This month's Close UP features the Japan Committee for UNICEF, which has been promoting various activities in Japan to support UNICEF as one of 36 National Committees for UNICEF worldwide. In addition to its main office in Takanawa, Tokyo, the committee is composed of 19 branches, 6 tomo-no-kai (friendship associations), and 1 fund-raising office, expanding its network of support towards UNICEF across the nation. This time, we visited the committee's main office and talked to Akiko Kato of the Group & Organizational Relations about annual Hand in Hand campaign, a fund-raising activity the committee holds at the end of every year.
Akiko Kato, Group & Organizational Relations, the Japan Committee for UNICEF
An entrance to the Japan Committee for UNICEF office
Normally, we receive donations from individual and corporate supporters through donation boxes and automatic bank transfers. The Hand in Hand campaign, on the other hand, asks each of these UNICEF supporters once a year to be a volunteer and take a leading role in promoting our fund-raising activity. As its name says, the campaign aims to encourage the UNICEF supporters to take part in the fund-raiser by working hand in hand with other volunteers, which we believe will develop a more personalized meaning to their support to UNICEF.
The Hand in Hand campaign started in 1979 when the United Nations designated that year as the International Year of the Child to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Back then, people in Japan also began to learn more and more about problems surrounding children in developing countries.
We held the first Hand in Hand fund-raiser on the day of New Year's Eve that year. Celebrities such as Pink Lady and Alice joined the event and walked with us from Hibiya to Ginza asking for donations. Since then, the campaign has grown to what it is today while continuingly receiving support from various groups and individuals. The campaign marks its 31st year this time.
Our message this year is: "Six million children die before their first birthday every year." In 2008, 8.8 million children under age five died worldwide, including six million who were under one year old. The main cause of their death was a lack of staple items that are commonly available for us in Japan, such as nutritious foods, clean water, and healthcare. A number of young children lose their lives because babies are delivered in an unsafe, unsanitary environment. Or, their mothers often suffer from malnutrition and cannot produce enough breast milk. Diarrhea and dehydration are common because of unclean water, which serves as another cause of children's mortality. Through the campaign, we want as many people as possible to know that from a global point of view, babies who live up to until their first birthday cannot be taken for granted.
A leaflet given to donors
© UNICEF/HQ06-2234/Giacomo Pirozzi
A scene from last year's event at Yebisu Garden Place (Dec. 23, 2008)
© The Japan Committee for UNICEF
The campaign runs from November through December every year. It was originally held in December only but was later extended for two months because winter weather often makes fund-raising activities difficult in the northern part of the country.
During the campaign, we hold a national promotion day on December 23. A variety of events are scheduled on that day. At the main conference held at Yebisu Garden Place, celebrities and sumo wrestlers volunteer to help our stage events and donation collection. Agnes Chan and Miyuki Matsuda are among those who are scheduled to join the event.
We are accepting registrations online and also by fax until December 11. Registered groups and individuals will receive a packet that includes a guidebook, posters and other tools that can be used for their fund-raising activities. We also provide about 30 copies of a campaign leaflet per volunteer which can be handed out to donors. Each leaflet comes with plant seeds as a gift to show our appreciation for the donation. Volunteers are encouraged to be creative in their fund-raising activities. Many of them stand in front of train stations or at shopping malls to call for the donation. In some past cases, volunteers arranged to allocate part of the sale from a fund-raising bazaar or of the admission to events such as live concerts. Visiting door-to-door to ask for donations is prohibited, however.
Inside of the campaign leaflet
© The Japan Committee for UNICEF
We are always surprised by their unique fund-raising ideas. Last year, for example, members of a boy scout troop in Morioka created a "help chart," which was marked every time they helped with errands at home. The boys received 10 yen from their parents for each chore and kept collecting their money until they reached their goal amount - 220 yen for each child. Along with the donation of their collected chore money, the group also sent us the charts, which told us all the efforts the boys had made to raise money for other children in the world by washing dishes, taking in newspapers, cleaning their dog house, etc.
In addition to youth groups such as boy scout and girl scout troops, we have schools, businesses and individuals from different fields. The total number of registered volunteers was 28,000 people last year. Unfortunately, the number of participating volunteers has been declining. We believe this is due to today's trend of fewer children and a slower economy and not because of the decrease of people's awareness.
Last year's fund-raising activities by volunteers © The Japan Committee for UNICEF
We often hear that they were able to appreciate the value of money and realized how much one yen could do. Many participants also mention that they were touched by the kindness of people, such as when they saw young people, who did not appear to care about helping others, made donations, or when they were standing in the cold and were given a warm word of encouragement. Other participants also said that it helped them understand better how serious the issues are after repeatedly chanting the theme of the campaign. It is our hope that the campaign serves as an opportunity to think about children in developing nations, especially for those who do not usually pay attention to such issues.
The total of the donations raised by the Hand in Hand campaign reached over 62 million yen in 2008. The raised fund goes to support UNICEF activities in over 150 countries and regions worldwide. Each committee of UNICEF is required to contribute to UNICEF at least 75% of the collected donations. For the year 2008, our contribution to UNICEF was 14.6 billion yen, which accounted for 80.7% of approximately 18 billion yen that the committee had raised as total during the year. This is one of the highest figures of the contributions among the UNICEF committees.
The largest target area to which the UNICEF's program support fund is allocated is Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the UNICEF's 2008 annual report, 55.5% of the fund is spent on the projects in this region. When it comes to humanitarian aid, the first thing that many people may think of is emergency support for local disasters. However, we also need to pay continued attention to prolonged serious issues found throughout Africa. We call this situation Silent Emergency and consider it as one of our priorities.
A gift shop at UNICEF House
The Japan Committee for UNICEF offers supporters various ways to make contributions, including the Monthly Support Program, which is an automatic deduction from their credit card or bank accounts. One-time online donations are also available via our website. 50% of the sales of greeting cards, T-shirts, and other items at the gift shop of UNICEF House and our online store will be donated as well.
We understand that the word "global support" may sound too big for some people. For those who may be hesitant to be part of our activities, we encourage them to stop by our photo exhibition and other UNICEF events and learn more about current situations surrounding children around the world.