By John Nsabimana, UNICEF Canada Ambassador 

My experience with UNICEF began when I was a child. In 1994, when I was seven years old, I fled my home country of Rwanda during the genocide. My brothers and I, along with thousands of others, escaped to find safety in Uganda. UNICEF helped provide us shelter, food, education, and medical attention. The support they gave to us was life changing. These early experiences with UNICEF truly shaped who I am today. I have been a UNICEF Canada Ambassador since 2008, doing whatever I can to support UNICEF and help defend every child’s right to a childhood. 

The opportunity to visit the UNICEF Supply Division in Copenhagen – a facility that procures and houses life-saving items sent out to children and families –  brought a rush of emotions. I knew the vast expanse of the facility would be overwhelming. This headquarters represents the lifeline that once sustained me and countless others in the refugee camp where I grew up.  

A man holds a cardboard box that says UNICEF on it, behind him more boxes are stacked.
John holds a box at the supply division warehouse in Copenhagen. [UNICEF/Supply Division ]

The largest humanitarian warehouse in the world  

Though I benefited first-hand from many of UNICEF’s invaluable and lifesaving items at the warehouse, I was still shocked by the sheer scale of how much is available and how many items are in transit every hour of every day. The massive space has several items - such as school-in-a-box, mosquito nets and water and sanitation supplies, filling the largest humanitarian warehouse in the world. In fact, the five UNICEF hubs - Copenhagen, Brindisi, Dubai, Guangzhou and Panama - combined contain sufficient emergency supplies to meet the needs of 250,000 people for three months. Staff at the warehouses work 24 hours a day, seven  days a week, to deliver supplies to locations around the globe and to equip children and families with the life-saving support they need. From Yemen to South Sudan to Ethiopia to Haiti, our supplies reach children in some of the world’s most devastated areas of conflict. 

Each box opened is a promise – of a meal, of clean water, of an education

Two men stand besides a metal box that is open and full of school supplies.
John looking at what is sent out in the School-in-the-box shipment, alongside Fady Mansour, Communications Specialist at the Supply Division.

As I toured the facility and saw crates of supplies , memories from my past flooded back. I remember the days when these boxes, stamped with the familiar UNICEF logo, would arrive at our camp. Each box opened was a promise –  a promise of a meal, of clean water, of education. Now, standing in the heart of where it all began over 60 years ago, and packing several boxes myself, I was deeply moved thinking about who would be benefiting from these supplies.  

More than a warehouse

Meeting and speaking to many of the staff, I thanked them for their essential work and for their impact on the lives of children, just like me, who are able to survive and thrive thanks to the work they are doing. The sight of the workers diligently preparing shipments takes me back to the faces of those who distributed these supplies in our camp. Their dedication mirrors the commitment I saw in the workers many years ago who ensured we received what we needed. It's a testament to UNICEF's mission of reaching the world's most vulnerable children. 

Reflecting on my visit to the Supply Division warehouse, I am filled with an immense sense of gratitude and a renewed determination - gratitude for the aid that helped me survive and determination to continue advocating for the rights and needs of children worldwide. This warehouse is more than a procurement and supplies facility; it's a symbol of hope, resilience, and the unwavering spirit of humanity. 

Many of the lifesaving items I saw, such as water purification tablets, mosquito nets and educational materials are available to be donated as Survival Gifts. These are tangible gifts make all the difference in the lives of children around the world.  

Please give if you can by clicking on the link below and seeing the dozens of goods and items UNICEF provides to children around the world.