This story originally appeared on CW33.
DALLAS / FORT WORTH (KDAF) – How much impact can you have on the world when you spend a lot of your time 30,000 feet above it?
For Oscar Orellana, quite a lot.
Orellana is a Dallas-based flight attendant for American Airlines, who also calls North Texas home. He’s also a UNICEF Champion for Children volunteer who, along with many other American Airlines employees, works to make a big difference in the lives of children worldwide.
The Champions, as they are called, are a part of a larger 25-year-old UNICEF partnership the airline has called Change For Good. UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) works in more than 190 countries providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.
Prior to becoming a flight attendant, Orellana worked in the non-profit sector. While his desire for travel took him to the airline industry, his non-profit “make-change-happen” ethos stuck with him. Since joining American Airlines four-years-ago, he’s been a volunteer in the Change For Good program.
The idea seems simple – during international flights, volunteers like Orellana raise funds for the program. It’s often left over currency or change passengers have on hand. But can a few bucks here and there really make a difference?
“In those 25 years, we collect an average of a million dollars every year” he says, “in 2019 we collected $1.2 million dollars.”
For the places UNICEF works, the impact of those funds are literally live-saving. In 2018, Orellana was able to see this first hand when he traveled with UNICEF to Guatemala.
“There was so much love given just from the staff” he says, “they were giving them the resources to do all of these things, to be able to empower the community and empower the families to raise better children, to have healthy children.”
Champions like Orellana don’t just collect funds for the programs, they actually have a voice in where the funds are directed. Each year UNICEF has the Champions For Children to vote on what country or region to direct the aid they fundraise for.
Being a Champion For Children isn’t just a way for Orellana to do some good at work. For him, it’s personal. Orellana was born in El Salvador and had a very different lifestyle than he does now.
He says “I see myself in the children that we serve. I see the need because I know the need. I am where I am now because I was helped by many people who cared.”
For more information on Change For Good and Champions For Children, visit www.unicefusa.org/aa