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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

How Halloween Helps Save the World (or at Least Some Refugee Children)

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World War II left approximately 75 million people dead and up to 20 million displaced. Many of these displaced persons, or DPs, could not return to their countries. Hundreds of thousands were resettled to new homes in Western Europe and the United States. Two years after the war, there were still 850,000+ people living in DP camps. And as late as 1953--eight years after the War--more than 250,000 people continued to live as refugees. Of course, many DPs during the post-War period were children.



Through Trick-or-Treat UNICEF, the undead can help the living.


The civilian response to the DP crisis was led by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, which helped resettle hundreds of thousands of refugees. Private individuals were moved by the humanitarian tragedy as well.


In the Autumn of 1949, Mary Emma Allison was in downtown Philadelphia when she bumped into a children's Halloween parade. She followed the parade into Wanamaker's Department Store where she met a cow (yes, a cow). She then followed the kids and the cow to a booth for UNICEF, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. It turns out, the parade was promoting a campaign to send powdered milk to needy children overseas (hence, the cow).


After her chance encounter, Ms. Allison and her husband, Clyde Allison, a Presbyterian Minister, organized Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. The idea was that if kids were already going around the neighborhood collecting candy, they might as well do some good while they're at it.


The venture started modestly enough during Halloween in 1950, when the Allison's three children collected money from their community. That first year, they raised $17.00 in nickels and dimes, which they donated to UNICEF (although the acronym has remained the same, UNICEF is now the United Nations Children's Fund). The money went to help children displaced by World War II. In those days, a dime was all it took to buy 50 glasses of milk for needy children in Europe.


The effort grew from there. In 1960, President Kennedy noted "UNICEF has captured the imagination of our people, especially our nation's children... ” Seven years later, President Johnson signed a proclamation that designated Halloween as National UNICEF Day. By the time Ms. Allison died, a few days before Halloween in 2010, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF had raised more than $160 million. The program has continued since then, and by last Halloween, it had raised over $175 million. The money buys food, clean water, milk, medicine, and much else for children in more than 150 countries. These days, a $5-donation to UNICEF buys five days of food for a malnourished child; $100, measles protection for 100 kids; $400, a pump to give an entire village water.


Many of the children helped by UNICEF are refugees, and they have special needs. In Syria, for example, UNICEF is trying to prevent millions of children displaced by the war from becoming a lost generation. The agency has been on the ground since the conflict began, working with other organizations to provide education, physical protection, psychological support, and clothing to Syrian refugee children in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and other countries. UNICEF also helps immunize children against disease and provides millions of people with access to safe drinking water.


Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is a great way for kids to help kids. After 65 years, the reasons for the program remain constant: To make Halloween meaningful as well as fun, to protect the lives of the world's youngest and most vulnerable, and to inspire kids to discover their own ability to help other children like themselves. If you'd like to learn more, please visit the UNICEF website, here.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.

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