Thirteen-year-old Carter wasn’t thinking about material gifts as he approached his milestone birthday last fall — his second ‘pandemic birthday.’
Global vaccine equity was the only thing on his wish list. In lieu of gifts, he chose to fundraise for the Love My Neighbour initiative, in support of UNICEF Canada.
“I want to help other people around the world have access to COVID-19 vaccines. I understand the feeling of not being able to feel safe not having a vaccine,” says Carter, who recognized the responsibility of paying it forward after receiving his own first dose.
Love My Neighbour is a national movement for global vaccine equity, founded in 2021. Participants have raised funds and awareness for UNICEF’s work to get COVID-19 vaccines to our global neighbours in low-income countries.
The collaboration includes 35 organizations with 12 different faith affiliations between them, and is a true reflection of the diversity of Canadian communities.
By December 31, their fundraising total was $645,000 — enough to reach 25,800 people in high-risk groups with two-dose vaccines, including frontline health workers.
The initiative’s founder, Sara Hildebrand, says that children and youth have been some of their most ambitious fundraisers. A kindergarten class at Leo Baeck Day School proudly took on the challenge, raising $1,200.
The Riverdale High School Muslim Students Association hosted a bake sale in the park. From a rabbi’s lake swim to a minister’s buzz cut, rummage sales and birthday donations like Carter’s, the beauty of Love My Neighbour is in its grassroots engagement.
Organizers also advocated to the Government of Canada to donate doses to countries still waiting. In November, UNICEF Canada cheered Love My Neighbour’s recognition as the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Outstanding Philanthropic Group.
In her virtual acceptance speech, Hildebrand assured attendees that their work is far from over. “We know we live with extraordinary privilege here in Canada, and that calls us to extraordinary responsibility.
The task ahead for UNICEF remains huge, and we want to strengthen UNICEF’s arms again in 2022.”
(Source: UNICEF Canada 2020 Impact Report)