What Do Fashion and a United Nations Hunger Program Have in Common? 時尚與聯合國抗飢計畫有何共同點？
文/Ruth La Ferla
About a decade ago, actress Halle Berry visited Jinotega, a region in Nicaragua. In video from the visit, Berry looked on as tidy rows of children filed into their village school, where they would be provided their single balanced meal of the day. The prospect of a hearty lunch encouraged their parents to send them to school, Berry said in the footage, even those parents who may have been reluctant.
She was acting as an emissary for Watch Hunger Stop, an initiative organized by designer Michael Kors in partnership with the United Nations World Food Program to provide meals to schools in developing regions around the world.
Kate Hudson joined the initiative in 2015 and made a field visit to Cambodia in 2017. She and Berry have since appeared in online campaign imagery, on television and in promotional videos for the program, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this month.
"At the start, I wasn't sure we would engage everyone," Kors said in recent a phone conversation. "We thought that people would get bored." But the campaign has prospered through sustained social media messaging and the sale of WHS special-edition apparel and accessories.
"A lot of people think that philanthropy is only for the rich," Kors said. He has challenged that assumption, arguing that donations are well within the means of many of his followers. Citing a WFP figure, he stressed that $5, the price of a coffee in many large cities, could feed a child in school for a month.
Such messaging, most successful on the Michael Kors Instagram account, has been effective. Since 2013, Watch Hunger Stop has raised about $7.5 million, the equivalent of more than 30 million school meals (at about 25 cents per meal). The Michael Kors brand expects to donate an additional 3 million meals throughout the next campaign year, beginning in October, according to a spokesperson.
Certainly Michael Kors is not the first fashion brand to embrace the power of positive public relations. Ralph Lauren, Asos, H&M and Tiffany & Co., among others, have stepped up their support of philanthropic initiatives in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the United States, school districts scrambled to secure digital devices for students. Almost overnight, videoconferencing software like Zoom became the main platform teachers used to deliver real-time instruction to students at home.
Now a report from UNESCO, the United Nations' educational and cultural organization, says that overreliance on remote learning technology during the pandemic led to "staggering" education inequality around the world.
The report is likely to add fuel to the debate over how governments and school districts handled pandemic restrictions and whether it would have been better for some countries to reopen schools for in-person instruction sooner.
The UNESCO researchers argued in the report that "unprecedented" dependence on technology — intended to ensure that children could continue their schooling — worsened disparities and learning loss for hundreds of millions of students around the world, including in Kenya, Brazil, Britain and the United States.
The promotion of remote online learning as the primary solution for pandemic schooling also hindered public discussion of more equitable, lower-tech alternatives, such as regularly providing schoolwork packets for every student, delivering school lessons by radio or television, and reopening schools sooner for in-person classes, the researchers said.
The UNESCO researchers recommended that education officials prioritize in-person instruction with teachers, not online platforms, as the primary driver of student learning. And they encouraged schools to ensure that emerging technologies like artificial intelligence chatbots concretely benefited students before introducing them for educational use.
"The report tells us definitively what we already know to be true: A place called school matters," said Haldis Holst, the group's deputy general secretary. "Education is not transactional, nor is it simply content delivery. It is relational. It is social. It is human at its core."