Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Ambassador and the Children of War

© 2006 by berkeley

On Thursday, July 27, UNICEF Ambassador and singer Clay Aiken blogged to ask for donations for aid to children who are victims of recent warfare between Lebanon and Israel.

Clay provided a link for donations so UNICEF could track monies coming from his fans: UNICEF Donations

Within 24 hours, $47,556.96 had been raised by Clay Nation’s UNICEF supporters.

(If you would like to contribute, please click the above link or cut and paste in your browser’s address bar.)

As a child Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF, I started supporting UNICEF a couple of decades before I heard of Clay Aiken. I grew up listening to the echoes of a distant war. Then and now, I am deeply weary of children being the victims of the violence perpetuated by adults. That is one of the reasons I follow a philosophy of service and nonviolence.

Images of children who have been injured, killed or forced to flee their homes in Israel and Lebanon have dominated the media for the past two weeks. In some quarters, there have been hours of bitter debate; in some, an increasing anger and frustration; in others, a weary resignation.

And though I already support UNICEF, UNHCR, American Friends Service Committee and Oxfam, I am grateful to Clay for the reminder that there is something that the average person can do.

With just a few dollars, we can save the life of a child.

Here is a little bit about UNICEF's stated mission:

Founded in 1946, UNICEF helps save, protect and improve the lives of children in 158 countries through immunization, education, health care, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. UNICEF is non-partisan and its cooperation is free of discrimination. In everything it does, the most disadvantaged children and the countries in greatest need have priority.

Because UNICEF’s mandate is to help children in developing nations, children in Lebanon will be the ones to receive assistance. (Information for aid to Israel is included later in this piece.)

Last fall, for the first time in its history, UNICEF provided aid to the United States. The reason stated for going beyond its charter was the unprecedented and overwhelming devastation, loss of life and destruction of property caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In almost every instance, the United States, as well as Israel, most of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and all other developed countries, fall outside of the purview of UNICEF's mission. These countries are, in fact, among the thirty-seven National Committees working to raise money for UNICEF’s humanitarian missions.

Clay fills a specific and important role as a UNICEF ambassador.

From "US Fund for UNICEF":
Some celebrities have chosen to do what they can to save the lives of children in developing countries by making the rest of humanity aware of their plight.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s celebrity Ambassadors... play an important role across the country and around the world. They stay informed about children’s issues, visit UNICEF field projects and represent UNICEF before government.

I have written two essays about Clay’s travels as a UNICEF ambassador, my miniscule contribution to raising awareness of UNICEF’s work. The first was called “Aiken Goes to Hell” and it was a short piece about Clay’s first field mission to Indonesia in March of 2005, two and a half months following the tsunami. The second was “The Ambassador and The Single Seed”, inspired by Clay’s May 2005 trip to war-torn Northern Uganda. It was eighteen pages long and drew from more than 100 sources, with over forty listed in the article’s bibliography and resources.

Though Clay was a featured in both pieces, he was not the focus --- that distinction belongs to the people overcoming the trials of war and natural disasters and to the humanitarian workers who spend their lives bringing aid to those most in need.

What Clay has done and continues to do as a UNICEF Ambassador is raise awareness of the plight of the children in these developing countries. Aid in those situations literally can mean life or death. I am so grateful that Clay uses his celebrity to call attention to the need to lift up children in the most desperate of situations.

There are radical differences in the situations in Indonesia, Uganda, the Gulf Coast of the United States and the border zones of Israel and Lebanon, but Clay’s call to action for all of these areas brings to mind some great wisdom from the Talmud:

"He who saves one life saves the world entire."

I love and admire Clay for living his faith through his compassionate actions and I am in awe of those who dedicate their lives to these critically important missions.

There is one way I can choose to make a difference for the children, in this tragic situation and in too many others.

I choose to wage peace.

For me, UNICEF is a way to start.

“For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection


From Reuters Foundation AlertNet --- Alerting Humanitarians to Emergencies:

On Wednesday, July 26, an article titled “U.S. Charities Respond to Situation in the Middle East” was posted. The source of the information is Interaction USA

AlertNet writes, “InterAction is a coalition of more than 160 US-based private relief, international development and refugee assistance organizations. InterAction members have agreed to abide by a set of standards to ensure accountability to donors, professional competence and quality of service.”

AlertNet includes an extensive list of organizations which charters that mandate aid to victims of war in both Israel and Lebanon. Many more can be found at the website. Here are just a few, included for those who wish to give more comprehensive aid:

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Gaza-West Bank Response 1501 Cherry Street Philadelphia, PA 19102 888-588-2372

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee JDC- Israel Emergency Response 2006 132 East 43rd Street PO Box 530 New York. NY 10017 212-687-6200

Save the Children Middle East Response 54 Wilton Road Westport, CT 06880 800-728-3843

United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Middle East Emergency #601740 PO Box 9068 New York, NY 10087 800 554 8583

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Lebanon Response1501 Cherry Street Philadelphia, PA 19102 888-588-2372

American Red Cross Lebanon Relief P.O. Box 37243 Washington, DC 20013 1-800-REDCROSS

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Middle East Crisis Response P.O. Box 17090 Baltimore, MD 21203-7090 877-HELP-CRS

Oxfam America Middle East Crisis Fund PO Box 1211 Albert Lea, MN 56007-1211 800-77-OXFAM (800-776-9326)

Save the Children USA Middle East Response 54 Wilton Road Westport, CT 06880 800-728-3843

World Vision P.O. Box 9716 Federal Way, WA 98063-9176 888-511-6548

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Vox Vixen said...

Thank you for the comprehensive overview and the list of many organizations that are helping in this time of need. Peace is unfortunately something I have given up on seeing in my lifetime. I just hope my children fare better, but I doubt it. Needless warfare due to either power struggle or religion has been on-going since modern man. Children always suffer the most. It's all so senseless.

lakecat said...

It's very interesting to see the number of organizations helping either one or both sides in this conflict. I wonder how they are able to work together.

Was there ever a time when there was not a war or conflict in the history of the world? I can remember a period during the Carter administration when there was peace in the Middle East, at least until the assassination of Anwar Sadat.

I guess all I can do is contribute to these organizations and support the candidates for office that seek peaceful solutions.

Carolina Clay said...


Thank you for a very comprehensive look at the Middle East situation, as well as Clay's activities as a UNICEF ambassador.

I admire the depth of his dedication and compassion. He is making a difference, and he inspires others to do the same.