UNICEF Summit 2017

Tue, 2017/04/11

On April 1, 2017, around 400 UNICEF club members, leaders, and activists gathered together in Washington, D.C. For 70 years, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been an organization that works with children throughout the world, doing whatever it takes to safeguard the world’s most vulnerable children.

Unified, its members have worked unfaltering through fundraising activities, advocacy, and education in the United States. Our children are the future leaders of this world, and UNICEF members advocate for their rights. Their acts are simple, yet meaningful. Interventions like hand washing and breastfeeding could genuinely save million of lives.

UNICEF’s top supporters, partners, constituents, and students, came together to celebrate all of their efforts and dedication. Members from the UNICEF chapter at Illinois Tech also attended this two-day student summit. Past UNICEF activities on campus include fundraising for children from countries like Chad, Bangladesh, and others.

President Wildaline Serin and her fellow executive board members have done excellent work on campus to promote their compassion for children within the Illinois Tech community. This spring semester, Whitney Cross from UNICEF Chicago Headquarters gave insights about the issues that children face in Chad. Being the fifth poorest country in the world, children from Chad have a bleak future. There is a high mortality rate among children five years of age or younger, and only 25% of them complete their primary education. The idea of attending high school or college is not known to them.

16,000 children under the age of five die every day due to a lack of resources. Scanty nutrition, lack of safe drinking water, unaffordable immunizations, and the lack of other basic commodities that most US citizens take for granted have been a common cause of death for these children. Children are unfortunately still denied from their basic rights.

The summit is a huge platform for students from various states to work together on how to improve action plans and implement proven, low-cost methods to save children's lives. Hailing from a STEM university, Illinois Tech students leave no stone unturned when it comes to pushing the use of technology to reach out to thousands of children in war-zones. The possibility of utilizing drones has been a highly discussed topic for high school and college students.

Other than that, projects like the UNICEF tap project are nationwide campaigns. An attempt was made by its members to deliver safe, clean water to impoverished nations. Supporters of this campaign were not limited to campaign initiative and were developed equally by corporate, community, celebrity, and government supporters. UNICEF is working towards the Millennium Development Goals - Goal 7 - which involves decreasing the amount of people living without safe drinking water or proper sanitation by half.

Additionally, there has been discussion of a new concept that blends exercise with charity. Joy Robertson shared with us the newly implemented project. The UNICEF Kid Power Band is a wrist-worn step counter. It equates steps with points that will eventually be equivalent to a meal combo given out to a starving child. The idea is to help end global malnutrition.

Also, Robertson added that American kids versus disadvantaged kids had nutrition issues. She believes that UNICEF has actually solved two issues at the same time. While the Kid Power Band could strongly be lobbied such that American kids will step out and move, their steps will be beneficial for themselves and for less privileged children. Their motions will mean food.

The annual meeting was an enriching experience for our attendees. One of the programs that truly left a mark on Illinois Tech students who participated in the talk was the “human trafficking” session. Hannah Gould spoke about how human trafficking is a huge money-making business in the world. A video was presented to us, giving a glimpse of the suffering of an individual from Syria. Children live in terror cells, with barely a hope of life. Gould focused mainly on the issue of child trafficking and other forms of violence against children.

Gould asked the participants to come up with efficient solutions to curtail and, to a certain extent, eradicate this problem. What we came up with was the idea of transparency. The footage of live victims did have a better weight in terms of content than those normally publicized by the media. It was truly tremendous to hear the personal story of a Syrian child. We further developed this idea of how the use of technology could provide us a better image of the current situations.

Phil Telfeyan - the Executive Director of Equal Justice Under Law, a legal non-profit dedicated to ending inequality in the justice system)- is also a regional board member of UNICEF. He explained how, during the time that he was studying at Harvard University, he came across the self-realization of homeless people. He was deeply affected by this fact. Ever since then, he had dedicated himself to the lives of others.

Joining UNICEF right before his legal career proved to predict his future career path. He had his priorities set. It was “service to man equals to service to God.” Telfeyan added that the happiness he gained from getting involved in UNICEF was worth more than a high-paying job.

One thing was iterated more than anything else: human lives matter. Every child counts. Your donation is simply a drop of water that can sum up to an ocean eventually. As Henry Ford puts in “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.” The speakers emphasized that, as a team, we can contribute to the initiation of eradicating the sufferings of million of children. Together, we can make a better world for them.