When the people of Atosale, Ghana were told that a second borehole would be built in their community, they screamed and clapped, smiled and bounced their children up and down on their laps. I recently witnessed this joy when I accompanied a delegation from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to Ghana, where they met with UNICEF staff and saw firsthand the impact that the Foundation’s support for UNICEF’s water programming has had on children’s lives.
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As an educator, a proud uncle of six nieces and nephews, and as a JFK-based International Purser-Champion for Children, I was honored to represent the 2,700 registered volunteers at American Airlines during my first UNICEF field visit. For years, I have been collecting donations from American Airlines customers through Change for Good, a global UNICEF program that converts travelers’ contributions of foreign currency into lifesaving services for the world’s children.
Imagine getting $100 per rebound! Well, that’s just what happened to Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers—with all of it going to UNICEF.
Last December, U.S. Fund for UNICEF New York Philanthropic Advisory Board member—and NBA insider—David Kleinhandler tossed out a challenge to Pau. David pledged to donate $100 to UNICEF for every rebound Pau pulled down, from that day until the end of the season. Pau’s eyes lit up when he thought of the many children he could help on the court, to go with his advocacy and fundraising support off the court. And on April 17, at the Lakers’ final game of the season, everything came together on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable children.
First, he led the Knicks to the team’s first division title in nearly two decades. Then, after winning gold at the London Olympics, Tyson Chandler brought smiles to the faces of hundreds of children during a UNICEF field visit to Tanzania.
Back in New York, Tyson focused his energies on advocating for UNICEF and assisting our fundraising efforts. That included donating time spent with him at a Knicks practice, for the 2012 Snowflake Ball auction. The Hess family were the lucky winners, and they came together a few weeks ago to spend the day with Tyson. And though they are Knicks season-ticket holders, they had never experienced anything like this.
I am so fortunate to be able to do the work I do. Inspiring others, engaging my community, empowering youth, and educating citizens about children’s issues is not just a job for me, it is my passion!
As a UNICEF Global Citizenship Fellow, I did all these things and more. I gave presentations on issues ranging from water and sanitation to the importance of girls’ education, hosted events with UNICEF Campus Initiative members, and promoted Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF and TeachUNICEF. But I will never forget the day I spoke in front of an audience of 600 Rotarians at the United Nations.
Let’s hear it for the Champions! For the fourth year in a row, American Airlines flight attendant volunteers and Admirals Club staff — known as “Champions for Children” — collected donations from generous American Airlines customers that totaled more than $1 million.
In all, $1,185,739.82 was raised in 2012 through UNICEF’s Change for Good program on American Airlines. A global campaign launched by UNICEF in 1987, Change for Good converts airline travelers’ donations of currency — dollars, Euros, pesos, reais — into lifesaving services for vulnerable children. American Airlines customers have donated nearly $9 million through Change for Good since 1994.