Don’t Touch to Touch Lives

UNICEF has been on my radar for a long time. Almost my entire life, in fact. I attended a private Episcopalian school for the first three years of my schooling, and come Halloween our teachers gave us  the classic orange boxes and expected us to ask our neighbors to donate a little change to help raise the standard of living of children worldwide.

halloween costume

I started doing Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF as a kindergartener, wearing this angel costume.

Here’s what I love about UNICEF.

They focus on the crucial things: health care and immunizations, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and emergency relief, all of which are vital to a child’s potential for success.

On top of that, their spending ratio is impressive. 90.4% of their spending goes directly to projects that help children, 6.7% goes to fundraising activities, and only 2.9% goes to administrative costs.

More importantly, though, I am amazed by the creativity of their various campaigns in the U.S. that make donating easy, which makes substantial change feel simple and tangible.

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF was the first service project I ever did. It was my introduction to fundraising and how to support a good cause. The campaign has been around in the United States since 1950, and since its beginning has raised $171 million for children in developing countries. More than that, though, it encourages American kids to take on a more worldly perspective and use their resources to support those in need.

For me, the simple act of carrying a bright orange collection box on Halloween sparked my interest in helping others. Despite the fact that $10 seemed like a fortune to 5-year-old me, it struck me even then how UNICEF could use such small dollar amounts to produce such amazing change in the developing world.

$1 buys 40 days of clean water or protein biscuits for children in need, $6 buys a soccer ball for  children living in refugee camps,  $20 buys bed nets to prevent malaria-related deaths, and $35 buys life-saving vaccines for 50 kids.


Halloween 2004: I had switched to public school, so I didn’t do Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, but the program had already instilled in me a love of giving back.

The organization recently came back into my life with the digitalization of the UNICEF Tap Project. Smartphone owners can go to the mobile website, tap start, and see how long they can go without their phones. For every 10 minutes users don’t touch their devices, UNICEF’s donors and sponsors fund one day of clean water for a child who needs it.

When I heard about the Tap Project, I decided to try it out. I clicked the link on my iPhone and pressed start. It asked me to put my phone down (it uses motion sensors to detect where the device is) and the screen flashed facts about UNICEF, water usage, and other related information while a timer showed how long I had gone without touching my phone. At the end of ten minutes, I picked my phone up and clicked finish, and the site told me a donation would be made based on my efforts.

The Tap Project is awesome. It combines two positive goals: promoting children’s health and education while simultaneously encouraging people to test their dependence on technology. It surprised me the number of times I felt tempted to reach for my phone during those ten minutes. In late October I lost my phone (I thought it was stolen for a while), and it made me realize how much I rely on that connectedness.

UNICEF makes it simple to make a huge difference. Ten minutes is insignificant in the long term, and it’s completely worth it to put your phone away and help kids in developing countries.

Go to on your mobile device to provide a day’s worth of clean water for a child. Don’t touch your device, and you can touch lives. 

One thought on “Don’t Touch to Touch Lives

  1. Pingback: Six Months? | Victim to Charm

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