by Risa Green
I have this friend who is beautiful and smart and funny, and who runs her own business and is involved with a million different charities, and is divorced and raising two kids, and hosts amazing soirees like, every other week, and yet somehow makes it all look effortless. And I swear to God, if she wasn’t so genuinely nice and generous and well-intentioned, I would completely freaking hate her. But she is, so I don’t, and in keeping with the nice/generous/well-intentioned thing (and also the amazing soiree thing), my children and I attended a party at her house over the weekend that was meant to raise awareness for UNICEF’s Trick or Treat program .
There were wonderful art projects and fun games for the kids, and the food was ridiculously delicious, and as if I don’t have enough food issues in my house already, my children are now completely obsessed with Nutella and banana sandwiches on white bread. But I will forgive her this, because in addition to becoming aware of spreadable chocolate, my children are now also aware of the fact that 24,000 kids around the world die every single day from causes that are entirely preventable. And this Halloween, when they go trick-or-treating, they’re each going to carry a little orange box and ask our neighbors for loose change that will, hopefully, help to reduce that number to zero.
Because my friend is not just any old mom who throws a little party, she also happened to have in attendance the President of UNICEF US, a woman named Carol who informed us that those little Halloween boxes raised 4.4 million dollars last year, and have raised over $144 million since the program started fifty-nine years ago. Which is a lot of loose change. She also told us a story about a woman named Rosa whom she’d met on one of her UNICEF trips a few years ago, when she was traveling with a mobile medical unit. She said it was one of those trips where you drive and drive and drive, and then you get to a field and you turn left at a tree, and then all of a sudden you see a hundred people waiting because the doctor only comes by the clinic once a month. The “clinic” consisted of just two rooms: one that is kept sterile, and another that is considered the ward, and is touted for having screens on the windows.
When Carol arrived, Rosa had just given birth to a baby girl about an hour before, in the sterile room, without the assistance of a doctor. Earlier that morning, Rosa had gone into labor while working in a rice field, and so she walked four hours to the clinic, alone. In labor. When Carol, a mom of three, asked excitedly if this was Rosa’s first baby, Rosa responded that it was her first that had lived. She’d had two others, but both of them had died during childbirth. If Rosa’s baby had been breach that day, or if Rosa had needed a C-section, this one probably would have died, as well. There was no nearby hospital to take her to, and even if there had been a hospital, there was no ambulance available to take her there. And even if there had been an ambulance, there was no road for the ambulance to drive on. So Rosa was lucky that this time, things had gone smoothly.
Except that Rosa was H.I.V. positive, which meant that for three weeks, she would have to give her baby medicine every day so that the baby would not also contract H.I.V. But since Rosa was illiterate, she couldn’t read the directions. And since Rosa couldn’t do basic math, she couldn’t measure the dosage each day, which had to be calibrated based on the baby’s weight. And so they wouldn’t let her take the medicine home with her. Instead, every day for three weeks, Rosa would have to walk, for four hours, to the clinic, so that someone there could administer the medicine to her new baby. And she would, because she’s a mother, and that’s what mothers do for their children. And she could, because UNICEF made sure that the medicine was made available to her.
Well, you try not crying after you hear a story like that. As we all sat there, dabbing at our eyes, Carol asked us each to take a UNICEF Trick-or-Treat kit to bring back to our schools and our communities, and if you don’t think that every woman in that room didn’t grab one of those boxes, well, then, you must not be a mother.
The kit is just a box filled with stickers, flyers, and orange UNICEF trick or treat boxes, and the idea is that you can distribute them at your school, at your church, or anywhere else you can think of. Some startling statistics: $45 can provide school supplies for 20 kids. $200 can immunize 104 kids against the measles. 6 cents can provide water to one thirsty child.
When Carol’s speech was over, I walked back out to into the yard and watched all of our healthy, happy, well-fed, hydrated, immunized kids as they ran around, painted, and ate Nutella sandwiches. We are all so lucky, and most of our children have no idea. Which is why I like this program so much. It’s a way to talk your kids about the things we take for granted, like access to food and clean water, the ability to go to school, and the availability of doctors when we need them. And it’s a way for our kids to help other kids without having to do anything but carry an extra bag while they’re out trick-or-treating. I won’t even pretend to try to be like my friend, who makes it all seem so easy; but in this one case, it really is.
If you’d like to find out more about Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, you can go to http://youth.unicefusa.org/trickortreat/ . Boxes are also available at Hallmark Gold Crown stores, Peir 1 Imports, and Basin-Robbins stores.