Children Supporting Children

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund Club, USA

Rishi Lahoti on December 6, 2018 in Health & Sanitation

Every year in the U.S., 2.9 million cases of child abuse are reported with more than four children dying due to abuse everyday. Fear, anxiety, loneliness, and homesickness are common themes for children in hospitals. There are 168 million children worldwide trapped in child labor, accounting for almost 11% of the overall child population. Around half those children are engaged in hazardous work. These distressing figures barely touch the surface of the various types of health problems impoverished children face - The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund club at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) is trying to help solve them.

The school, which consistently ranks among the nation’s best, offers a wide host of clubs and among them is the local chapter of UNICEF. Its self-described purpose is to “Work for children's rights, their survival, development and protection.” However, their outreach programs include much more, ranging from partnering with local family shelters to letter writing to organizations such as Adopt a Soldier and Operation Gratitude.

While the club does focus its efforts on a plethora of issues, an important one is their activity aimed at helping out sick children. Various studies from the NIH have shown children often have feelings of isolation and mental/social anxiety during hospital stays. Shambhavi Ramaswamy, a long-standing member and co-president of the club, says “I gravitated toward UNICEF because of the focus on children and the general protection of the rights of those who are very vulnerable.” In the past, the club has made trail mix, Halloween goodie bags, and origami cranes for Inova Children's Hospital in Falls Church, VA and LAMB center in Fairfax, VA. Ramaswamy continued, “Our organization gives students at our school exposure to community service and helps us give back to the direct community. In addition, our activities address any deficiencies the organizations we help may have.”

Hana Yu, also co-president, said they try to help out as many different people that they can including “sick children, veterans, homeless families.” As the driving reason behind her dedication to the club, she stated “I initially chose UNICEF [over other service clubs] because I saw the cause as very noteworthy. Specifically, a lot of the service activities focused on helping people in the community, but at the same time, they raised awareness about global issues like hunger and poverty which I thought was very important as well.” Their letter writing campaigns for deployed soldiers and awareness raising meetings cover the global goal of UNICEF. For instance, Ramaswamy explained, “We spent one meeting just have a general overview on the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s importance by viewing some media and having a discussion.” According to the UN, the treaty “sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities.” The US is one of only two countries not to ratify it. The importance of it is profound as Yu explains, “A lot of places in the world still have like child labor in place and do not have laws to counter it, the CRC would prevent this and give children more rights because it would place restrictions on unfair things like this.”

As Ramaswamy puts it, “We like participating in the activities of this club since it gives us an opportunity to impact our community. In addition, this club gives us the opportunity to come up with our own service activities and plans, helping to personalize our service.” Yu adds, “The club welcomes everyone, so even if someone isn’t a regular, they can still sign up to participate in service activities” We certainly hope the club will continue to strive for a locale, as well as a world, that is a better place to live with each passing day. Check them out at https://www.facebook.com/tjunicef.

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