|Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds (right) talks with Shatoya from the Teen Mothers Programme in St. Kitts as The Honorable Rosalyn Hazell, St. Kitts and Nevis Ambassador at Large, and Mike Hussey, Australia Team Ambassador, look on.|
By Robert Dabney
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, 23 March 2007 – Australian cricketers visited a teen mother programme here as part of the ICC Cricket World Cup alliance between the International Cricket Council, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS.
The partnership has been set up to use the ICC Cricket World Cup, the world’s third-largest global sporting event, to draw the attention to the issues of HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean and the impact of the disease on the region’s children.
Mr. Symonds and Mr. Hussey saw first-hand how the St. Kitts Government, with help from UNICEF, is working with young girls at the Women’s Training Centre in Basseterre. Together, they ensure that girls who become pregnant remain in school and receive information on safe sex practices and HIV prevention.
“These young women have a will to try to survive and be successful, and they're not letting anything stand in their way,” said Mr. Symonds, the flamboyant Aussie all-rounder who is recovering from a torn bicep and hoping to see his first action during his side’s final Group A match against South Africa. “The only way that I can describe my visit with these young ladies is to say that it has been both humbling and inspiring.”
|Members of the Australian cricket team Mike Hussey (left) and Andrew Symonds discuss the Teen Mother Programme in St. Kitts with UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Heather Stewart.|
Messages of encouragement
Ambassador at Large for St. Kitts and Nevis Rosalyn Hazelle was at the forefront of a movement on the island to ensure that pregnant teens had the opportunity to continue their education and receive information to help them guard against HIV infection.
“I am able to speak to you from personal experience because I, too, was a teen mother,” Ambassador Hazelle told the girls. “At the time, I wasn’t able to finish my education at home and had to go to Canada. If I had not, you would not see standing before you today St. Kitts and Nevis’ first female ambassador.”
Mr. Symonds and Mr. Hussey met with four girls between the ages of 17 and 20 years who have had children and have continued their education, a challenge in some parts of the Caribbean. Clauja, 20, had her child at the age of 16. Thanks to the teen mother programme, she has been able to complete her secondary education and is about to enter college with the goal of one day practicing law. She had a poignant message for the younger girls during Wednesday’s visit.
Keeping goals in mind
“No matter what, keep your head up and don’t mind what other people say,” said the aspiring attorney. “People will always talk, but you have to keep your goals in mind and do whatever you need to do to reach those goals.”
Also part of the visit was the UNICEF Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Tom Olsen, who expressed the gratitude of UNICEF and the people of the region for the cricketers’ interest in the teen mothers.
“You could have chosen to spend the day on the beach or touring beautiful St. Kitts on your day off,” commented Mr. Olsen. “But you chose to bring messages of hope and inspiration to these girls, and to help us raise the awareness of the world.”
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