Each day people absentmindedly amble across the sidewalk in front of the College Center. On Tuesday, Oct. 1, many people paused at this location with puzzled looks on their faces because coins and cash were scattered on the ground. While money did not exactly fall from the sky, but Vassar United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) held the “Mile for Change” event to help reduce avoidable deaths in children.
The money raised from the fundraising event will benefit UNICEF’s “Believe in Zero” campaign. According to Publicity Chair Jonathan Stark ’16, the campaign aims to eliminate mortalities in children under 5 due to preventable causes, such as starvation. Approximately 18,000 children die every day, without even reaching their fifth birthday.
Stark said, “I love that this campaign is giving children . . . a much better chance at life.”
The purpose of the “Mile for Change” event was twofold. In addition to encouraging onlookers to contribute their pocket change to the UNICEF “Believe in Zero” campaign, the event raised awareness about excessive mortality in children throughout the world. Stark said that many people stopped to give change when passing by the chalk lines where the money was placed. Stark continued, “I think that the people passing by could sense our dedication and our strong positive feelings about the cause, and I think those feelings rubbed off on many of the students.”
The event also promoted the organization on campus by prompting spectators to ask questions about UNICEF and its general cause.
Co-President of the Vassar UNICEF chapter, Aleya Romero ’15 said, “There are always going to be people who don’t know what UNICEF is or what we stand for. Some people were confused and didn’t know what we were doing, but that was great because we were able to share with them what we were trying to do. Overall, I think the response was positive and the community seemed happy to have the chance to donate.”
This year marked the second time that UNICEF held the event, though last year rain interrupted the “Mile for Change.” Although the coins from this week’s event have not yet been counted, UNICEF received $68 in paper money donations alone. The UNICEF organization will transform the money donated into vaccines, clean drinking water, mosquito nets and other resources to help more children have a fighting chance at survival.
Stark is passionate about the UNICEF cause because he feels that the group does more than just directly benefit those in need.
“It [UNICEF] helps the people who…should get first priority when it comes to aid – children,” he said.
Romero also elaborated on why she feels connected to UNICEF’s cause of helping children. “There are children around the world, including the United States and the Hudson Valley area, that are struggling to survive,” Romero said.
She continued, “I saw that growing up in my neighborhood, and children should not have to advocate for their own right to survive.”
UNICEF provides children around the globe with a greater chance of survival through multiple avenues. According to Romero, the organization does more than just fundraising.
“We advocate and raise awareness as well,” she said.
Furthermore Romero said she is confident that “Mile for Change” improves the livelihood of children. She said she believes that a fundamental aspect of the event is that many UNICEF clubs throughout the country participate.
“Other UNICEF campus initiative clubs around the United States are doing this fund raiser as well at around the same time. Between all of us, there is no doubt that ‘Mile for Change’ makes a difference for children,” Romero said.
According to the general UNICEF organization website, the “Believe in Zero” campaign has saved 90 million lives since 1990. In the 2013 UNICEF Progress Report, the organization reported that the global rate of under-five mortality has been reduced by about half since 1990. Despite the efforts of UNICEF and other projects, 216 million children have died before turning five from 1990 to 2013. Most of these deaths resulted from diseases that could be treated easily, including pneumonia, diarrhea or malaria.
Stark explained, “It’s ridiculous that…kids die each day of causes we have the means to easily prevent.”
The “Mile for Change” event enabled the Vassar community to take a stand against unnecessary child mortalities by contributing to the organization monetarily and by learning more about the situation that so many children are born into.
Many members of the Vassar community pass by the College Center at least once a day.
Romero said, “If we can’t secure the future of children, how can we even think to secure our own?” As UNICEF fights for the lives of children, people will continue to pass by the College Center. Some of the onlookers will remember the event with hopes of more children surviving that day.