UNICEF's Next Generation

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Lend Your Voice and Help Prevent a Lost Generation in Syria

March 15th will mark the third anniversary of the brutal conflict in Syria that has impacted and hijacked the lives of 5.5 million children in the region. More than 1 million children are refugees and more than 2 million children are out of school, due to the conflict. The violation of the rights of Syrian children is unacceptable and we cannot sit by and allow them to be casualties.

UNICEF has been on the ground since the start of the conflict, and it will continue to further expand the services it provides this year. In 2014, UNICEF will reach 3.9 million children through a comprehensive program that will give children quality education through school rehabilitation, remedial education, self-learning, early childhood development, psychosocial support and the provision of school supplies. Additionally, UNICEF will continue to monitor and verify violations of the rights of children. UNICEF will also scale up its water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program and will actively work to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases in the region.

The children of Syria have witnessed horrific displays of violence and many have suffered firsthand due to the conflict. Syrian children have lost loved ones, have been forced to flee their homes, and have been subjected to many more injustices. A United Nations report released in early February conveyed the severity of the violations of children’s rights in Syria. Children as young as 11 have been detained by government forces, and they have been tortured and sexually abused. Children have also been recruited by rebel forces for combat purposes.

Deprived of their basic needs, the chance to learn and grow, and the security of a stable childhood, an entire generation of children is being shaped by conflict, displacement, and despair, and could be lost forever – with profound long-term consequences for Syria, the region, and the world.

As we approach the end of the third year of the conflict on March 15, UNICEF and its partners have launched No Lost Generation – a massive public call to stop the violence and suffering for children, ensure humanitarian access and respect for humanitarian law, and invest in protection, education, support, and peace building. Sign this pledge to call on world leaders to end the conflict and to tell world leaders that you support:

• An end to the violence against the #childrenofsyria.
• An end to the blocking of humanitarian assistance.
• An end to attacks on humanitarian workers and facilities, especially schools and hospitals.
• A renewed commitment to reconciliation and tolerance.
• More investment in the education and psychological protection of all children affected by the conflict.

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Our New Monthly Mission: UNICEF’s Tap Project

Did you know that in one day, women around the world spend 200 million hours collecting water? This is equivalent to building the Empire State Building 28 times each day! (www.Water.org)

Access to clean and safe water and sanitation is a necessity that most of us take for granted. There are about 768 million people around the world who lack access to clean water, and there are approximately 2.5 billion people who do not have access to an improved sanitation facility, such as a toilet (www.unicefusa.org). Diarrheal diseases are the second leading cause of death among children under the age of 5 in developing nations (www.who.int). Death from diarrheal diseases can be largely prevented if children have access to clean water, sanitation, and are informed about proper hygiene practices.

UNICEF currently works in more than 100 countries to increase access to clean and safe water sources and sanitation facilities. Additionally, UNICEF works in schools and communities to promote better hygiene practices. The aim of UNICEF’s water, sanitation, and hygiene WASH programs is to promote the protection, survival, and development of children.  Since 1990, through the help of UNICEF and its partners, more than 2 billion people have gained access to clean and safe drinking water (www.unicefusa.org).

The UNICEF Tap Project is a U.S. based campaign that provides access to clean water and adequate sanitation to children around the world. Since 2007, The Tap Project has raised more than $4.2 million, and it has helped improve the lives of millions of children around the world through innovative and high-profile fundraising campaigns (www.unicefusa.org).

This year’s Tap Project campaign is especially innovative, since it will challenge people to go without their smartphones! Having access to a phone is one of the many things we take for granted. For every minute a person can go without touching their phone, a donation from sponsors like Next Generation will be released to fund WASH programs around the world. We are raising 100,000 for UNICEF’s Tap Project, so that we can help children in need who do not have access to clean and safe water.

With just $1, UNICEF can give a child access to clean water for 40 days (www.unicefusa.org). We believe that ZERO children should be dying from diseases by not having access to clean water and sanitation. Let’s reach our goal of $100,000, so that we can help give children in need access to clean water and adequate sanitation, which are luxuries we take for granted. 

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About 6 months ago, UNICEF’s Next Generation adopted our 9th project: funding the development of three UNICEF innovations labs in Southeast Asia. These labs will join a network of innovation centers around the world that offer children the opportunity to devise solutions to the problems that are affecting their communities by partnering with local leaders, government and NGO representatives, educators and product developers.

Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Pristina, Kosovo with Casey Rotter, founder of UNICEF’s Next Generation, and meet 35 UNICEF innovators at the first UNICEF Innovations Summit. With representation from Afghanistan, Chile, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and more, I learned about UNICEF programs such as RapidFTR,RapidSMSuReport, and so many creative solutions to problems affecting the most vulnerable children in the world. While participating in brainstorms, fail faires, sharing best practices and challenges, we came up with an idea… Next Gen Innovation Pen Pals!

Innovation Brainstorming. Photo credit: Danielle Abraham

Innovation Brainstorming. Photo credit: Danielle Abraham

While Next Gen is focused on fundraising for the development of three new labs, what if it was possible for us to also support the innovative work being done by UNICEF representatives in over 20 countries? What if Next Gen members based in the United States could leverage their skills, expertise and knowledge in a specific field to support lifesaving work around the world by remotely volunteering a few hours of their time every week?

We were at a big group dinner the final night of the Summit when Chris Fabian, Co-Lead of UNICEF’s Innovation Unit asked Casey and me to stand up and share this possibility with our new friends around the table. With the immediate cheers and shouts of requests from many at the table, it was clear they were excited.

Upon returning to NYC, we shared this idea with the Next Gen Steering Committees and they were just as excited! Currently, all UNICEF innovation leads have been invited to submit a request for a Next Gen Pen Pal by sending Casey a brief list of what kind of support would be most helpful, so the U.S. Fund for UNICEF can best match them with a Next Gen Steering Committee member. Each assignment will vary by country and while the majority of the work will be done remotely from the US, there may be opportunities for Next Gen members to travel to the country they are partnered with.

The goal of this program is to deepen the engagement of Next Gen members by educating Next Gen on UNICEF’s work and strengthening our knowledge and affinity for UNICEF’s programs, while completing specific tasks and consulting pro bono for a UNICEF innovation lead.

This is an incredible and unprecedented opportunity; Next Gen cannot wait to get started!

Danielle Abraham
Next Generation Founding Steering Committee Member

Originally posted at www.unicefstories.org 

See also a short video about the Innovations Summit in Kosovo here

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Welcome to Boston, Next Gen

On the evening of January 21st, a group of young Boston professionals met at the Ralph Lauren store for an introduction to UNICEF’s Next Generation and to begin growing a base of Boston supporters.  With freezing cold, wind and snow having just arrived – nearly shutting down the city – the bright colors of Ralph Lauren’s Spring Trunk Show provided a brief distraction from the blustery weather for the crowd of 35. UNICEF’s Natalie Hench even made it in from New York to help Suruchi Ahuja and Katie Kosmicki introduce Next Generation to their Boston peers. 


The great turnout was a promising start to building support in Boston with a handful of new Next Generation members already committing to a belief in ZERO.  Suruchi and Katie will be hosting a second information session in the spring- any young Bostonians that may be interested in joining should please email Natalie at nhench@unicefusa.org. We’re really looking forward to expanding into Boston; there’s a lot of energy that’s going to be perfect for Next Gen!

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A Discussion on Human Trafficking

Did you know that for every 800 victims of human trafficking, there is only one conviction? This is just one of many astonishing facts about the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking.

New York Times columnist Nick Kristof moderated a Google+ Hangout  with Rachel Lloyd from Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, Gary Haugen from International Justice Mission, Dave Bastone from Not for Sale, and UNICEF’s Susan Bissell. The discussion included facts, misconceptions, and what kinds of solutions are necessary to bring about the end of modern day slavery and human trafficking.

One of the most interesting parts of the discussion was the example of a program implemented by the International Justice Mission and the Gates Foundation that dealt with impunity. Impunity in Southeast Asia for child sex trafficking is so severe that a trafficker has a greater chance of getting struck by lightning than they do of being imprisoned for their crimes. Because of this, the IJM and Gates Foundation’s project’s focus on ending impunity in Cebu, Philippines, was a great approach. The project focused on getting law enforcement to actually enforce laws that prohibited child sex trafficking.

A study of this project was completed by outside auditors who measured the amount of child sex trafficking that occurred before the implantation of the project and after. According to the study, this project led to the rescue of many victims, to the arrest and prosecution of 100 child sex traffickers, and to a 79% decline in the victimization of children in the commercial sex trade in Cebu. It demonstrated that ending impunity for human trafficking is vital for decreasing the amount of trafficking that occurs worldwide.

A change in behavior and social custom is also critical to combating trafficking. This can be furthered by increasing efforts to socialize boys and young men so that they can become engaged in ending human trafficking. UNICEF employs this method of educating communities to change norms and practices that make children vulnerable to trafficking. Additionally, the role that millenials can play in combating trafficking is huge. Millenials perceive the issue of trafficking differently than previous generations, and they believe that they can actually do something about it. This mindset is empowering and valuable to the fight to end trafficking.


Finally, the work that U.S. Fund for UNICEF does through advocacy and education is necessary to combating issues like human trafficking. Additionally, UNICEF works with its partners on all levels of anti-trafficking responses, which include prevention, protection, and prosecution. UNICEF also assists government officials in strengthening laws, supporting access to education, and establishing minimum labor standards. Check out the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s End Trafficking Project here: http://www.unicefusa.org/campaigns/end-trafficking/.

Overall, this discussion was highly insightful and conveys the fact that combating human trafficking is not an impossible mission. There are many solutions that can make a difference so that trafficking can one day be eradicated. 

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Our Sudan

This is a tale of two worlds. It is a story, told by the youth of Sudan, of the past, present and future of their country.  With striking imagery and haunting voices they tell how Sudan was once a beautiful country, full of culture and prosperity, until it became a ghost of its former glory.

During the golden age Sudan was rich in land, resources, people and tradition. Culture was embraced and appreciated. Stories of brave men and women who fought for their independence were renowned and scholars who left Sudan to acquire foreign education returned to strengthen their country. The old generation was revered for their achievements, idealism and passion.

This world has drastically changed from this golden age. The beautiful sites that Sudan once had are now shattered. In the past, scholars would return to Sudan to help build the country but now they opt to remain in foreign countries and the standards of education in the country are falling.

Sudan hasn’t achieved what it could have, but the strong young men and women in this video illustrate the hope that remains for the future of Sudan. As you watch the video you can see the shift from a focus on what was, to the pain of present day, to hope for what the future might hold.

These young people are defining who they are as individuals- not what the reputation of their country says they should be. They provide a lesson to us all-that we should be willing to face the world as it is and move forward together, deliberately shaping our future.  As the video illustrates, that it’s not “my Sudan or your Sudan but our Sudan.” Together as citizens of the world we can bring about positive change. As one young woman said, “It’s time to dream a new dream, the dream of our generation. The future is not a matter of what will be, but what could be.”

This is an inspiring film about young men and women’s hope for the future.  

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Halloween Recap

For 4 years in a row Next Gen has hosted a Masquerade Ball in New York to support UNICEF’s programs and NEXT Gen’s projects.  This year we went bi-coastal and launched UNICEF’s first Black and White Masquerade ball in Los Angeles!

In New York, at the Angel Orensanz Foundation, the theme was “a Haunted Venetian Evening” and party goers were decked out in elegant costumes. With beautiful face painting, a fun photobooth, and delicious cocktails courtesy of Remy- it was certainly a night to remember!

On the other side of the country, at the Masonic Lodge of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, attendees of the Black + White Masquerade were channeling old world Hollywood and sporting fantastic masks. The location couldn’t have been more perfect for the Halloween bash, and the late-night cupcakes were a definite treat.

These Masquerade balls are one way our generation to continues the tradition of fundraising for UNICEF around Halloween. This year’s contributions help support Next Generation’s current project- three Innovation Labs in South East Asia. With nearly 1000 guests, the balls in Los Angeles and New York raised over $300,000. These funds will make an incredible difference in the lives of children around the world!

Thank you all for your support, we hope to see you next year!

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Chris Fabian Talks Innovation Labs (and More!) in Los Angles

This week Next Gen Los Angeles brought Chris Fabian, the co-founder of UNICEF’s Innovation Unit and the head of the Innovation Labs project that Next Generation is funding, to speak to Next Geners and guests about the project and UNICEF’s work. It was a great evening, summed up here by Next Gen LA Steering Committee member Katy Ladin.

First of all Chris is AMAZING. There was no over selling on how bright and interesting he is.

It was a real treat and opportunity to listen to him talk about his work all over the world. The entire room was captivated and engaged with every word he said (he is crazy smart) and he so eloquently paints a picture of the situation, the proposed solution, and the anticipated possibilities. Brian Barrow said it so well, “You can see his mind firing on all cylinders, it’s like he is taking abstract information that we all have floating around in our minds and is fitting it together like puzzle pieces.” We couldn’t help but feel that if we could have just a little of that, we could really be getting a lot more done in our day. Also, Chris’ passion and excitement about his vision is infectious; we all left excited about this project and optimistic that there are people like him out there trying to make the world a better place.

Chris talked about so many different things in relation to UNICEF, he is no “one trick pony”. As I am trying to wrap my mind around this current project, he’s already one step ahead, looking at the evolution. Innovation Labs are just the next step and are intended to evolve into something greater. The take away for me is that this is a real game changer on a massive scope, not only for these impoverished countries, but for Americans to model as well. For example, the ability to share medical records in real time electronically or a faster and more successful way to reunite families after a disaster. It seems also that the problems faced are so individualized that it’s imperative that they have local labs to even attempt to tackle the issues. As he put it “building a school is cute, makes us feel good, but the reality is, education is changing dramatically and once we are gone, so is that school.(disrespect not intended)” The point is, there is too much incredible technology, innovation and VERY smart and capable children & young adults not to utilize it all together and only Chris and his team could possibly tackle this and make it work… it’s cool!

Rhoda, who hosted us at her beautiful home was a splendid hostess. Amy, Yasmin and I got there early, so we were able to visit with she and her husband before guest arrived. She is a brilliant biochemist who is now on full time grandparent duty with her 10 grandchildren. Her husband, Dr. Dwight Makoff, was equally as lovely and welcomed us into their home with open arms. Her home, by the way, is 7 stories… yes, 7 stories and had an exquisite veranda off the living room where guests were able to stand outside with a full ocean view and watch the sun go down… it was alright :-)

All and all the evening was mellow and went really smoothly. I am sorry to those who could not be there, I know I am gushing, but it really was pretty rad. Thank you to the UNICEF NYC team for sharing him.

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Updates from our friends at The Base Project

Chris Akin, the founder of The Base Project, is a good friend of UNICEF’s Next Generation and wrote this post for our tumblr after a visit to Namibia. 

On our recent trip to Namibia we were fortunate enough to run into UNICEF staff while working in the remote Kunene Region and again in the capital city of Windhoek. During our first night in the town of Opuwo, where The Base Project artisans live and work, we ran into a good spirited UNICEF field worker who was staying at our same camp site. The following day our team ran into UNICEF staff again at lunch, including Namibia Communications Specialist Judy Matjila and several of her South African counterparts.


We soon learned that the UNICEF team was traveling in northern Kunene to study and raise awareness of the extreme drought, which has been plaguing the region for two consecutive years, and to provide aid to those affected. The drought is adversely affecting the health of one-third of the Namibian population including a critical number of children. In Namibia, approximately 109,000 children under age 5 are at risk for malnutrition, which can be more severe during times of drought. Judy and her team met with villagers to discuss the drought conditions and their health concerns. The same UNICEF team was simultaneously hosting representatives from national and international press who were covering the drought, the region’s worst in 30 years.

Upon returning to Windhoek a week later, UNICEF’s field reporting was prominent in the national newspapers and in international press outlets such as Al Jazeera, the Washington Post and the BBC. While in Windhoek, we met up with Judy again for a tour of UNICEF headquarters at the United Nations House. UNICEF Namibia Representative Micaela Marques de Sousa graciously welcomed us into her office to make a personal introduction. Micaela was enthused to learn about The Base Project’s work in Namibia and eager to assist us on the ground as we grow and initiate new community development projects in the Kunene region.


Judy and Micaela were further delighted to hear about our connection to Casey Rotter and Next Generation. They were especially pleased with our relationship with Next Gen due to last year’s board visit to Namibia and Micaela’s subsequent proposal to help eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV in Namibia. Be sure to take note of the work that Micaela, Judy, and their team are doing Namibia: a country of extreme promise and unfortunate natural circumstances. We are appreciative of all the work UNICEF is doing in this region and intimately understand the challenges these families face and the need for relief. Our work with Judy and UNICEF Namibia continues and we will be sure to visit them again on our next trip to Namibia.

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Next Gen wants to #ENDviolence, too!

Did you know- approximately 20% of women and 5–10% of men report being sexually abused as children, while 25–50% of all children report being physically abused? And did you know that more than 1500 children in the U.S. die from abuse and neglect each year?*

This month UNICEF launched its #ENDviolence initiative and Next Gen is so excited about this project. Children deserve a better world — a world where they are safe, protected and empowered.

Recent acts of violence against children- the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan and the massacre of elementary students in Connecticut among others- have brought this issue to the front pages of our newspapers and the newsfeeds of our facebooks. As horrific as these events are, we need to realize too that violence against children often goes unseen. To solve the problem we need to bring to light these less publicized acts.

#ENDviolence is designed to build awareness and to encourage prevention and response to violence against children. UNICEF works around the world to protect children and to create living conditions in which they can thrive. This campaign is one more step in the direction of a better world for children.

This is the PSA that was created to bring attention to the new campaign. Take a look, share it on facebook and twitter, and help make the invisible, visible.

Help us spread awareness of the #ENDviolence initiative by participating in the “Stamp It Out” photo contest! Take a picture of #ENDviolence written, stamped, doodled or scrawled somewhere and upload it onto instagram, facebook or twitter… and don’t forget to hashtag #ENDviolence and mention @UNICEF!


*Stats from who.int