Trick or treat for UNICEF tonight, and help a deprived child

31 October 2006 – Don’t be surprised when you open your door to the trick-or-treat knock on Halloween tonight if you find a smiling child on the other side holding an orange box with the letters UNICEF boldly written in blue.

“Trick or Treat for UNICEF” has turned out to be one of the most successful fundraising campaigns for the United Nations Children’s Fund over the years. More than $210 million has been raised by children in the United States and Canada over the past 56 years, largely set around Halloween.

“By Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF, you can help kids around the world too,” the agency tells its young audience in a way close to their hearts, a series of website pages with coloured cartoon links that explain what anything from seven cents to $150 can do to relieve the plight of 376 million children around the world who have to walk more than 15 minutes to get a drink of clean water.

Or for 121 million who don’t go to school. Or for the one out of every 6 who doesn’t get the food needed to be healthy. Seven cents can buy crayons for a class, $1 can immunize a child against polio, $10 can buy biscuits for a month for three kids, and $150 can provide clean water for a whole village.

For most children in the US, “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” provides them with their first experience of volunteerism. Since the campaign’s inception, $132 million has been raised in the United States, including $5.2 million last year.

In Canada, this year was notable for the fact that there have been significant changes made to the format of the campaign. In place of the traditional box used to collect funds, Canada was adopting more of a grassroots campaign based in schools where events like walks and seminars are being be held to raise funds. Some 4,150 schools are participating with the goal of raising $5.7 million. Half of these funds will go to education in Malawi.

This year the children and groups who raise the most money between 1 October and 30 December are eligible for awards in the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF Challenge, sponsored by UNICEF’s partner, the pharmaceutical company Procter & Gamble: a $125,000 donation made in their honour, one on behalf of the individual winner and one on behalf of the group winner, and a photo appearance on the Cartoon Network.

So if you see the orange box when you open your door tonight, think of the child in some impoverished or drought-stricken land who might know a trick or two but has never enjoyed a treat.

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