|© UNICEF Ecuador/2005/Estevez|
|Volunteers dressed up in colourful costumes to help raise funds for Niño Esperanza.|
By Anna Vives
ECUADOR/NEW YORK, 9 September 2005 – For the third year in a row a telethon called ‘Niño Esperanza’ (Hope for Children) has taken place in the cities of Quito and Guayaquil, in partnership with UNICEF Ecuador and one of the country’s largest national TV stations. The telethon also made its North American debut in Queens, New York.
On 27 August 2005 seven thousand people attended a variety of events to show their support and concern for the children of Ecuador. People enjoyed performances by national and international artists, as well as a football game between former stars of the two most popular Ecuadorian teams.
Niño Esperanza was created in 2003 to help finance UNICEF’s projects in Ecuador. The main goal is to raise awareness of children’s issues, particularly children’s rights. The telethon lasted a full six hours and phone lines were open to receive donations for the cause the entire time. Donations can also be made by sending a text message from a mobile phone or depositing money in a bank account. Starting this year the bank account will be open for donations year around.
Labelled ‘a permanent campaign for children’s rights’, this year’s alliance between the TV station Ecuavisa and UNICEF raised $404,000 during the telethon from private companies and the general public. The highlight was the text message campaign; 84,000 text messages, donating $1 each, were sent from mobile phones this year, compared to the 20,000 received in 2004.
Despite Ecuador’s copious natural resources, sixty per cent of all children live in poverty. UNICEF’s main line of work in Ecuador includes advocating for more public investment in basic social services and for public policies advocating children’s rights.
The funds Niño Esperanza raised in previous years have been designated to different projects. One project concentrates on getting children out of garbage dumps – where some are forced to work – and get them into schools. Another project concentrates on educating the parents. They learn the basics of insuring their children a healthy start in their first five years of life. Community-based staff visit urban neighbourhoods and hand out information booklets to all parents.
Niño Esperanza has become an important influence in Ecuadorian society and has opened people’s minds to understanding and supporting the importance of social progress and development.
The enthusiasm generated by this telethon has made UNICEF’s presence in Ecuador stronger and more visible – and has generated increased support from the Ecuadorian people.