Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Remembering What Really Matters

On a rainy Thursday last week, I attended the UNICEF Annual Meeting and even after working with the organization for three years, the content was compelling. I already knew the heartbreaking statistic of 25,000 children dying a day die from preventable causes but sometimes a number is just a number and you can’t really get your head around it. That’s why a few of the stories of the day stood out:

- Cynthia McFadden told a story about a girl in a yellow dress standing day and night by her mother’s bed as she lay dying. She then played a segment from Nightline that aired in February in which she traveled with UNICEF ambassador Salma Hayek to Sierra Leone (yes the one where Salma Hayek breastfed a starving baby but more importantly, the segment that showed a seven-day old baby taking her last breath). Even so, the most poignant part of her speech came at the end when she said she would keep doing whatever she could to help children in honor of the girl in the yellow dress – it gave me chills.

- UNICEF Field Officer Silvia Gaya spoke about sanitation efforts in Chad but it was later when I got to speak to her one on one that I learned that she had been critically wounded in Chad while working there several years ago. Despite a more than three-year recovery, she longs to go back as she simply feels that it is her mission to be out there helping children.

- Finally, Pernille Ironside spoke about the atrocities in Darfur. Pernille was captivating – she seemed exhausted by what she has seen and done and yet so calm and matter of fact about her work. Over a slideshow of her own pictures in the background, Pernille talked about reuniting children with their families after they had been captured and made to be child soldiers and sex slaves. After she finished, the session was opened to questions but there were none as the audience seemed shell-shocked by what they had heard.

A day like that reminded me that no matter how rainy it is in NYC or how bad the economy is in the U.S., that nothing feels better than putting a smile on a child’s face because they have a full belly.

1 comment:

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