My journey with UNICEF

 

 

 

This was the surprise video shown at my contract-signing event for UNICEF. The team put together this compilation of some of the work I’ve done with them the past three years. I didn’t realize we had been to so many places in a short time.

Last August I renewed my contract as Special Advocate for Children of UNICEF Philippines. It has been three years since I started my work with UNICEF. So much has happened since. We had a formal signing ceremony with UNICEF Representative Tomoo Hozumi. It was one of those moments that made me feel so proud because I am given a chance to do good work with this very important UN children’s agency.

At the event, the team talked about what it means to be chosen to work with UNICEF. The media release reads, “UNICEF celebrities are luminaries from various fields who all share dedication to improving the lives of children worldwide. Daphne joins the ranks of famous personalities such as David Beckham, Jackie Chan, Mia Farrow, Queen Rania of Jordan, Shakira, and UNICEF Philippines National Goodwill Ambassador Gary Valenciano in lending a strong voice that will draw attention to children’s issues.”

They showed us a video of Sir Roger Moore’s 20th year with UNICEF and it brought me to tears when he said “Unicef means doing something decent for the rest of my life…” Then right after, they showed my video.

 

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Renewing my contract as Special Advocate for Children. With UNICEF Representative Tomoo Hozumi.

 

I began my journey with UNICEF in early 2010 as a breastfeeding advocate. I went to a few sites around the country to speak about the many challenges faced by breastfeeding mothers and the support they needed to successfully breastfeed their babies. As part of my duties as Special Advocate, I’ve also been able to bring attention to important children’s issues such as early childhood care, clean water, malnutrition and armed conflict. I visited Ondoy-affected mothers in Laguna, mothers and infants in Sarangani, malnourished children in the ARMM/Maguindanao, frontline breastfeeding workers in Taguig and families displaced by Typhoon Pablo in Davao Oriental.

Now, in addition to the humanitarian work I do, I am also involved with fundraising. Not many people know that UNICEF is funded entirely from donations. In 2011, they allowed me to come up with an online art and design auction. We just finished the third Auction for Action — another success. Proceeds from the art auction will continue to benefit many children, giving them to access early childhood care and education programs.

I am brought back to my last big trip with UNICEF last March 2013, 100 days after Typhoon Pablo hit Davao Oriental. It was one of the biggest storms that hit our country. Three months after the emergency, UNICEF and other international organizations were still on site working to get things back to normal for the thousands of children affected by the storm. This was one of the most emotional trips I took with UNICEF — the people I met from humanitarian workers to the families who needed assistance touched me deeply. And I promised to tell their stories.

 

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The magnitude and scale of the damage was something I’d never seen. Three months after the storm, many international agencies were still on site trying to restore a sense of normalcy.

 

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We drove for hours from Davao International Airport and saw this common scene of fallen and naked trees. What made relief work complicated then was the inaccessibility and distance of the damaged areas from the city.

 

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With the team leader of the American Catholic Relief group at one of the “tent cities” supported by UNICEF.

 

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Some of the professionals had been in Davao Oriental for three months then. I was there for a few days and left with life-changing lessons.

 

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A daycare centre in Purok Sampaguita at Poblacion Daycare Center in Boston, Davao Oriental where Teacher Jocelyn was helping little kids cope with their fear of nature by introducing rain-themed song and dances. Most of these children witnessed great loss including death during Typhoon Pablo.

 

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Also at Purok Sampaguita, Poblacion Daycare Center, this young boy recounts what he witnessed during the storm. Photo by Kat Palasi

 

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At Dapnan Elementary School in Baganga, Davao Oriental where almost every school building was destroyed.

 

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This young boy runs through the ruins of the old school’s main building which was originally built during the American colonial period.

 

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There were only two classrooms left untouched by the storm at Dapnan Elementary School. Kids were back to regular schedule then (100 days after the storm).

 

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Most levels were integrated and classrooms were shared.

 

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Some kids were still in tents then.

 

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One of the fifth-graders shared with me her diary about the events. She was among the students who hid in the main building which eventually was completely blown away by the storm.

 

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I don’t often get to go on these humanitarian missions. In the few times I’ve gone, I’ve had to think more than twice about leaving my own kids for a few days. I wish that kids don’t have to be exposed to so much danger and distress. Unfortunately this is the reality of living in our country. We are right in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” – where earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and storms are common. The key is for local governments and individuals to be prepared.

 

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A very sweet older brother.

 

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I will never forget this mother. She was recalling the moments when Typhoon Pablo struck and how they are coping three months after. She said that every time her little daughter would hear thunder or strong winds, she’d curl up and cry. She told me that as a mother the only thing she could do now is to hold her daughter tightly so she’d feel safe. Photo by Kat Palasi.

 

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Former gym Purok Sampaguita, Poblacion Daycare Center,Boston,Davao Oriental. Photo by Kat Palasi

 

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Fallen coconut trees. This was the scenery we saw driving through Davao Oriental for hours. Photo by Kat Palasi.

 

I often get asked by readers and viewers about how they, too, can be part of UNICEF. The easiest and fastest way to make a difference is by making a donation… especially at this time, with the many emergencies in our country.

Help BOHOL

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake last October 15, 2013 brought massive destruction to the province of Bohol. An estimated 380,000 people are now without homes or living in makeshift tents in open spaces or by the roadside. Children need safe drinking water, hygiene kits, toilets, adequate nutrition, shelter, and a safe learning environment to recover from this emergency.

 

 

 

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