Picture of Gerard Arpey
Change for Good

Thanksgiving is upon us, and as we reflect on our many blessings, it’s only natural that we also remember those to whom fortune has been less kind. Moreover, there’s no better time to remind ourselves that we have the ability, and the duty, to reach out and help our neighbors in need, whether they live across town or across the world. One of the most maddening and heartbreaking problems we face in the world is the fact that each year, millions of children in developing countries die from diarrhea or from preventable diseases like malaria and measles. Without a concerted global effort to help, millions more children will die.

We can all play a role in that effort. For starters, we can support the United Nations Children’s Fund, which provides medicine, immunizations, clean water, and other lifesaving assistance to children in more than 150 countries around the world. UNICEF is entirely funded by voluntary contributions (i.e., its money does not come from the United Nations), and 96 percent of the funds it receives goes directly to helping children. The contributions have earned the organization global recognition and trust. UNICEF is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and it earned a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluator of charities.

UNICEF is the official charity of the ­oneworld alliance, and, together, the ­oneworld member airlines have raised more than $60 million for the world’s children since 1999. Much of that money has been raised through the Change for Good program, one of UNICEF’s best-known and longest­-running campaigns. Those of you who travel internationally may already be familiar with the program, whereby any unused currency you care to donate is collected­ by our flight attendants and then passed on to UNICEF.

If you doubt that a handful of coins or a few loose bills could have an important impact, consider the following: Just six cents is enough to provide a sachet of oral rehydration salts to help a child fight dehydration, a deadly, easily preventable, and all-too-­common ailment in developing countries. Two dollars can immunize 20 children against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough. Six dollars is enough to buy a long-lasting insecticidal mosquito net to protect a family from malaria, a disease that, in Africa, kills one child every 30 seconds. Twelve dollars can buy 20 packets of high-energy biscuits, specially developed for malnourished children in emergency situations.

In my view, Change for Good works because it is a simple, logical, straightforward response to a crisis that resonates with every one of us. It also works because our customers are incredibly generous, and our flight attendants — who are the driving force behind the program — are passionate and committed to its success. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that life’s most urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” Put another way, sympathy is nice, but taking action is even better. On this Thanksgiving, I want to give special thanks to UNICEF, our flight attendants, and, of course, all of our customers for taking action on behalf of our most vulnerable neighbors. By the way, you certainly don’t have to be an international traveler to get involved. If you would like to contribute to or learn more about UNICEF, please visit www.unicefusa.org/aa.

Thank you for flying with us today, and happy Thanksgiving!

Signature of Gerard Arpey

Gerard J. Arpey
American Airlines