Teddy Bear And
Watch Dog
By Ellis Kirkland

Sitting in David Agnew’s office, we are struck by the humbleness of the office and the man. For the scale of organization that this President of UNICEF Canada operates, for the urgency of the issues that he deals with- there is a strong sense of calmness and clear purpose that is immediately comforting. I did not come here to be comforted- but I am. The situation of the Tsunami is still sending shock waves into the world, with the daily tolls that keep rising. The information is hitting hard and although the western world has responded quickly and generously, we question ourselves about our ability to do more.

Today, the headlines are gone. But the fallout of the Tsunami remains. As Canadians, we are proud of our contribution.

We feel good when we are able to help others who need it. When the situation is as severe and desperate as the tsunami- we need to overcome that strong sense of helplessness and futility to address the issue of how to help. We first think of giving money- and then that is when we start to look at where to put our money. How best to put it to work? Where will it have the highest impact? And at some point or another, through the thousands of NGO’s in Canada, one name keeps rising as a stable stalwart contributor to the international aid relief crisis: The United Nations Children’s Relief Fund. Unicef.


UNICEF deals with global crises that affect those most unable to cope with the problems- the children of the world. If we turn our eyes to the world’s problems the list is troubling and includes the conflict zones, wars, droughts, famines, diseases, man-made and natural disasters, and unspeakable crimes involving predatory exploitation within these situations. The issues of need can become so overwhelming that we stop and breathe quietly.

We might even start with a glimpse of a day. “…her day begins…. The poverty is extreme- she takes the three children on the two mile walk to school, where she goes into the classroom with them. They have no mother or father because they are part of the new parentless family- a casualty of AIDS. She is their sister. There was no system for registering her at birth, so we don’t know if she’s 10 or 12. Today the care of the entire family rests within the capabilities of this small impoverished girl.”


This is when the deepest impact of the problem hits us hard: the children. Then it happens… It is overwhelming- but underneath the horror is HOPE. One is almost unable to fathom the problems as David Agnew of UNICEF speaks softly. Amid the world’s turmoil the greatest victims are the children. The children did not vote for war. They do not even understand it. They have to lose their parents to it, and their food and shelter. There is something that can be done and is being done. In the face of what can only be described inadequately as an overwhelming need, UNICEF is both the watchdog for these small citizens of our global village, and also their comforter- their teddy bear. UNICEF barks on their behalf to get the attention of the world, and shelters and cares and comforts them on our behalf.


Among the charities that I support, UNICEF has won a permanent place in my gift giving, and has given me an increased sense of hope and purpose about our ability, through UNICEF to provide for these tiny global citizens that desperately need us. UNICEF- keep barking and comforting- you have my support.

The UNICEF children and family programmes are remarkable and describe many wonderful and successful projects. See the website www.unicef.ca.