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Children love to help. It’s evident at home when an older sibling is delighted to assist mommy and daddy with the new baby or in a classroom when students volunteer to do something for the teacher. Children feel empowered when al­lowed to help. So why not take this innate desire to nurture and direct it, allowing it to blossom into something beneficial to others on a greater scale? That’s exactly what UNICEF USA chose to do.

 

December 11, 1946 is an important date. It was on that day that the United Nations General As­sembly formed UNICEF. The original purpose of the organization was to provide emergency food and medical care to those children affect­ed by the ravages of World War II. UNICEF’s mandate was expanded in 1950 to include taking care of the long-term needs of women and chil­dren in developing countries across the globe.

 

Today, as it did when the organization was con­ceived, UNICEF believes, “All children have a right to survive, thrive, and fulfill their potential to the benefit of a better world.” In order to make this belief a reality, UNICEF is an active presence in 190 countries and territories pro­tecting the rights of children. For over 70 years, it has worked solely to improve children’s lives and the lives of their families.

 

In 2014, the organization that already does so much for children had the idea to tap into kids’ desire to help others and UNICEF Kid Power (UKP) was born. At the time, UNICEF USA recognized there were two crises facing children worldwide. The first was that they are not get­ting enough exercise. This is true of one in every four children in the United States. The second was that one child in four, globally, is malnour­ished. UKP was created to get kids active to save lives.

 

The idea behind UKP is to involve children in their own health and at the same time make a real-life difference in another child’s life. Each child in UKP is outfitted with a Kid Power wristband that records their movements. Kids earn points through physical activity while wearing the bands. The more active they are, the more points they earn. These points unlock food packets around the world for kids who are suffering from a lack of proper food. So, as chil­dren benefit from physical activity, they in turn benefit those who don’t have enough to eat. The Kid Power band makes children excited to help other children.

 

Designed for third- to eighth-grade children, UKP is conducted through schools. Because of their influence and leadership, educators are a valuable connection to the children UNICEF wants to reach. In order to encourage and nur­ture our children to become caring global cit­izens, the organization realizes the connection must be made through teachers, mentors, and coaches. UKP is also advantageous to educators who believe in the benefits of physical activity and global citizenship for their students.

 

“To date, UNICEF Kid Power has inspired hundreds of thousands of American kids, ed­ucators, and parents to get active and save lives. Together, they have walked more than 100 bil­lion steps and helped save the lives of 52,000 se­verely malnourished children,” according to the UNICEF Kid Power Annual Report for 2017.

 

Here are a few recent statistics:

In just over three years, UKP has grown from a single classroom to a national movement of 453,000 kids, educators, and parents across the United States.

 

As of the summer of 2017, UKP participants and supporters have unlocked 8.2 million pack­ets of therapeutic food, saving the lives of over 52,000 severely malnourished children.

 

UKP has been proven to get kids active. Ac­cording to two independent evaluations, UKP participants are 55 percent more active than their peers.

 UKP has a presence in 49 states across 1,600 cities and towns and has reached 15 percent of underserved schools in the United States.

 

Ninety-six percent of educators would recom­mend UKP to a peer, and most of them have. Over 50 percent of the applications for UKP’s spring 2018 application are the result of educa­tors referring the program to their peers.

 

On September 21, 2017, Tatiana and Guillermo Sierra, UNICEF USA Board Members, South­west Region and Elizabeth Stephens-Grego­ry hosted a UNICEF Kid Power fundraiser in Houston. It was one of two hosted by local supporters to help launch Kid Power Houston, which kicked off on March 1, 2018 and will run until May 30, 2018. The $85,000 raised supplied 89 Houston-area classrooms with Kid Power kits. Each kit included 25 UKP wristbands, a tablet and mini kiosk for band syncing, and a UKP teacher curriculum. As a result, 2,125 chil­dren across Houston have become lifesavers.

 

UKP’s 10-year goal is to inspire 10 million chil­dren, educators, and parents to work together and save the lives of 1 million children. UKP kids are already making a huge difference in the lives of children around the world and feeling better about themselves by doing so. Knowing they’ve improved a life gives them untold sat­isfaction and helps with their own self-confi­dence. Being part of UKP shows children in­dividuals really can make a difference, even in a global sense. By assisting someone on the other side of the world, children come to realize we are all citizens of the world responsible for one another.

 

To learn more about UNICEF Kid Power local efforts, please contact Nelson Bow­man at nbowman@unicefusa.org or visit the Kid Power website at unicefkidpower.org.

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