Oct. 30

Commentary: Ghosts, Goblins, Candy and Vaccines: How Trick-or-Treating Saves Lives

by Ray Chambers

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post.

What a privilege it is to be a kid who can dress up in a scary costume on a late October night and call on friendly neighbors for a handful of candy. This year I hope you’re adding to your children’s Halloween experience by sending them to the streets carrying that iconic orange UNICEF box.

Six simple words — “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” — can transform your child’s Halloween from a fun luxury to an exercise in saving lives.

For more than 60 years, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF has empowered school children across America and now dozens of other countries to help other children live healthier lives. Every Halloween the orange boxes let trick-or-treaters collect change along with candy. Over $170 million has been raised since the campaign started in 1950, helping UNICEF provide lifesaving medicine, nutrition, clean water, education, and emergency relief to children all over the world.

The cumulative impact of all those pennies, nickels and dimes has been enormous. Every trick-or-treater has the power to impact another child’s life, even if the total raised seems small. Just look at these examples of what a little money can do:

  • Every 21 seconds a child dies from a water-related illness, but just $1 can give a child safe water for 40 days.
  • Some 300 million children around the world go to bed hungry every night. Just $1 provides a packet of high-energy biscuits developed specially for malnourished children.
  • Millions of kids around the world don’t have school supplies. $1 will provide two children with a pencil and notebook.
  • Over 500,000 children die every year from malaria. Just a few dollars supplies a bed net to protect a child nightly from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

UNICEF’s Trick-or-Treat campaign provides the opportunity to show our children how much they can do to help others like them, and how their lives are connected to children in other parts of the world. How about these inspiring examples of UNICEF fundraising from last year’s Halloween:

  • A nine-year-old girl dressed as soccer star Mia Hamm raised enough money to buy a soccer ball for a refugee camp.
  • By walking over a mile collecting change last year, a fourth grade class raised enough funds for a solar-powered well and filtration system, so young children in Nicaragua no longer have to walk over a mile every day to get water.
  • (See more personal stories of UNICEF’S impact at http://www.trickortreatforunicef.org/about/impact).

UNICEF, under the inspiring leadership of Tony Lake, is an essential partner as we work to save over 3 million children’s lives in the next two years and meet the health Millennium Development Goals by December 31, 2015. More children than ever are reaching their fifth birthdays because of UNICEF’s amazing programs.

If you have children who are trick-or-treating for Halloween make sure they have their boxes (and if they don’t already have one, you can make your own here) and be sure to have your change ready to give out. That little orange container may seem small when carried by a kid, but it is an important reminder of the ability and responsibility we all have to improve the lives of others.

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