The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of children and families in nearly every country across the globe. Though children make up a very small number of deaths from COVID-19, the impact on their lives has been devastating. UNICEF Canada’s work for every child relies entirely on voluntary support, which is why we want to spotlight one of our community champions – volunteers from all across Canada who are working hard to support UNICEF’s mission.

This month our featured Community Champion is Sara Hildebrand, along with everyone involved in the Love My Neighbour Project. Read on to learn more about the Love My Neighbour campaign, and how Sara and others got involved with UNICEF Canada.

Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to support UNICEF Canada.

After beginning my career as Crown Counsel in the Criminal Law Policy Branch of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, I founded and began overseeing Millennium Kids, with the aim to create opportunities for and with children and youth to help Canada fulfill its UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promise by 2030, including the promise to pursue access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines for all.

In Fall 2020 as the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved, I knew Millennium Kids would want to do our part to help Canada keep the vaccine SDG promise. I envisioned every Canadian wanting to express our gratitude for the vaccine access that would come to us in 2021 by gifting a vaccine forward to a global neighbour in a developing country.

When I learned that UNICEF was tasked with the vital delivery of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines, I believed many organizations and faith communities would want to be a part of resourcing and accelerating the great work of UNICEF.

Tell us about the Love My Neighbour Project and how it has evolved.

Love My Neighbour (LMN) is a national movement for global vaccine equity, inspired by Millennium Kids and diverse faith communities across the nation, with the goal to increase the number of COVID-19 vaccines distributed quickly and equitably in low-and-middle-income countries around the world. 

Over 30 organizations and faith communities are collaborating to encourage our communities and every Canadian to gift one vaccine forward. The passionate commitment to vaccine equity of LMN organizations has rippled into supportive LMN Cities with video messages from Mayor John Tory and Mayor Bonnie Crombie encouraging residents to gift a vaccine forward for a global neighbour. 

Our growing list of LMN Corporations has also gifted vaccines forward on behalf of each of their employees. We also created a LMN poster to hang in vaccination sites across Canada so that Canadians can act on their gratitude as they receive their own COVID vaccination. 

Do you have a message for other organizations who would like to support UNICEF’s work?

Love My Neighbour participants are unified around key advocacy efforts. We have written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister Karina Gould urging that 10% of Canada’s vaccine doses be donated to COVAX, that Canada support the temporary vaccine patent waiver and increase financial support for global health systems strengthening. In the lead up to the June G7 Summit, with two billion doses administered globally and less than 1% of low-income country populations vaccinated, we have joined our voices with many more civil society organizations to emphasize the desire of and need for Canadians to dose share now, not later. 

The Love My Neighbour project has partnered with UNICEF to tackle the biggest health and logistics project in history—global vaccination against COVID-19. We would enthusiastically encourage others to partner with UNICEF in the life-saving work it is doing to reach our global neighbours in over 92 low- and middle-income countries, as quickly as possible.

You can help accelerate the end of the pandemic!