Fifth graders at Hoosick Falls Central School (HFCS) are studying the definition and origins of human rights this semester. To help them connect on a more personal level, their English teacher, Jenny O’Connor, challenged them to collect one hundred dollars, about one dollar per student, through Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) this fall. They far exceeded that goal, raising $824.17 for the non-profit organization that celebrates its seventieth anniversary this December.
“I’m not surprised, but I am very impressed,” said O’Connor.
“This is a great group of kids who eagerly commit themselves to helping others. The students were very excited to meet the challenge and responded with great enthusiasm. Some of them emptied their own piggy banks or added their allowance to the donation. In response to their efforts, I donated one dollar for every student that brought in a donation, no matter how small. I am very proud of their compassion for others.”
On December 10,1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of human rights for all peoples and all nations. Representatives of different legal and cultural backgrounds from different regions of the world created the document, which defines fundamental human rights that are to be universally protected. Since then, it has been translated into over 500 languages.
UNICEF was established two years earlier, on December 11, 1946, also by the United Nations. Originally, UNICEF was designed to meet the emergency needs of children after World War II, focusing on post-war Europe and China. Today, UNICEF is present in 190 countries and territories around the world, working to protect children and defending their human rights.
“Participating in this challenge was a perfect way to see how what we are learning in the classroom translates into our everyday lives. It is a concrete way to recognize how each of us can honor the human rights of others,” said O’Connor.
“It felt good to know I was helping kids who don’t have what I have,” said fifth-grader Taylor Myers.
“It gives you a tingle inside to know you are helping someone,” added her classmate, Guyla Goff. “The kids UNICEF helps are living in places that are not like here.”
“Although Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF hasn’t been practiced in Hoosick Falls in a very long time, the community was very supportive of our students’ requests for donations,” stated O’Connor.
“When I asked people for a donation, I would see their faces light up,” said Cole Ziehm.
“It was like our good feeling was spreading to the people who donated,” commented Myers.
“Kids also gave what they could to help. Even if it was a little bit, it mattered,” added Ziehm.
For Karson Holbrook, it was a chance for his family to join in to help others. “My grandparents donated,” said Holbrook. “I was excited to do a fundraiser. It makes you think about others and how you can help them.”
UNICEF will use the money from this fall’s campaign to aid children in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Islands who were affected by this year’s hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.
“This is a cause that is also very close to my own heart,” said O’Connor. I have friends in Puerto Rico and Turks & Caicos, which we visit often. The people of these islands lost so much and the money will help them rebuild their homes and their lives.”
At least 16 islands in the Caribbean had moderate to extensive damage after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Roads, buildings, and communications networks were destroyed and access to electricity and fresh water severely impaired. Estimates of the monetary value of the damages in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria reach as high as 95 billion dollars.
“I know it seems overwhelming to think about trying to help repair such widespread damage,” added O’Connor. “But as I told my students, every penny counts.”