(Image from UNICEF UK and UNICEF Central London Group)
It’s truly incredible what team effort can produce and what can possibly be achieved if passion and drive are mixed in.
If there is one thing that my fellow volunteers and mates with UNICEF UK are passionate about, it’s the well being of children. I personally believe that if we want to change the world, we start with children. They are the true key in making a difference in the world for they are our future. By damaging our children, we crush our hope in a better tomorrow and we condemn ourselves to more wars, destruction, and a world full of hatred.
With this in mind, my fellow volunteers and I with UNICEF chose to raise higher awareness of the travesties taking place in Syria, which are affecting children specifically.
Influenced by the Arab Spring, Syrian citizens rose together in demand for acknowledgements of certain rights and liberties that they wished to see taken in effect. The Syrian government chose to retaliate and by striking first at what hurt the population the most – the children (see my previous blog on the conflict by clicking here).
Tortured, harassed, abused, and murdered in cold blood, the conflict in Syria has resulted in a plethora of atrocities committed towards these innocents. The death toll rises daily and for those children who have managed to escape with their families and lives out of the conflict zone, their plight only continues. From Lebanon to Turkey, thousands of Syrian children find themselves in refugee camps with shelters that provide only the bare minimum. In the cold of winter that we are now experiencing, these children have no warmth from a heater or stove – barely even a blanket. Such conditions can result in sickness and both a slow and inevitable death.
UNICEF has been in action to provide the most it can in giving aid to these children, whom they believed might become a “lost generation” if nothing is done to help them. These children are disillusioned by the war, rendered hopeless by the incessant chaos and death surrounding them. In three years, they’ve seen their dreams shattered by the conflict and what appears as the apparent silence of the international community. In efforts to prevent this mentality from sinking in, UNICEF works around the clock in providing education, basic necessities, and more.
When UNICEF informed us that the British government, recognizing the work of the organization, would double all funds that would be raised for these children no later than the end of January, it was hard for my teammates and I to resist in providing support.
After brainstorming, we figured the best way to draw in the most funds would be through something exciting, exhilarating, and enjoyable for all. Something that can truly capture the attention of a local audience.
Inevitably, we all agreed on dancing – to salsa!
For two months, my team and I worked religiously in getting the event – which we baptized as Salsa4Syria – ready for its 23 January debut. I don’t think there could’ve been a better team; in such a small amount of time, we secured a popular for free (the amazing Elixir Bar in Camden!), fantastic and enthusiastic salsa instructors, promoted the event across London, and set up our donations site that reached to donors from all over Europe!
For ₤10, the event provided free salsa lessons for beginners and advanced dancers and a night of Latin movements and rhythms, including a ‘salsathon’ and raffle to provide awards to the best dancers on the floor. All donations went straight to UNICEF in support of providing aid to the children of Syria and tickets poured in up until the very last minute.
(Image from UNICEF Central London Group)
The outpour of people coming to the event was extraordinary. It’s one thing if you work at a club or a particular venue and the attendees are their for the sake of the entertainment. But it was another thing to see people show up because they helped contribute to the cause and seeing them gathered was truly magical.
What I found intriguing about the event and our participants was that we were truly taking people out of their comfort zones from a cultural standpoint. Being both Latin American and European, I am well aware of the extremities on both sides with regards to body movements and sensual displays, so while shaking one’s hips seems like a natural way to move and have a good time for my Latinos, for my fellow Europeans who are not used to such rhythms, (in particular for Northern Europeans like British, Dutch, and Germans), getting in touch with their inner ‘salsa-sex demon’ was a bit of an uncomfortable struggle.
Thankfully, with the encouragement of the fantastic salsa instructors and the selection of music, cultural barriers were put aside and everyone shook their bodies and became real salseros for the evening!
And what an amazing night! In the end, we raised ₤3,800 from ticket sales and generous donations! The money raised helped UNICEF provide 950 Syrian child refugees with thermal blankets and give 1,000 children “School-In-A-Box”, helping to continue their education and learning despite the conflict.
My amazing fellow volunteers and the Public Fundraising Staff of UNICEF UK
Through the work of NGO’s and organizations such as UNICEF, we remind these children that are hardened by the conflict that we hear them. We acknowledge their voices and through our work we let them know that they are loved and are never forgotten.
It is in this that we can be rest assured that there will be no lost generation in Syria. And in doing so, we can be rest assured that our future isn’t lost, as well.
Your donations can save lives through the working effort of UNICEF. To donate in support of their work, click here.
Two major UN branches that are currently on the ground and in action to help the Syrian refugees are both UNICEF and UNHCR, the UN agency dedicated to refugees and conflict management. For a full in depth account on the conflict, the agency’s work efforts, and what needs to be accomplished, click here.
An in-depth BBC account of the atrocities conducted towards children in Syria can be found by clicking here.