National Geographic : 1961 Sep
I was lucky to catch Mr. Pate at work on a Saturday morning just before he flew off to Paris for a round of European meetings. "UNICEF is not a charity; it's a self-help program," he explained. "In every country we assist, the local government puts up, on an average, two and a half times the money we do. UNICEF only furnishes tools and supplies that must be imported." I told Mr. Pate how my nine-year-old son had managed to collect $10 for UNICEF on two trick-or-treat nights last Halloween. "Imagine, Halloween a peaceful occasion!" Mr. Pate exclaimed, smiling broadly. "It's my favorite holiday after Christmas. "Last year American youngsters like your son, disguised as witches, goblins, and assort ed ghosts, collected $1,750,000 in nickels and dimes for the Children's Fund. "Just consider: One penny will buy five glasses of surplus milk, five pennies will pro vide vaccine to help protect five children from tuberculosis, twenty-five pennies will buy penicillin to treat six cases of yaws. That Halloween treat will go a long way." The director explained that UNICEF pays only the ocean freight on dried skim milk given by the United States and Canada. Drugs are procured cheaply because UNI CEF buys in such large quantities. "We are currently receiving 26 million dol lars in voluntary contributions from 100 countries," he said. "Last year we translated such grants into aid for 56 million mothers and children." Mr. Pate rose and reached for his brief case. "But our work to prevent the needless crip pling of the world's children has just begun," he said. "We need more Halloweens." Specialists Answer 1,500 Queries a Day Checking on U.N. stay-at-homes, I found the people in the information unit of Con ference Services busy at telephone and desk. "During General Assembly we receive 1,500 telephone calls a day," said Mrs. Shin Ping Cho, the chic Chinese who heads the information and reception unit. Mrs. Cho and her 22 assistants answer anything from "Who catered for the U.N. dining room in 1946?" to "How did the Gen eral Assembly vote this morning?" Those who man the telephones constantly consult cards on wheel files bearing all man ner of up-to-date U.N. information. "Even if the files fail to help," Mrs. Cho said, "the girls must get a clearance from me before they can say we don't know." 330 Other members of the unit staff the infor mation desks at delegates', Secretariat, and visitors' entrances. "One day recently a well-dressed woman stopped at the visitors' desk," Mrs. Cho re called "She seemed to know a lot about the U.N. and asked some intelligent questions. Then, before leaving, she pointed in the di rection of the East River and said brightly, 'Isn't Lake Success beautiful at this time of the year.' "Our receptionist didn't have the heart to tell the visitor that the U.N. moved from Lake Success, on Long Island, to its perma nent headquarters early in the 1950's." Fifth-grader Offers to Help Written requests for information go to the Public Inquiries section where Miss Alice Smith and seven assistants answer about 9,000 letters a month. Most are from school children in the United States, since the bulk of foreign mail is handled at U.N. Informa tion Centers in 35 cities around the world. "Letters from the children encourage us all," said Dr. Hernane Tavares de Sa, the distinguished Brazilian journalist who heads the U.N.'s globe-circling Office of Public In formation. A contributor to the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, he greeted me as a friend. "I remember one letter from a youngster in the fifth grade," he said. "The boy wrote: 'I have read that the United Nations has many troubles. I know I am very small but is there any way in the world I can help?'" Footsore from walking miles of marble corridors, my mind whirling with countless conversations, I sought at last what might be called the Office of Private Information. Slipping into the U.N.'s Meditation Room, I was soothed by its utter simplicity. A single shaft of light strikes the surface of a solid block of iron ore, shaped like an altar. At one end of the narrow wall, a fresco of geometric designs appeals to the eye but makes no in truding suggestion to thought. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold once wrote words that gave added meaning to my moment of meditation: "We all have within us a center of still ness surrounded by silence. "This house, dedicated to work and debate in the service of peace, should have one room dedicated to silence in the outward sense and stillness in the inner sense...." I ended my quest of the U.N., and the finite world it represents, here in the infinite lands of thought and prayer.