The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) started using Halloween as a fundraiser for their organization in 1950. UNICEF works to combat humanitarian problems like mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, gender inequality, child abuse and exploitation, as well as lack of availability in pediatric treatment. These global dilemmas are brought to light each year on Halloween, when costumed kids go trick-or-treating for loose change to donate. So how does a candy-laden holiday for privileged kids in cute costumes call attention to the gravity of the problems UNICEF combats?
First of all, a kid in a costume on Halloween likely has more impact on donors than an adult would at any time of the year, if only because they are cute and alluring. Provided you have a heart and a bit of loose change, it’s almost impossible to refuse to donate a bit of change to a child fundraising for a good cause. Children fundraising for children also helps donators make a connection to the people the donations are helping, despite the distance between them. The children fundraising can identify with the faces of the kids donors might see on television or billboards. We see so many photos and videos of underprivileged children through advertising and social media that we become desensitized to their issues. A child advocating for a better life for their peers can hit a soft spot, at least for me. It reminds me of the reality and humanity of these faces, an effect that gets lost in photos and television commercials.
This fundraiser also benefits the child participant, by teaching them about morals and making a difference. It gives them an opportunity to see how their acts of kindness make a difference globally. This fundraiser is remarkably effective in keeping the meaning attached to the money because it doesn’t just begin and end on the doorstep. Before the fundraising begins on Halloween, parents, teachers and children are encouraged to learn about other people in places all over the world. Many schools work lesson plans about UNICEF into their schedules as a means to teach about children’s rights issues on a global level. This method reminds teachers of the issues, educates the students and by extension their parents, with whom the students will discuss their lessons at home. In this way, the UNICEF campaign reaches a wide demographic.
Rather than act as a deterrent to the severity of global issues, the Halloween campaign actually highlights the privilege of our society, reinforcing the need of children in other countries. These trick-or-treaters have the freedom to dress up and play as children should. Underneath their Halloween masks, they serve as a link between our society and those of children in need. We would do well to act on the reminder this Halloween.