Everyone has a little “I Want to Save the World” in them
by Jenin Mannaa
I dragged my gaze down the list of t-shirt orders. After months of advertising to the student body, we only managed to sell twelve. I felt my shoulders sag involuntarily. The philanthropic nature of our club would not garner enough attention on its own—fundraising for UNICEF was going to be a lot harder than we thought.
UNICEF, or the United Nations Children’s Relief Fund, is a humanitarian aid organization geared towards improving the health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children worldwide. I brought UNICEF to Dunlap High School, alongside my friend Anna Cai, because it was the most tangible means of fulfilling my child-like desire to “save the world.”
Selling t-shirts was our first course of action, and we made a grand total of fourteen dollars. I could feel our confidence wane. Nevertheless, we would not let a single unsuccessful fundraiser make us lose sight of UNICEF’s mission: to promote the rights and wellbeing of every child in everything we do. We concluded that our club was not yet well-established enough at our school. So, in an effort to garner recognition, we enlisted in the club fair in the middle of the school year.
I could feel my heart race as I spoke of our plans and goals for UNICEF club to the incoming freshmen and their parents. My nerves dissipated as I realized they were as excited about our club as we were. Midway through the evening, a man approached me alongside his wife. He listened as I relayed UNICEF’s mission to him, nodded and smiled periodically, and frequently asked questions. At the conclusion of our exchange, he patted my shoulder amiably and disclosed to me, “I know all about UNICEF. I grew up in a refugee camp.”
My jaw slackened and I gaped at him for a moment. “Th-that’s… Wow,” I spluttered.
For the rest of the evening, I could not shake the warm feeling that had settled in my chest from the encounter. My faith within our club was revitalized, and upon further inspection of UNICEF’s website, I understood the value of those fourteen dollars we raised by selling t-shirts. Fourteen dollars could purchase 54 polio vaccines, 10,980 liters of clean water after an earthquake, and 343 pencils for displaced children. Our impact was not as small and insignificant as I initially thought.
Since our first t-shirt fundraiser, we have raised $100 through Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, $450 worth of necklaces bearing UNICEF’s logo, and $200 through bake sales—and that is just to name a few. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 presented, we have hosted frequent lectures discussing pertinent global issues, volunteered safely within the community, and made cards thanking healthcare workers.
As a new club taking flight, we expected to face some minor turbulence. Nevertheless, our determination in wanting to succeed allowed us to soar. UNICEF has done nothing but fuel my “I want to save the world” complex, and for that I am eternally grateful.
About Jenin Mannaa
Jenin Mannaa is a rising senior at Dunlap High School. Her stellar academic performance has granted her entrance to the National Honors Society at her school. Jenin has expressed her love for advocacy through her involvement on the Dunlap Speech Team as Junior and Senior Captain. Within speech, her primary goal has been expressing her identity as a Muslim American woman. Jenin attended IHSA State for Oratorical Declamation her junior year of high school. Within her speech team, she was also awarded Sophomore and Junior MVP. Jenin’s passion for the arts is evident through her involvement in Stage 323, where she was inducted in the International Thespian Society. She has also been involved in Concert Choir, Women’s Chorale, and Show Choir throughout her high school career. Moreover, her devotion to garnering support for ethnic minorities motivated Jenin to create Dunlap’s UNICEF Club, which educates students about the tribulations of underprivileged individuals in impoverished countries. Within UNICEF, she leads fundraisers, and within the first few months of the club she raised approximately $500. During her summers, Jenin has spent over 200 hours volunteering at the Unity-Point Methodist Hospital within the daycare or shadowing various doctors within Peoria.
About Sophie Liu
Sophie Liu is a senior at Dunlap High School who has won numerous art prizes such as the Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Key Award and several honorable mentions. As someone who also values academics, business, and volunteering, she has participated in and led many activities in her community. Her volunteering contribution has awarded her the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award. She is one of the club leaders of her school’s Interact Volunteering Club. During her summers, Liu has participated in several business camps such as Kelley Business’s Young Women’s Institute, where she has gained knowledge and experience in her passion. She also runs her own online art business where she creates commissioned art pieces and gains firsthand business experience. Liu plans to continue her love of business, volunteering, and art in college, where she will major in either Marketing or Business Analytics and minor in art.