Inspire

Here’s Where That Spare Change You Donate On Qantas Flights Goes

Brought to you by Qantas

This feature is brought to you by Qantas, who are proud to play a part in bringing travellers together with the people they love from around Australia and across the globe.

If you’ve ever been on a Qantas flight, you’ve probably heard an announcement for the Change for Good program or have spotted the collection envelopes wrapped around your headsets . Chances are, you’ve wondered what happens to all these donations (especially given all currencies are accepted) and where the money actually goes.

Well, I’ve got answers. Recently, I had the opportunity to travel with Qantas and UNICEF to Indonesia, where I witnessed first-hand the impact the Change for Good program has in local communities.

What Is Change For Good?

The Change for Good program has one simple aim: turning spare change into lasting impact for children.  By collecting donations in-flight and in collection boxes throughout airport terminals, Qantas helps UNICEF protect and support the world’s most vulnerable children.

The donations are sorted by retired Qantas cabin crew and volunteers in the counting house, a facility tucked away in Sydney’s International Airport. Each year, almost 20,000kg of coins from more than 150 countries are sorted and counted by hand, totalling more than $1.4 million annually, with a whopping $35 million raised in the last 27 years.

UNICEF Counting House

Meet the “counters” – the people who count all the loose change you donate to UNICEF Australia's Change for Good program… by hand.

Posted by Qantas on Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Where Do The Donations Go?

UNICEF works in 190 countries to deliver life-saving health care, clean water, and education to children, often in some of the world’s most remote areas. For example, the Indonesian provinces of Kupang and Sumba, where I travelled with officials from UNICEF Australia and Indonesia, as well as Qantas cabin crew from all around Australia.

Our first stop was a small village on the island of Sumba, where we saw the impact of UNICEF’s Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program. Many Indonesian villages have no access to toilets or clean water. This means they have no alternative than  to do their business in open areas and are unable to wash their hands, putting them at high risk of diarrhoea.

While diarrhoea is considered an unpleasant inconvenience for us in the Western world, it’s extremely dangerous for these communities and for children in particular, especially those who are already malnourished and have poor access to good sanitation. . In fact, it’s a leading cause of death for children under five years in these parts of the world.

Thanks to UNICEF, simple toilets have been built in the village for locals to use. However, it quickly became clear that the facilities are just one part of the equation. Much of the work UNICEF does is focused around changing behaviour. It’s not enough to just build new toilets — they work at a local level with village leaders and health officials to educate the community about the benefits of using them.

While in Sumba, we also visited a primary school to see UNICEF’s Early Literacy Program in action. The program focuses on developing reading and writing skills for kids aged six to nine years. As someone whose parents taught and encouraged me to read from a young age, I’ve always taken having access to books for granted. However, I learned that, in Indonesia, many kids are required to repeat classes or leave school unable to read due to poor literacy education.

At this school, UNICEF has filled classrooms with interesting, age-appropriate books and encouraged teachers to take a more interactive approach to teaching. The children couldn’t wipe the smiles off their little faces as they practiced their spelling and reading through games, singing and activities.

The kids seemed just as happy and engaged when we visited a pre-school in Kupang, the capital city of Nusa Tenggara Timur. It was hard to believe that, less than a year earlier, this pre-school was experiencing serious issues with poor resources, teacher absenteeism, and lack of nutrition for students.

UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development Program takes a holistic approach to issues in Indonesian pre-schools, covering health, nutrition, safety and psychosocial stimulation. While teachers have used a traditional ‘teachers talk, children listen’ format, they have been retrained to make learning more fun, flexible and autonomous. The children moved around the room for different educational activities and were even given free time to explore their own interests.

How Your Donations Help

Another major issue driven by poverty at Indonesian pre-schools is children turning up hungry and without a packed lunch, meaning they can’t concentrate on learning. As part of UNICEF’s program, the kids at this pre-school were provided with a healthy, nutritious food to fuel their growing brains.

We learned that Indonesia has the fourth highest rate of childhood Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in the world. In Kupang, UNICEF addresses this in two ways — through an inpatient treatment in hospitals and an out-patient program at Posayandu, a community health centre at a sub-district or village level.

We saw the impact of the Posayandu when we visited 2-year-old Amy and her family. When Amy’s mum passed away suddenly, her grandparents took her in. Amy was severely undernourished at the time, but as her grandparents live so far from a hospital, it would have been impossible for her to get the care she needs. Thanks to UNICEF’s funding of the local Posayandu, she has been able to undergo an out-patient nutrition program and is now at a healthy weight.

For me, this was the part of the trip that really drove home how much we take simple things like food, water and education for granted. The thought of this adorable, cheeky little girl not being able to run, play and do all the other things kids do is just devastating. However, if it had not been for the support of UNICEF, chances are, she wouldn’t have survived another year.

Having been on this trip, I can confidently say that the proceeds from the Change for Good program uses our spare change to make real, practical changes in the lives of the children who need it most. However, what I saw was only a handful of villages in just one of the 190 countries UNICEF serves. There’s still a lot of work to do and as incredibly driven and, passionate as the UNICEF staff and Qantas representatives I met are, they can’t do it alone.

So, next time you’re on a Qantas flight, why not pop those leftover notes from your holiday in the collection envelope? Because, let’s be honest, nobody ever ends up getting that Rupiah from Bali changed over, anyway, and your coins can help to make a lasting difference.

Use your Qantas Points and donate to UNICEF on the Qantas Store. Or, donate your spare change during your next Qantas flight. Just $2 can feed a malnourished child for a day and $5 can provide 10 children with books and pencils for school.

Brought to you by Qantas

This feature is brought to you by Qantas, who are proud to play a part in bringing travellers together with the people they love from around Australia and across the globe.