Meena Haque is a Global Citizenship Fellow at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF Southwest regional office in Houston, Texas.
I work as a grassroots spokesperson, bringing together schools, universities, volunteers and community organizations to unite in service of children around the world. Recently, I had the privilege of attending the 8th Grade Career Day fair at my alma mater— Bondy Intermediate School in Pasadena, Texas. As host of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF booth, I spoke to over 800 eager students on what daily life is like for kids around the world and how UNICEF’s work impacts their lives.
I showcased samples of lifesaving products UNICEF uses to help children such as oral rehydration salts to treat de-hydration caused by diarrhea, water purification tablets to clean contaminated water and ready-to-use therapeutic food to treat malnutrition. To bring to life the daily challenges that children face we filled a 20 liter portable water jug to maximum capacity and asked students to take turns in trying to lift it and carry it around the gymnasium. This exercise helped students understand that water is not easily accessible to everyone in the world; instead of just reaching out your hand and opening the faucet for water, women and girls in many countries, have to walk for hours just to get water for drinking, bathing, cleaning, and cooking.
Though some of the facts and statistics presented might have seemed intimidating, I wanted the students to feel empowered to make a difference. I encouraged students to make an impact by starting a UNICEF high school club or hosting a fundraiser to benefit UNICEF or registering as a U.S. Fund for UNICEF volunteer or by participating in the Tap Project or to Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. I felt encouraged and moved when after listening to the presentation a student stated, “I may not have a lot of money, but I have a voice. I need to make a difference because it’s my responsibility to help those in need.”
For students to acknowledge that we all have a role to play in eradicating the injustices children face in the world and that it is our “responsibility to help those in need” is the every essence of global citizenship. Going back to my alma mater was a reminder that sometimes all you need is desire, a passionate voice, and the drive to make change. With those three important elements, the phrase “I may not have a lot of money” becomes irrelevant.