Nigel Fisher and his boots have walked through some of the most remote and dangerous places in the world, but now, visitors to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto may catch a glimpse of them, where the long-time UNICEF humanitarian has been inducted.
Although the official honor was announced on Nov. 1, UNICEF is continuing to raise more awareness on a national level. The new campaign, called "No Child Too Far," is supposed to be exactly as it sounds, highlighting the organization's dedication to reach children in need, no matter where they are.
The addition of Fisher's boots to the museum's collection was celebrated along with UNICEF's CEO David Morely, UNICEF Canada and Sonja Bata, Founding Chairman of the Bata Shoe Museum.
As part of the UN, UNICEF is active in over 192 countries.
Traveling more than 100, 000 km through the developing nations, Fisher has seen and experienced a lot in his career as a humanitarian. He is also the current Deputy Special Representative of the UN-Secretary General in Haiti. Previously, he served as UNICEF Canada's President and CEO.
In timing with the campaign, a conference was held at the museum this week, where more items and their attached stories were shared.
UNICEF's Bayan Yammout and Tommi Laulajainen took the podium to share their own experiences and work.
Now a teacher in Toronto, Yammout was born and grew up during the civil war in Beirut. Next to her, in a glass case, was a very special symbol of those years: A blanket.
"It was the first thing I took with me when my family left for the shelter, and the last thing I brought out," she said, while staring at it.
Originally a gift for her younger brother, Yammout kidded that she naturally wanted to hang onto the blanket for herself, which she did.
Explaining what it was like to grow up as a child living in conflict, she recalled how lucky and fortunate she felt that UNICEF was able to find her.
"This blanket saw many terrifying and good moments," said Yammout.. "I ate, slept and played on this blanket, but many more like it were used to put out fires, or cover the injured and dead.The only time I felt I didn't need it was when I was at a summer UNICEF camp. I was allowed to play outside. We sang songs, we shared stories, etc. It made sense to leave the blanket behind because I felt safe. I find it surprising sometime, how UNICEF found me, because I am living proof no child is too far.."
A backpack belonging to former ambassador and chief communication officer in Nigeria, Tommi Laulajainen, was also encased on stage. During his time there, Laulajainen worked in Nigeria to help with UNICEF's polo vaccine initiative. He recalled being met with moments of resistance to the vaccination program, and also, reward.
Tommi Laulajainen, former chief of communication for polio vaccine in Nigeria, UNICEF.
" A lot of myths and rumours spread about the polio vaccination, such as it being a western scam and it is not really needed. My job was to help break down those walls."
Today, Laulajainen is no longer with UNICEF, but while standing next to his backpack, he remembered a time he nearly lost his life overseas. A bomb had been planted in an office he was working in and he'd left to attend another meeting just 10 minutes prior to the explosion.
According to numbers from the organization, the highest rates of child mortality are in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in nine children dies before the age of five. UNICEF is also the world's largest provider of vaccines in developing countries.
Polio is a highly infectious disease that attacks the nervous system, and young children are most susceptible, even though anyone can contract it. As printed in a UNICEF report, there are about 20 countries where polio remains active, often in the most disadvantaged and remote world populations.
However, only three countries remain in an endemic: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. India was taken off this list, this year.
CEO David Morley was also in attendance, and made a few comments on the latest campaign.
"When Canadians hear the word, 'UNICEF,' the first thing that usually springs to mind is a fond childhood memory of the orange boxes distributed at Halloween or our holiday greeting cards. UNICEF was probably your first charitable experience and that's a legacy we're quite proud of," said Morely.
UNICEF Canda's Chief Operating Officer, David Morley.
"At the same time, we're mindful that while UNICEF Canada has evolved, the public's understanding of us may not have. So, we've decided now is the time to talk with Canadians about the UNICEF of today. There is one key phrase that distills down what we do and why we do it: No child is too far," Morely added. "This speaks to the lengths we will go to reach children who need us , the risks we will take to get to them, and the breadth of our commitment to saving lives."
As Morely pointed out, the organization has gone lengths to bring down childhood mortality, but there are still 19, 000 who die each day, while solutions exist to save them.
"We all agree on one big thing: We cannot stop now. We must use all of our willpower to make sure that not a single child is forgotten. Because no child is too far."