Charlie Consoli is Chicago-based international flight attendant and Champion for Children for UNICEF’s Change for Good Program on American Airlines.
Last month I had the honor of going to Chile on a UNICEF field visit with Champions for Children Aimee Doe, Silvia SepÃºlveda, and Claudia Berra. It was truly an eye-opening and emotional experience.
|Christina Andersen for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF/2011|
|Charlie Consoli and friends in Chile.|
We traveled to Concepción, the city most affected by the February 27, 2010 earthquake and tsunami, with wonderful staff members from UNICEF to see our Change for Good collections in action.
The first stop was to visit families who were beneficiaries of “Programa Puente” which provides materials and social workers to help lift underprivileged families out of poverty.
The next stop was an ‘aldea’. Aldeas are temporary camps built to provide shelter for families whose homes were destroyed by the disaster. There are more than 107 aldeas with more 4500 families living in them. Residents are benefiting from water and sanitation facilities provided through UNICEF.
At one aldea we visited they were celebrating the opening of a ‘ludoteca’, a Toy and Book Lending Library aimed at children 2 to 12 years of age, and a children’s play room. UNICEF has provided 80 ludotecas to the aldeas, each standardized with books, toys and educational games, as well as instructional materials. The toys and games can be used in the play-room, or can be “checked out” and taken home. We were able to interact with the children, playing with the toys and games, and also outside playing soccer and on the swings and teeter-totter.
|Charlie Consoli for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF/2011|
|A break for football.|
The next stop was the Centro de Salud Familiar to see “Chile Crece Contigo–Chile Grows with you” Program, in which pregnant women receive written and personal counseling regarding pregnancy, as well as clothing and other supplies for their newborns. A sensitivity to indigenous cultures is observed and the guide material adapted to address this issue.
I was brought to tears on more than one occasion, not just by the conditions under which people were living; but, by the resilience and graciousness they have summoned to go about rebuilding their lives. I came away with a true appreciation for the value of the UNICEF projects in bringing learning, play, happiness and a bit of normalcy to children and their families whose lives have been so affected due to natural disasters or economic circumstances.
I was honored and humbled to see firsthand the significant difference the funds collected by Champions for Children are making in the lives of children and their families.