By Nico Erle Ciriaco
UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), the UN’s agency devoted to serving the world’s children, launched the third installment of its annual Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF initiative at the SM Southmall recently. Since 2012, Filipino children and families have raised P750,000 to support UNICEF programs for vulnerable children in the Philippines and around the globe.
UN began providing assistance to the Philippines in Nov 1948 and now has nearly 190 people across the archipelago working to promote and protect the rights of the young. It strives to provide the best quality of life for every Filipino child through programs in education, health & nutrition, disaster risk reduction & emergencies, and child protection.
In partnership with Toy Kingdom, this year’s campaign focuses on emergency preparedness. The Philippines in one of the most high-risk countries in the world for sudden natural disasters like typhoons, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions; and many of those affected are children. Super typhoon Yolanda, for example, which devastated much of Eastern Visayas last Nov 2013, affected 14.1 people, half of whom were children. The money raised through Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF will help procure and stock critical emergency supplies like water and hygiene kits, education kits, as well as temporary learning and play spaces that will reach children immediately after disasters hit.
“In 2012, Toy Kingdom and SM Supermalls helped bring the campaign to a nationwide level through the malls. Kids simply pick up the UNICEF box, forms and kit from any Toy Kingdom store. This initiative brings together several generations of families lending a helping hand,” declared Verity Rushton, one of UNICEF’s many child protection specialists. A Jamaican national, she was part of the research team that heeded the call after Yolanda hit Tacloban City.
“We are committed in helping, even beyond Halloween, to protect the rights of children. The breastfeeding stations help mothers who visit our malls. Our cyber-stations also protect the young from browsing sites that are not attuned to their tender ages,” informed Ruth Chuaunsu, AVP for SM Supermalls’ operations.
The Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF superheroes campaign brings special meaning to Halloween by giving children an opportunity to learn the value of helping other children in need. Instead of asking for candies and treats, children collect money in a special box. Every Pinoy child is invited to get their free Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF donation kits from any Toy Kingdom branch nationwide ‘til October 31 or until supplies last. Once they have their kits, children may begin their trick-or-treating anywhere, anytime they want. Families can even raise funds for children in need throughout the entire month of October. If your child’s school is interested in participating, they simply call 758-1000 and/or 901-0160.
“Some schools hold activities geared toward this initiative. This year, the movement of fundraising is for emergency preparedness so response becomes quicker. There are four superhero designs for the donation boxes this year and the designs grow in number each year. This is a global campaign in 190 countries worldwide so any family or community can be part of it as this activity is not merely for mall-goers,” continued Rushton.
Dubbed as the original ‘Kids Helping Kids’ campaign, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF began in 1950 in the US, when Philadelphia schoolchildren went door-to-door on St. Hallows eve, collecting money in decorated milk cartons to help children in need around the world. They raised a grand total of $17 and kicked off an undertaking that has since raised more than $170-million worldwide to help the poorest children receive medicine, better nutrition, safe water, education and emergency relief. Millions of children now participate in UNICEF’s Halloween-related fundraising campaigns worldwide, taking part in fun and educational activities that help them gain a better understanding of children’s rights and the challenges facing their peers in developing countries.
“This US tradition has spread worldwide. One US president even assigned Halloween as UNICEF Day. With Spiderman, Lassi the Dog, and Kermit the Frog as ambassadors, various UNICEF programs in the US raised over $670 million,” she added.
After trick-or-tricking for UNICEF, children can turn over the donations at any SM Bill Payment counter inside SM department stores, SM supermarkets, SM hypermarkets, and SaveMore locations nationwide. Everyone is encouraged to count their donations and provide the total amount before they turn it in. Don’t forget to tell the cashier that your donation is for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, and ask for a receipt.
“Last year, Pinoy kids raised P450,000 for educational programs and another P350,000 for the conflict in Zamboanga. This initiative is an ideal opportunity for kids to raise funds for other children. And the good thing is they are starting young,” enthused fundraising officer Dennis Cruz.
UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary donations, so everything counts when it comes to helping children in need. Every P500 donation helps two families with a month’s supply of safe drinking water. Every P1,000 helps provide four people with essential hygiene supplies such as soap, towels, toothpaste, toothbrushes and water pails. While every P2,000 helps provide ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), vitamins and medicines for four children who are severely malnourished. Children who turn in their donations before Nov 30th will receive a special certificate of appreciation from UNICEF.
“This UNICEF undertaking allows all kids to be superheroes in their own right. It helps children everywhere have a better life. The Philippines is the first country in Southeast Asia to embrace this campaign. Let’s all make Halloween count!
“This year, we continue the advocacy for emergency preparedness. Let’s take action now! Together, we can do much,” concluded Rushton.
UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The organization is the world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries and supports child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality basic education, and the protection of children from violence, abuse and exploitation. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. To learn more about the organization’s advocacy, simply log-on to their Web site, www.unicef.ph.