Appco senior client relationship manager visits Philippines with Unicef

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Appco senior client relationship manager Fiona Nutley recently returned from a visit with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) to the Philippines, where she got a first-hand look at how the charity has been supporting the region since it was hit by a devastating typhoon in 2013.

I’m walking between communities in Barangay Mercaduhay. The village has had toilets installed with Unicef’s support since Typhoon Haiyan. © Schermbrucker

Having worked with Unicef for more than a year, it was amazing to see them in action as I followed volunteer health workers on motorbikes to rural health clinics, visited child protection centres, and travelled to a school that has been completely rebuilt since the disaster.

Appco’s primary focus in the UK is raising awareness and support for the charity’s many programmes including vaccinations for children. In the Philippines, we observed a vaccination project in Tacloban, which is helping volunteers to access remote places to immunise children.

We got a taste of just how hard some of those places are to reach when we followed one volunteer health worker on the back of a motorbike to a rural health centre. The clinic was very much focused around ante-natal and pre-natal care, so was filled with mothers and babies ready to be immunised

After the vaccinations were completed, one of the mothers took us to see the temporary shelter she and her family have been living in for the last two years, and will be in for the foreseeable future.

Her little boy had been suffering from pneumonia and it was heart wrenching to hear her describe how sick he was. It brought home the difficulties people are facing in accessing things we can take for granted, like basic healthcare.

Unicef and Appco: a valuable partnership

In a classroom at Maghulod Elementary School. The school was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 but was rebuilt with Unicef funds. © Schermbrucker

The trip was also a reminder of how vital the work is that Appco helps Unicef to do. The national vaccination target for the Philippines is 95% of children and in 2015 it achieved 100 percent in Tacloban with Unicef’s help. The Unicef brand ambassadors contracted to marketing companies within Appco’s network have also helped to make that achievement possible.

Over the next few days, our visits focused on Unicef’s programmes for nutrition, water, sanitation and education, including going to a school that was destroyed by the typhoon.

It was great to meet the people being directly helped by the fundraising efforts of the brand ambassadors in our UK network. This, I learned, includes families who had only just had working toilets installed into their homes after being forced to share for so long.

Understanding our impact

The most emotional part of the trip for me was visiting a care home for street-children. We spoke to the boys first hand and learned how Unicef has helped their home and provided educational support.

A few of the boys were coming to the age where they may have to leave the home and it wasn’t clear where they would go next. The social workers are looking for solutions with Unicef’s support, but it was a reminder of the challenging situations that many children face.

Charlie from Unicef and me standing in the Region 8 cold room. The cold room can hold up to 30 litres of vaccines and is critical part of a cold chain that vaccinates over 100,000 children. © Schermbrucker

In some ways, the experience was bittersweet. It was great to learn more about how wide an impact Unicef’s work is having, but then seeing how much more there is to do to help these people was both eye-opening and motivating.

Appco and its fundraising network help Unicef raise funds through on-going donations to support all of its programmes so it was incredible to see the level of work going on in so many areas.

Being on the ground, I got a real understanding of just how much the charity’s support means to these people.

The feedback from Unicef while I was there was very positive, and it’s clear why the vaccination campaign is such an important one for Appco to support.

The charity’s Senior Direct Marketing Officer in the UK, Charlie Lewis, was one of the people with us in the Philippines and he actually recorded a message for all the fundraisers to specifically thank them for their work.

Hearing the appreciation from the local people, and seeing the successes the charity has achieved has been a strong motivator coming back to the UK.

Appco has already been part of great changes in the Philippines, and there are plenty more opportunities for us to make a difference with Unicef.