Wednesday, March 7, 2012

UNICEF TALES

Found this wonderful blog entry from a UNICEF Director working in Hong Kong in the 1980's and 1990's.

It was said that the Jade Emperor was originally the crown prince of the kingdom of Pure Felicity and Majestic Heavenly Lights and Ornaments. At birth, he emitted a wondrous light that filled the entire kingdom. When he was young, he was kind, intelligent and wise. He devoted his entire childhood to helping the needy (the poor and suffering, the deserted and single, the hungry and disabled). Furthermore, he showed respect and benevolence to both men and creatures. After his father died, he ascended the throne. He made sure that everyone in his kingdom found peace and contentment. And because of this he is honored today on the eighth day of Spring Festival.

Tradition today dictates that families host dinner on the eve of his birthday which also marks the end of the holiday season. This dinner signals the end of the holidays and the return to work. Also, traditionally, employers host a lunch for their workers on this day. And, as it was when I was a UNICEF Director in Hong Kong, I hosted a very special event for our team’s volunteers… a group of older women.

It is here the story begins….

My term with UNICEF was work that required me to be both be in the field and in the headquarters office. I traveled between the two locations. As a Director of this most visible nonprofit in Hong Kong in the 1980’s there were lots of perks. One was that I was able to make dreams come true for local people who had few treasures: I took great pleasure in helping those who helped UNICEF.

Building voluntary systems has become one of my areas of expertise. And, at the United Nations I was responsible for building systems that allowed anyone with any skill level to be a part of the building of programs for children and mothers in the Greater China Region.

It was necessary to allow people with limited or no English to participate. And, I found that the older women, ages 50-80, were the single best volunteers I had working with my professional team, even when they did not speak English except ‘HELLO and GOODBYE’. These women valued their time away from their tiny homes, and was ever so thankful to have a safe and comfortable place to gather, to gossip and laugh freely in. And, they were willing to come a few hours a day to do such chores as shelving greeting cards, packing boxes, cutting letters, drawing signs and a wide variety of other tasks. They never complained, they were happy with tea and biscuits, and they were dependable, efficient, and hospitable at all times.

After two years of hard work, my daily team of about 35 volunteers deserved something very special: And, I had a plan after listening to my staff tells me stories about these womens' tales in life. I found out that each and every one of my volunteers wished to meet KungFu Master and Hong Kong‘s most famous actor, Jackie Chan. So, I knew what I had to do. I had to bring them to Jackie… I would surprise them with a trip to the New Territories to his set on location after our traditional Chinese New Year’s Feast.

The day was absolutely a beautiful Chinese New Years 1990. Little humidity, no rain, and clear blue skies…. The ladies knew they were going to a great lunch. That was tradition always looked forward to. But, they knew nothing else. So when we boarded the bus back to the office and the bus detoured the women were confused. It is then that we told them we had a bigger surprise, especially planned for them. Someone was waiting to meet them.

If anyone had an inkling of who this person was, they did not risk saying for embarrassment. They did not want us to lose face, if they were wrong. So they excitedly chattered with my team the next 15 minute ride across the harbor tunnel.

When the bus stopped the women voices hit the highest tones… screams of excitement (Cantonese are normally noisy but the noise and squeels from the women were loader than a symphony on this particular day).

They saw him.

Standing.

Waiting.

Smiling in his martial arts outfit.

There to greet them by first name was Mr. CHAN. ==== UNICEF’s ambassador.

He acknowledged them each individually as they exited the bus, and again in a ceremony with gifts. He called their names and presented them with signed pictures of thanks —-their names individually inscribed. This presentation done before he had to go back to continue his shooting of the film……

And, they were so excited by his presence that they sat for two more hours watching scene after scene being filmed…..quietly without a murmur. Just in wonder and surprise.

On the way home there was not one woman who had not shed a tear of joy for that experience. For who in the world ever gets to meet Jackie Chan … the most famous actor of that time. Simple women, from housing (section 8 style housing) were the last in line.

But Jackie made each and every woman feel like a Queen for the Day!

For me, I have never forgotten the sound or the look of excitement on these wonderful volunteers faces. To see these women so excited for such a easy gift to give ( Unicef’s ambassadors go out of their way to make others feel valued), I am forever thankful for the little that we gave for all the time they had devoted over two years to UNICEF. So many children and mothers benefited by their giving time— JACKIE CHAN was the simplest of gifts.

And, I hold that day as one that was happy. But, what happened for me later was what told me how much this day meant.

When I was not expecting, one of the most timid of the volunteers came to me afterwards, with her hand clenched. Inside her hand she held out a tiny special piece of Jade she inherited from her mother. This lady in broken ENGLISH with one of my staff translating said…

For giving a simple woman a simple pleasure, the dream of her life… to meet Mr. Chan. Thank you for the best day of my life. I want you to have this special piece of Jade—like for an Empress, so you can always remember the old women, your volunteers. I thank you for all of us, but especially me. I will never forget you, your staff’s kindness or this day.

JADE and the Emperor a part of my working career, the most precious Chinese stone was given to honor
SOURCE: THEAIDWORKER.COM

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