Thursday, March 12, 2009

Honduras Close-Up! JS2 President Joins UNICEF In Their Champion For Change Program

I recently returned from a trip to Honduras with our client UNICEF where we visited several programs that are funded by UNICEF in collaboration with Change for Good, an American Airlines sponsored giving campaign. This program is powered solely by individual American Airlines flight attendants (Champions for Change) who feel passionately about giving back to the children of the world through UNICEF. On international flights and now transcontinental domestic flights, the AA Champions show an in-flight video on how money collected by American Airlines and disbursed through UNICEF can literally make the difference between life and death for many of this world’s children. Change for Good, a very apt name, encourages passengers to donate any left-over currency from overseas travels, or whatever spare pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters or $20.00 bills find their way into the UNICEF bag!

For me, this trip was life altering. As a business owner and a mother of two, I have been desperately trying to put our current economic downturn into perspective and give it some context. It is very easy to let our economic state-of-the-union and overall national depression color and control our lives. With this trip to Honduras, where 30% of the children are malnourished and so many have no running water; I quickly remembered how fortunate I am. It is up to people like me to become advocates for the children of the world who deserve so much and receive so little.

Fabiola, Julia and Hector, our Honduran UNICEF leaders, are superstars. I learned so much from Fabiola in particular. We spent a great deal of time discussing the rights of children and how essential it is to engage and encourage them to be involved in their own destiny. The respect with which Fabiola and Hector approached each and every child made me understand how nuanced and deep UNICEF’s work truly is.

And then there were the children, who are beautiful, moving, funny, intelligent, motivated and resplendent in their promise! Football for life, the schools, the clinics, the water and hygiene programs – all incredible!! One program in particular that is funded by Change for Good, Arte Accion, knocked my socks off! The founder and leader of the program, Douglas, a former gang leader, heads up this brilliant arts program where gang kids can find a safe place to blossom into artists. He literally plucks the gang kids who have been “green lit,” or targeted for death from the gangs, out of harm’s way and gives them tools with which to express their lives. I cannot speak about this place without being moved to tears because this program, for me, is symbolic of all that UNICEF does. I personally silk screened a t-shirt for my 13 year old son with their logo and tried to explain to my two children how lucky they are and how much they take for granted. We talked well into the night when I returned to Los Angeles and I felt, for the first time, that my son and daughter began to understand why UNICEF is so important and why I am so committed.

On the way back from Tegucigalpa I was able to see the Change for Good program in action. We raised $250.00 in less than 10 minutes on the flight from Tegucigalpa to Miami and then Franck, one of the AA Champions, raised another $160.00 from Miami to Boston. When I think of what that $410.00 can buy, I get so excited!

On my trip to Honduras I became empowered to make a “Change for Good,” and have fully committed JS²’s resources to this incredible program. I cannot wait to take this to the next step and am thrilled to be working with this tremendous group of people with whom I just spent four days. I feel that with this trip I have become a true UNICEF activist and cannot wait to do more. I hope that I will have the opportunity to go on another UNICEF trip in another part of the world sometime soon, but in the meantime this trip, which is so alive inside of me, will feed our work together moving forward.
Jill Sandin

Posted by Jill Sandin, President

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