Changing the world together: UNICEF Campus Initiative Summit October 8-9, 2011

Hey Kiwanis Family!

I'm here at the UNICEF campus summit with a group of about 250 UNICEF campus leaders! These are individuals just like us, only their club is UNICEF campus initiative! I had no idea until I got here that these clubs existed on our campuses every where (George Mason University, Texas A&M, University of Virginia, Columbia University, etc.)! Since a lot of our initiatives are so similar, I encourage all of you to get involved with these clubs! They have a ton of resources accessible to them and more hands means raising more money which means saving more lives! Not to mention, they are some pretty cool people :) just like us, always brainstorming ideas on events, fundraisers and activities they can do with their local communities!

Some amazing accomplishments they have had recently: Last year they raised $333,929.98 for UNICEF intitiatives! They also have an "Extranet": system for leaders and officers to get more resources, recruitment fliers and project handbooks. Their biggest initiative right now is changing the 21,000 preventable children deaths to 0. (ex. The Eliminate Project!)

A really neat activity they had us do this afternoon was an emergency simulation. They grouped us into 7 groups each with a different division (health, nutrition, communications, supply, etc.). Then they gave us a situation, immediately following a major earthquake. From there each of these departments had to provide a budget for the amount of food, water, etc., needed to bring the state back to normal all within a time limit because the plane was about to leave. I was in the supply department and wow, working with the other departments with a budget of only $2 million for about 200,000 people puts what UNICEF workers do into perspective. It's so hectic and crazy trying to figure out everything needed and working with other groups that are going nuts! I'm working on getting the activity packets so we can bring this to our conventions/clubs/fall rallies.

This morning, we had the incredible opportunity to hear the President/CEO of U.S Fund for UNICEF, Carol Stern. She talked about so many incredible experiences from when she travelled around the world. One in particular stuck out to me which I'd like to share with you.

After the earthquake, Carol visited Haiti where she met two girls. She asked them where they were during the earthquake and she replied that she was at the market getting food for her family and she came back to no home and no family. They started living in a tent village which is certainty not the cleanest of areas, yet these two girls somehow had perfectly white shirts! When Carol asked them how they do it they replied, " every day when come back, the first thing we do is clean our shirts with soap and water, dry it, fold it and keep it under our mattress so it can't get dirty or wrinkled. You see, we don't have control of everything, so we take advantage of the things we DO have control over."

This is the kind of impact we as Kiwanis Family members, just as they as UNICEF Campus Initiative members, bring to the rest of the world. we don't have control over natural causes, the governments families must live under, or the contraction of particular diseases. But what we DO have control over is providing clean drinking water, vaccines to prevent maternal and neonatal tetanus, providing an education to children around the globe, preventing the contraction of malaria through mosquito nets, and so much more. We may not have control over a lot of things in life, but as for the things we do have control over, we have the power to CHANGE THE WORLD!

It's not about which organization on campus raises the most money, it's not a competition. Can you think of a better way to save the lives of child everywhere than with each other? So go out, find those groups with our same ideals, and work together. Take advantage of the things few we have control over and together, change the world.

Continuing to love serving you,
-Avanti :)

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Reflection: A great deal to be grateful for

I am so grateful for what I have
Grateful for all that I am able to give.

I am grateful for all that I have seen
And now able to share.

I've been able to see what some have and what many don't have. While this makes me grateful for my family, friends, education, this makes me even more grateful that I am capable of giving that much more. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work first hand with these women and children whom I have dedicated so much of my life to serving.

I know I won't always be able to come visit children in Cambodia, and other areas of Asia that need our help, but I know there are other ways of helping them. What an amazing world we live in where everyone is capable of helping everyone else. We are able to see others in need and we are all capable of helping them. Have you ever really thought about it? I know I haven't until now. We should be so grateful for that alone.

I've also learned help isn't always in the form of money. It's handing someone a Popsicle and watching their world light up as they respond "or-Kun!" it's playing with a girl whom you know can't understand anything you are saying but is so happy to make a new friend, that she follows you around for the rest of the afternoon. It's visiting a sick child in the hospital and playing blocks with her for 20 minutes and, even though we don't speak the same language , the only communication exchange we need is laughter. Its letting a young girl know she has someone to lean on, someone to hold their hand, if they are going through pain, because lending a helping hand has no language barrier. Its taking an extra minute out of your day to say hi to the mothers and thanking them for their welcoming arms, even though they know they have little to offer. And it's letting these mothers know what we have is not in the form of "things" but in fact the form of love, because I'm not sure I've ever seen so much love in one place before.

It's giving a child and mother a chance to be together forever. Yes, we CAN do that. Isn't that amazing? I for one am grateful for that opportunity.

To children that have so little, the littlest things to us are the world to them. And I feel so blessed to have been able to have seen this first hand.

A compilation of some of the sweet faces I've met through out this week. I am grateful to have met each and every one of them.

I am grateful to my family and friends for supporting men and sending their love while I've been away. It's been an amazing journey here but it's so great to know you are thinking of me on the other side of the world.

I am grateful to my other family, the Kiwanis family, for sending me to Cambodia. I know there were over 300,000 members you all could have chosen from and I am so grateful you saw something in me to give me this opportunity.

Most of all, I an grateful to Cambodia for opening your arms wide for me to experience your beauty, pain and suffering. That must be a difficult thing but you won't regret it. I will work my hardest to roll up my sleeves and motivate everyone to get involved in helping you any way I can. I hope one day we eliminate your pain and suffering and only your exquisite beauty remains.

I know I have become one with Cambodia because as I am reflecting on my week, gathering my things to leave to the airport, I am moved to tears. And just as I am, for the first time since we've been here, it starts to rain heavily. I'm going to miss you too, Cambodia :)

Thank you for everything, Cambodia. I hope to see you again very soon.

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I scream! You scream! Let's all serve some ice cream!

Hey everyone!

I hope you all are having a great week so far! I for one am sad it's already thursday and I only have one more day left in Cambodia! Yesterday was probably the best day so far! As I mentioned before, the remaining 15% of mnt in Cambodia is due to 4 distinct populations. We visited two of them yesterday. One village was very, very poor and in a very remote location. The other is flooded for half of the year during the rainy season.

first stop: village clinic

Before going to the villages itself, we stopped by one of the clinics hosted by two of the trained villagers (trained by UNICEF, of course. I saw the training manual also. It's huge and covers everything!). The dynamic here was a little different from the village we visited yesterday. Here, there was more yelling and it was more personal. For example, there was one woman that walked by that hadn't had her vaccinations yet and the village was yelling to call her over so she could get vaccinated. Thats how much these villagers are educated. Amazing!

President Alan showing his soft, fatherly side :) aww! The baby looks so tiny when he holes her haha!

She was sooo adorable :)

Randy was trying to teach the little boys and girls his Texan ways and how to lasso! He asked them if they'd ever been fishing and they started laughing! One kid had a batman shirt on and randy and the little boy started doing the batman dance! Adorable!

next stop: the inspiring village with a thousand kids!

after we went to the clinic, we went to a village that had sooo many children! Cambodia has the largest proportion of children out of all of the Asian countries so it's important to give it a lot of attention! This village was definitely a contribution to that large proportion. There were soooo many kids!! I had a ton of fun playing with them :)

The trained villagers had already vaccinated about 70 some people before we arrived but there were still some left waiting to meet us! This was probably one or the poorest villages we have visited so far.

As we were visiting and talking with them, the ice cream man came around! Randy saw it and wanted all of the kids to have ice cream :) so we handed out these little Popsicles to everyone. It made them soooo happy! Once about 40 kids had ice cream, the ice cream man said it was $1! Then we got ice cream for all of the mothers and the rest of the village people also.

I was so inspired by how happy just one Popsicle made them. I think it goes past the actual ice cream though. When we handed it to them, there was something else in their eyes. They'd probably had ice cream a thousand times before, but I think they were so grateful that someone cared about them so much. They are definitely not used to that.

Altogether, Randy spent $2 on ice cream. That $2 went a very long way. Definitely the best $2 I've ever seen spent.

The others went to see the village watering hole, but I stayed back and played with the kiddies and talked to the villagers a little more (with a translator of course!) the little girl above was so smiley! She followed me every where wanting to play more!

The girl below on the left was also a ton of fun! We played hand games :)

This little girl was adorable also! But very quiet. The bellies on the little ones is a sign of malnutrition or worms.

Me and all of my new friends!

As I walked towards the car, I noticed a group of villagers standing by the fence watching us leave. I didn't want to go without a proper goodbye. At first one of the elderly women started talking to me, touching my arm and comparing our skin colors (I thought she was asking if I'm Indian!). The translator said "she says you are very beautiful and you have great smooth skin. We don't have smooth skin here like you do!" (she also asked the translator if i was indian! The cambodian camera man keeps telling me the villagers are amused by me because they're not use to seeing indians!) sooo sweet! I told her thank you (Or-Kun) and told her staying in this village makes me want to live here forever! I told her I could stay here and play with the kids and teach them all English.

The lady responded "you should stay here forever! But we live in a poor village." I told her as confidently as I could "that doesn't matter to me."

Then all the little kids went around and told me their names, all with a HUGE smile! And for the first time, I didn't want to leave the village. I didn't want to turn my back on these adorable kids and their moms. And I know I won't. For the rest of my life I will dedicate myself to the eliminate project and never forget these are the village people I am helping.

This village motivated me to never stop working hard to eliminate mnt. Because there is no need for women and children like these to die unnecessarily. Never growing up for that one Popsicle, to meet someone from a foreign country. To grow up with so many friends! There is no reason why, just because you come from a poor village, that you should be deprived a vaccine for a preventable disease. Especially when there is UNICEF and the Kiwanis family.


After we visited this village, we took a very long, rocky trip to another village. It was extremely difficult for us to get there since the were barely roads to get us there. We had to drive through the grass in the middle of these fields to get there. As you can imagine, these villages are extremely hard to access and who knows how many more of them there are! It requires a lot of resources for UNICEF to get in there and help them out.

This particular village is mostly under water during the rainy season (about half the year). This makes it even more difficult to access.

With the system of having clinics periodically, you can probably imagine many villagers getting left behind or not showing up. That's why there is periodic "mopping" where we go from door to door and make sure everyone received their vaccines.

Both of these locations are very hard to reach. They contribute to the final four populations that need special attention in Cambodia. The methods are there, the people are there, the mothers and children that need our help are there. The only thing remaining are the resources and funding. As a Kiwanis family, we have to come together with the eliminate project and help all of these amazing kids and moms.

All it takes is $1 (40 Popsicles) to make a kid and her mom smile...forever.

I hope you all are as inspired as I am. I for one cannot wait to get back to the states, roll up my sleeves and get working! How many of you are with me?! :)

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Do you want to hold my hand?

Yesterday was one of the most amazing days of my life. I've been part of the Kiwanis family for a very long time and I feel blessed to have been able to see the direct effects of what we do.

First we went to one of the clinics where women are vaccinated and give birth.

This baby is almost a month old and came in for her routine vaccinations. The mother had to walk a kilometer to get to the clinic. They dont use diapers in Cambodia so when the child was vaccinated, she went on her mom.

No one is ever turned away from this clinic. If you cannot afford treatment, you are issued a poor card from the government and the clinic does not charge you.

An adorable baby! She's about 4 months old and came in for a routine check up.

So tiny :)

After the clinic, we went somewhere i will remember for the rest of my life.

Within villages like these, UNICEF staff sets up clinics for women and children to come in and get vaccines and education about proper birthing techniques and other things.

UNICEF trains at least two individuals from each village. In this one, the lady in the white shirt and the one in the back in the blue shirt.

Most of the women receive the mnt vaccine while most of the children receive the measles vaccine. UNICEF uses these clinics as an avenue for mnt prevention to make it's way to the villages.

A baby getting one of her first vaccines.

A woman getting an mnt vaccine.

The long line of women and children waiting to be vaccinated. It's so clear that the education UNICEF does is so effective because all of these women want to get the vaccination and more education.

Villagers still coming in

It's always great (but uncommon) for the husband to be involved

I will never forget this. We always talk about how the money we raise goes towards education. Here is the result. One of the trained villagers educating about birthing practices.

Probably one of the most amazing moments I had was when I knelt in front of the line of 15 year old girls who were waiting for their vaccine. One of the girls looked petrified so I asked her, "would you like to hold my hand?" and even though there was a language barrier, she still understood what I was saying and reached for my hand and squeezed it really tight while she got her vaccine. Then the next girl behind her in line asked to hold my hand when it was her turn. These inspirational moments make me love to serve and continue to want to serve for ever!

the village chief was so grateful for our visit, he invited us to look at the local bridge and bagota (temple).

Afterwards, we met back with the two trained midwives from the village and talked to them a little more on what they do. The day before a clinic day, they go door to door letting everyone in the village know about when and where they can get vaccinated. Along with holding these clinics, they also go to women who are pregnant and educate them on safe birthing practices.

After talking to them more, we followed them as they visited a couple families.

One of the midwives training a new couple about to have a baby. This girl is 18 years old and 8 months pregnant. She was pregnant before but she had a miscarriage because she was still working in the fields. Since she had complications before, she was encouraged by these midwives to come stay in the village so they could look after her. Here, she is quizzing her on proper birthing practices.

This was definitely amazing day. I learned so much but most of all, I learned how much these women and children need our help. As you can imagine, these villages are hard to reach and require a lot of resources. That's why the eliminate project is so great and as a Kiwanis family we are totally going to eliminate mnt and help out thousands of women and children :)

I hope you all are just as inspired as I am! If you have any questions about my experience, the clinics, or anything else, please don't hesitate to ask!

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Greetings from Kampong Thom!

Today was a very busy, full day! We first had one last amazing breakfast at the gorgeous hotel in Phnom Penh. Then we headed over to the UNICEF office here to meet with UNICEF deputy representative for a briefing and Q&A on maternal neonatal tetanus elimination and maternal newborn and child health in Cambodia.

I want this clock!

There are so many important things I learned that I want to share with you all. Here are the top 5 things:
1) Eliminate is not a UNICEF initiative. This is an international program in conduction with all governments that we are assisting with. The majority of the countries effected by MNT have reported to the world health organization what their goal is to have eliminating mnt from their country: 12 countries and 15 state in India have already been eliminated (one state to include Andra Pradesh, which is where I'm from!) leaving 46 countries yet to eliminate mnt. Cambodia's goal in particular is 2011.
2) Cambodia differs from the rest of the world because they are so close to eliminating mnt. However, it's this last 20% that is the most difficult. This is because the percentage of women who haven't been vaccinated from the areas which are the hardest to reach: the poor areas, remote areas, areas with ethnic minorities and the mobile population.
3) we have the biggest obligation to Cambodia right now because it has the largest population of young people in all of Asia. We started at a negative place here because after the civil war and unrest, many of the doctors moved out and left forever. The time to act here is right now because we need to take advantage of the momentum built. But there is a shortage of human resources and funding to put the plan into play.
4) the game plan: bring immunizations to factories where women work. Train more midwives in effective delivery methods to prevent the umbilical cord from becoming infected. Identify how to reach these final 4 areas and find out what works and what doesn't work.

5) WE ARE THE GAME-CHANGERS! together the Kiwanis Family WILL raise $110 million to ELIMINATE MNT from the face of the earth! Today UNICEF told us without our support fro the IDD project (the last Kiwanis family project) the percentage of household consumption of iodized salt couldn't have risen from 7% to 83% from 1996-2010. Let's do it again with ELIMINATE!

After our meeting, we went to a gorgeous restaurant called Rega. The food was amazing! I had the freshest seafood ever. One of the UNICEF staff members told me, "you are guaranteed to gain at least 1 kilo while you here. The food is too good!" it's so true!

After dinner, we took a 4 hour car ride to Kampong Thom. The ride took us through so many villages. We saw water buffalos, markets, kids running everywhere, gorgeous areas!

I tried to take a picture of this but it didn't really work out! These two guys were on a motorcycle and the guy on the back had a LIVE PIG laid across his lap! He was still oinking and squealing! Poor thing :(

We took a pit stop at a market where we found some peculiar foods!


More bugs!

The eliminate bear hanging out! We're still looking for a name!

We reached our hotel here and it's so beautiful here. We each have our own bungalow and the area surrounding it is is so green and full of life! There are tons of geckos everywhere. But that's a good thing since they eat Mosquitos!

Notice the bed net at the Top of the canopy to keep away the mosquitos! The majority of the mosquitos with malaria come out at night!

Awesome duck!!

Once we got here, we had some amazing dinner and fresh, exotic fruits for dessert!

Tomorrow will be the start of 3 exciting days of visiting clinics and home visits! Tomorrow we'll be going to the Barai district and visit the health centre in Tain Krasang Commune to see routine activities related to the implementation of integrated post-partum care. Then we'll be visiting the vaccination outreach service activities for women and children. As well as other visits you'll have to see tomorrow!

Time to get a good nights sleep so ill be ready to to at 6:30am tomorrow morning! Eeek! Hopefully the gecko squeaks won't keep me too awake! Goodnight everyone!


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Day 1: A Tour of Phnom Pehnh!

Hey everyone!

Since this is our first day and we had late flights, today was an adjustment day! Gives everyone an opportunity to settle in and get into the proper sleep schedule. I for one, didn't sleep at all last night :( instead, I watched the VCU vs. Butler game! Even though VCU didn't win, I am so proud of our basketball team and so proud to be a ram! Coincidentally, Pam Norman the ELIMINATE director for the Kiwanis Staff, went to Butler!

Me and Pam on our breakfast date watching the vcu vs. Butler game:

Then i explored the hotel a little bit since I didn't get to see it in the daylight last night when I got in! It is so beautiful here! This is the river our hotel oversees, the Makong River!

After breakfast, we all went on a tour or Phnom Penh! Here is everyone together before we left:

Top left is Randy DeLay, the Eliminate Project chairman. To his right is Pam Norman, the director of the eliminate project for Kiwanis international. Then to my right is Dr. Vivian Tsai, Lieutenant governor elect of Taiwan District of Kiwanis. And to her right is none other than Kiwanis international President designate, Alan Penn!

The bottom left is Kate Weber, the director of the Eliminate project at the U.S Fund for UNICEF. To her right is Cynthia McCaffey, the Senior Vice President of Program and Strategic Partnerships for UNICEF. And last but not least is Christina Hale, Chief Communication Officer for Kiwanis International.

The first place we got to see was the Palace of Cambodia! Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy and 90% Buddhism and 10% Hinduism. So many kings have invested millions of dollars into building temples for their gods. What is remarkable about them, however, is that these temples combine Buddhism and Hinduism into one so all Cambodian people can go to all temples! Here are some of the temples which are part of the palace. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but here is what they look like on the outside:

Inside these temples are ancient artifacts dating back to the late 1800s, Buddhas made of hundreds of thousands of kilos of gold, diamonds and silver. In fact, one of the temples has floor tiles made entirely of silver, all of which originates from Cambodia. Also are swords given to the king from different Asian countries of malaysia, Taiwan, Japan (samurai swords!), and more. Here are some more pictures of the palace grounds:

Hanuman, a Hindu god, statue. There were also lots of (real) monkeys in the area!

The flowers around this Buddah are used for when women are pregnant. They believe it will protect them through pregnancy.

Gorgeous lotus flowers!

These walls are painted almost a mile long to tell the Hindu story of Ramayana, Hindu mythology I grew up learning about! This was painted in 1904 by both Hindu and Buddhist painters.

After the tour of the palace, we headed over to the market! They had some awesome shopping in what is essentially a huge alleyway. As you can probably imagine, it was a lot of bargaining! In the end, I ended up getting some adorable things for my family and friends and can't wait to give them to all of you!

From the market, we went to another side of the Makong river (the same river our hotel overlooks!) and explored a little!

ATTENTION EVERYONE: this is the Kiwanis bear for eliminate! He/she has no name and we are looking for one! Any ideas?? Just comment and let us know!

Afterwards, we grabbed lunch and the headed back because it was getting way too hot. We took a tut-tut back!

Now I'm waiting for a 4pm Media Meeting where we'll be debriefed on social media (like what I'm doing now!), working with camera men and amongst other things. Then we'll head to dinner and I will be going to sleep. If I was back in Virginia, I would be asleep right now. This is totally the middle of the night for me so you can probably imagine how tired I am! Tomorrow we start at 7am bright and early, meeting all of the UNICEF dignitaries and learning everything we need to know about Eliminate and maternal and neonatal tetanus. I will be sure to update you all when I return!

Talk to you all soon! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to comment!

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Greetings from Cambodia!

Hey everyone!

We just landed in Cambodia!

There are tons of other people with me including the Kiwanis International President Designate, Allen Penn! When we get a group photo tomorrow I will introduce you to everyone! We were picked up at the airport by UNICEF staff from the Cambodian office.

(I tried getting a picture so you all could see the awesome Unicef logo on the front! I want one of these cars!!)

The hotel is amazing! We are staying in Phnom Penh at an outdoor hotel with a pool and the hotel rooms are like apartments with a kitchen, huge bathroom, dining table and everything! It's definitely not what I was expecting for Cambodia! But I'm sure it's going to be a 360 from the clinics and villages we'll be visiting through out the week.

I'm feeling a little home sick (more like school sick, you could say!) because my VCU RAMS are in the FINAL FOUR! Coincidentally, Pam Norman, the Kiwanis Staff director for ELIMINATE, went to Butler and thats who we will be playing tomorrow! We have a breakfast date to watch the game together! I will most definitely be waking up early to watch it, 6am Cambodian time!

Talk to you all tomorrow after our tour of Phnom Pehn!


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At the airport!

Hey everyone!

Well, I'm sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to board! Kiwanis flew me business class and I've never been before. It's pretty awesome! There's a lounge you go to instead of waiting at the gate! I'm actually petty nervous about going to Cambodia. The only international flight I've ever been on is to India, but that doesn't really count since I'm Indian and I was going to visit family :) I hope there's wifi on the flight! I heard the plane from NY to Seoul has wifi and power outlets so hopefully Dulles is the same!

When I land 24 hours from now, UNICEF will be picking us up and taking us to the hotel. Then we have a media meeting with the Cambodian UNICEF office. We have to dress conservatively in accordance with their customs.

Ooh! My plane is boarding! Talk to you all when I land :)

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Excited for Cambodia!

Hey everyone!

From April 1-April 10th I will be in Cambodia as a UNICEF youth ambassador for the Kiwanis family's newest project ELIMINATE, wiping maternal and neonatal tetnus from across the world! Every step of my journey, I will be posting in my blog to spread the word about about what it's like in Cambodia and what we can all do to eradicate maternal neonatal tetnus. I hope this will encourage everyone to get involved so together we can ELIMINIATE this life threatening disease.

If you have questions about anything, please don't hesitate to ask! I'll be updating my blog every day so check back often!

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