class project. I had heard of UNICEF through the media and wanted to know more about their work in the USA and internationally, so I reached out to UNICEF USA’s Southern California regional office and interviewed their Community Engagement Fellow. During our conversation, I learned about UNICEF USA’s programs and work, which aligned very well to the critical issues I was learning in class regarding girls and women’s health, education, genital mutilation, violence and sexual assault, among other issues. From that day on, I started to volunteer with UNICEF USA. First, I volunteered at the annual Masquerade Ball in Los Angeles. Then, when I moved out to the East Coast, I was ready and able to join the D.C. Congressional Action Team (CAT).
When I heard UNICEF Annual Summit was going to be in Washington D.C., I was very excited to participate for the very first time and help build a movement to put children first. During the General Session, it was very educational and inspiring to see youth voice included in three panels, not to mention seeing so many young people in the audience. On Advocacy Day, I instantly connected with my 425 fellow advocates because we all care about children and are determined to put them first. This year, our visit to the Hill was focused on urging our Members of Congress to support and maintain the FY19 U.S. Government contribution to UNICEF at $132.5 million and asking them to co-sponsor the International Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 5034/S. 2120), which would make ending violence against girls and women a top diplomatic, development and foreign assistance priority for the U.S. government.
I made an impact on Advocacy Day by building relationships with different offices in California, especially with my Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA). According to her staffer, in my district, 60% of the population consists of people who identify as Hispanic. Her office had not met with UNICEF USA before, and as a constituent in her district, along with another constituent who started a UNICEF USA club in his high school, we were able to inform them that many UNICEF supporters reside in her district including four high school clubs. Across the state of California, there are 190 clubs, 21 campus clubs, 17,300 volunteers and 19,102 Kid Power students enrolled in 372 Kid Power schools for the 2017 - 2018 school year. These numbers are very powerful and help justify #WHYUNICEF funding is so critical. Personally, I see the importance in reaching even more schools and students, especially first generation immigrants.
As someone who recently has begun volunteering with UNICEF USA, it is never too late for you to participate too. Whether you are a high school student, college student, or an adult professional, you can get involved with UNICEF USA and advocate for children! Most importantly, we need a diverse group of people to urge Congress to protect children and help elevate children's voices.