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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
Best photos of June '24
Published June 23, 2024

UNICEF chapter returns to UMN after 3-year hiatus

The recently relaunched UNICEF chapter aims to educate the campus community about children’s rights through education and fundraising.
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Image by CJ Bonk
Women of color make up the majority of the current board. Some of the student group’s officers (left to right) Sadia Khyber, Aysa Tarana, Sofia Fix, and Dawoon Jeong.

The University of Minnesota’s United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) chapter restarted its program this semester after a 3-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNICEF is an organization started by the United Nations General Assembly, advocating for “the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential,” according to its mission statement.

The University’s chapter is a UNITE club, which means students “work hand in hand with UNICEF USA to advance the global mission of UNICEF by rallying the American public to support the world’s most vulnerable children through advocacy, building awareness, speaking out to their communities and fundraising,” according to the chapter’s president and second-year student, Sofia Fix.

The chapter recently launched a bingo fundraiser to support people affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The group also plans on hosting events to spread awareness about lack of nutrition access in parts of the world, along with speaker events and tie blanket making.

“We’re planning a lot of events right now to inform many students about children’s rights and to also directly help those who are suffering from any sort of calamity right now,” Aysa Tarana, first-year student and the chapter’s co-events coordinator and marketing director, said.

Board members said they want to focus on regaining their presence on campus by hosting more events like these and eventually opening up applications for students to join the chapter by next fall.

“I feel like that’s our disadvantage coming back is that a lot of people believe that the group is dead,” Sadia Khyber, a second-year student and vice president of UNICEF at UMN, said. “We need the help of our community and this campus and students here to be able to fundraise, so it’s important that they know about it and the issues that UNICEF focuses on.”

A difficult, but welcome, road back

Fix and Khyber said they wanted to restart the chapter in 2022, but their busy schedules did not allow them to plan for its return.

“I knew it was going to be a lot of work to recreate it, but I knew that what they did was really important,” Fix said. “I think it was really important that UNICEF pursues a more equitable world for every child, and they make sure every child is healthy, educated, protected and respected.”

Khyber said it was difficult to restart the chapter because people had forgotten about its presence on campus. The chapter took a break from hosting events during the pandemic, allowing the previous board some space to process the stresses the pandemic brought to everyone’s lives.

Fix said it took the entire fall 2022 semester to get the chapter restarted because the previous board was not responsive to attempts at communication, making it difficult to get the passwords for the group’s email and Instagram account.

The chapter’s restart came at the perfect time for co-treasurer Dawoon Jeong, a fourth-year exchange student from Korea, because she became interested in giving children their rights to an education worldwide.

“Education is not a luxury but basic human rights that demand that every child in the world has the right to get a quality education regardless of their financial and social circumstances,” Jeong said.

Tarana said this year was a good time to revive the group.

“I think it was a good time to bring the club back [in] full force and introduce it to everybody and spread the word about our message and helping as many people as we can,” Tarana said.

A diverse board combines diverse experiences into a tight-knit community

Like the previous board, women of color color up the majority of the current board, which they said allows them to feel empowered in their work and develop a tight-knit community with one another.

“We can utilize our diverse experiences to better the club and have empathy with those going through their struggles,” Tarana said. “It shows that we can do anything we set our minds to such as reviving a club from the ground up.”

Jeong said she wanted to be able to share her passion for children’s education from a diverse perspective. Being from Korea, she said it was important to showcase her country’s culture.

For Khyber, it was important to be surrounded by people who are passionate about the same issues as her and to have a space to comfortably talk about each other’s ideas for the chapter.

“Even though we are all students and we’ve got so many things going on, we’re willing to take time out of our day and focus on this space,” Khyber said.

 

For more information about the University’s chapter of UNICEF and to learn about future events, visit their Instagram.

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