“Sustainability” has become synonymous with the environment and how we decelerate climate change. As a leading travel management company (TMC) in a unique position to effect positive change in the industry, this is a top priority, and something in which we are fully invested as we hit our target of offsetting 100% of our carbon emissions from our employee business travel and work to unite clients and partners in this decarbonization journey. But our sustainability endeavors go beyond what we can do to protect the planet. When we solidified our environmental, social, and governance goals in 2019, we also zeroed in on the social aspect of sustainability and how we could support initiatives that buoy humankind and generate global prosperity.
We believe education, a basic human right, is the best investment in the prosperity of future generations – helping children in struggling areas gain the knowledge and skills necessary to lift up and rebuild their communities. To help realize our vision, last August we launched a multi-year partnership with UNICEF USA, pledging $500,000 in financial support to help the organization create and restore learning opportunities for children whose schooling has been upended during times of disruption. Little did we know then how vital this component of UNICEF’s humanitarian work would become months later with COVID-19 shutting down schools globally and impacting around 1.6 billion students worldwide.
These school closures are a devastating blow to children living in places affected by prolonged conflict or complex humanitarian emergencies and who are struggling just to survive. School is a lifeline for these at-risk children. Not only is it a safe place where they can learn and spend time with friends, but it is a sanctuary shielding them from the stress and turmoil of their harsh realities.
Helping kids to maintain school ties
UNICEF has been on the front lines of COVID-19 to ensure all children have access to education while schools in most countries are temporarily closed. With operations in more than 190 countries and territories, the organization has been working with local governments and agencies across the world to implement distance-learning solutions for students in hard-hit areas.
As we’ve learned from our collaboration with UNICEF, the organization develops clever solutions for delivering education to children during times of disruption, including its portable School-in-a-Box kits that can transform any space into a learning environment to help get children back into a classroom setting rapidly after a period of disruption. Throughout 2019 we partnered with UNICEF on fundraising activities around the global, raising over $200,000 in the first year of our partnership – enough to provide over 40,000 children the resources and supplies they need to continue their educations in times of crisis.
Similarly, UNICEF has devised equally inventive strategies to provide children with remote learning opportunities over recent months. For instance, when more than 3 million students were pulled out of school to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, UNICEF worked with the country to use one of its most accessible mediums – the radio – to keep children learning. UNICEF identified 144 radio scripts from around the world, focusing on basic literacy and numeracy that could be adapted to align with Rwanda’s school curriculum. It then worked with partners, including the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency, to produce and air classes around the country.
Meanwhile, Timor-Leste (aka East Timor), Ukraine, and Kosovo were among the first regions since the spread of COVID-19 to roll out an online curriculum through the Learning Passport, a digital platform launched by UNICEF and Microsoft to help children and teens continue their education at home during times of disruption. The Learning Passport was set to start as a pilot program this year but underwent rapid expansion so that now all countries with a curriculum capable of being taught online are able to facilitate online learning for students at home, including those with disabilities.
And within days of schools closing in North Macedonia, UNICEF partnered with the government, national television producers, and broadcasters to shift lessons from the country’s classrooms to its living rooms via the TV-Classroom, which involves volunteer teachers presenting classes and activities in the five languages used in the country’s schools.
American Express Global Business Travel is proud to support UNICEF, which has helped save and change the lives of more children than any other humanitarian organization in the history of the world. To learn more about the ways it is assisting children in response to COVID-19 and how you can support its efforts, click here.