If you’re like me, the first thing you think about when you hear “UNICEF” is the little orange box you hung around your neck to collect change as you went trick-or-treating. For me, that was about 30 years ago, but it served the purpose of fostering a lifelong soft spot for this organization, which works to save the lives of children all over the world.
A couple of years ago, I discovered UNICEF Survival Gifts. I was feeling a big jaded about donating to organizations because there was so much in the media about misappropriated funds and vast percentages of donations going to administrative costs or CEO bonuses. But the Survival Gifts appealed to me because they put a price on a specific service you could purchase, for example, $28 for clean water kits, $12 for soccer balls or $42 for a vaccine pack (there are also big-ticket donations, like $235 for a school-in-a-box). I purchased several in the names of the girls’ daycare teachers. They loved it.
So I jumped at the chance to attend a UNICEF event that took place this week at The Bata Shoe Museum here in Toronto. What was all the buzz about? The museum was inducting a pair of boots worn for the last 10 years by Nigel Fisher, a Canadian with more than 30 years of experience working with UNICEF and the United Nations. (Trivia: The last pair of shoes inducted were those of the Dalai Lama!). Estimated travel of these boots? Well over 100,000 kilometres. Number of children’s lives saved by the man who wore them directly or indirectly? Estimated at nearly a million in more than a dozen countries. In one of his many acts of valour, Fisher helped negotiate a cease-fire in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, in order to vaccinate children in the war zone. He personified UNICEF’s slogan: No child too far. Check out Fisher on You Tube.
It didn’t take long for me to get choked up, reading about Fisher’s amazing work in war-torn and storm-ravaged places like Rwanda, Pakistan and Haiti, and hearing others talk about his courage and dedication. Fisher arrived via video feed from Haiti, where he now lives. (He let us know that Haiti was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy, though it hasn’t gotten much press.) Fisher spoke briefly, with warmth and even humour about some harrowing situations, and the way he’s been inspired by the strength and spirit of the children he’s met. As a mom, it’s hard to hear about the suffering of our most vulnerable and innocent and to learn that 19,000 children die every day from causes like malnutrition and malaria — causes that have solutions.
I felt so humbled and honoured to be there, to hear Fisher speak live about his life-changing work. And, of course, to see the boots he wore while doing it. (More trivia: They were Timberlands, and a rep from that company was there to donate a new pair “for the next 100,000 kilometres.”) It puts things in a new light, doesn’t it? I’ve been thinking for a while now about finding a cause or an organization that I can feel passionate about committing some time and energy to (maybe even as a family?). Today’s event reminded me how important it is to take the next step toward this goal, and it gave me the feeling that my focus should be on children and moms in some way. I think people often get involved in charities that touch them in a personal way. My work at Today’s Parent (and, of course, having two kids) has made me feel such a strong connection to the experience of pregnancy and mothering and all the support we need. All of us. Parenthood really is a great equalizer, isn’t it?
Pardon my promotion, but I can’t help but share UNICEF’s message: In celebration of this induction, for every new email sign-up to UNICEF Canada’s No Child Too Far campaign, a life-saving vaccine will be donated by BD-Canada. As they say, it only takes a minute! You can follow them on Twitter @UNICEFLive.
Do you volunteer your time or are you involved in any particular causes? What spurred your involvement? Tweet me @T_Chappell.