by Ruby Dann, University of Connecticut and Spring ’19 Umbra Rep
My knowledge of Unicef used to be based off the colorful cardboard boxes we set out around the holidays to collect coins as donations for the organization. The boxes were decorated with tiny cartoon children and examples of donation amounts with their potential impact. When I heard about the volunteer opportunity at the beginning of the semester, I wanted to join not only for nostalgic reasons, but also because I believe in the overall child-focused mission.
Coming into the program, it was expected that we would each create a doll in the six weeks with help from the coordinators. The women at the Unicef Headquarters spoke only Italian, but we could understand their devotion to the organization and the gratification that it brought them. It was also enriching to be connected with a different generation and language.
We learned about the organization, each lady’s experience with Unicef, and the way Unicef functions on an international scale.
Before this opportunity, I had a biased view that America was responsible for most of the aid that is distributed on an international scale. The program expanded my knowledge of the efforts of other countries to assist with the well-being of kids everywhere. It is also exciting to note that the Pigotta dolls would be sold for collected funds that would go towards vaccinations for children. The necessity of vaccinations is a debate in America right now. We are privileged to work on raising money to benefit those around the world who do not have access to aid in a time when many Americans decide not to take advantage of essential vaccinations.
Volunteering for Unicef was not only a fun, weekly opportunity to be creative, but also beneficial to our overall cultural learning experience. Spending time with the Italian women who ran the Unicef Headquarters in Perugia immersed us in the Italian language as well as another generation. There are generally few opportunities to be familiar with older generations as students studying abroad, but we were able to learn much about the dedication and history of the ladies through Unicef.
For more information about Community Engagement Opportunities at Umbra, click here.