|Netherlands cricketers Tim de Leede (left) and Jeroen Smits join UNICEF Representative in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Tom Olsen in visiting children and staff at the Industrial Site Day Care Centre in Basseterre, St. Kitts.|
By Robert Dabney
ST. KITTS, Eastern Caribbean, 21 March 2007 – Two members of the Netherlands cricket team showed their support for the global Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS campaign on Tuesday by visiting two day care centres in St. Kitts, one of the islands hosting the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007.
Cricketers Jeroen Smits and Tim de Leede joined UNICEF Representative in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Tom Olsen to observe initiatives aimed at preventing discrimination against children. The visits were part of an alliance between the International Cricket Council (ICC), UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV and AIDS to raise awareness about the impact of AIDS on children.
At the Industrial Site Day Care Centre, the players and Mr. Olsen met more than 20 caretakers trained in techniques to help reduce stigma and discrimination against children who are either living with HIV or otherwise affected by AIDS.
“While there is no indication that any of the children we visited today are HIV-positive, the training that has been provided will ensure that children who may carry the virus will not be treated any differently than any other child in the system,” said Mr. Olsen.
Responsibility to communities
After being serenaded by the children, the cricketers listened as staff members described the UNICEF-sponsored training and the care they provide to the children ranging in age from infancy to five years. More than 40 of the older children then joined the players for some cricket and football lessons.
“As athletes, we have a responsibility not only to the game of cricket but to the communities we visit,” said Mr. Smits, who is wicketkeeper and vice captain of the Netherlands side.
“My visit today with Tim [de Leede] has been inspiring and emotional for both of us,” he added. “To watch these very talented professionals work with so many children has been a wonderful experience for both of us.”
|During his St. Kitts visit, Netherlands cricketer Tim de Leede shows a child at the Industrial Day Care Centre how to bat.|
Impact of AIDS on children
The sportsmen later travelled across the St. Kitts capital, Basseterre, to a privately managed facility, Polite Kids Day Care. There, they witnessed the work of three dedicated staff members who look after infants in a residential community setting. The work of Polite Kids is representative of the many smaller facilities for children unable to be accommodated in government facilities.
UNICEF works with the Government of St. Kitts’ Early Childhood Development Unit to ensure that staff in these private facilities receive the same level of training in HIV/AIDS stigma elimination as those persons working in government-run day care centres.
“Having the players from the Netherlands and Mr. Olsen visit us is extremely important to a centre of our size,” said Polite Kids Day Care Director Phoebe Pollack. “Our resources are very limited and we don’t have a chance to get our very important message out that deals with the impact of HIV and AIDS on the lives of very young, precious children.
“Today, thanks to Unite For Children. Unite Against AIDS, we have a chance to do just that.”
The Caribbean region is second only to sub-Saharan Africa in terms of HIV prevalence around the world. The ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 partnership is an attempt to raise awareness about the pandemic’s impact on children.
“We are very grateful to Tim and Jeroen from Team Netherlands for taking the time to visit with these caretakers and the children during their time in St. Kitts,” said Mr Olsen. “For us to begin reducing the infection rates of HIV in the region, we have to make people aware of how insidious its impact is on the lives of children.”
The visits are among several trips by international cricketers in the Caribbean this month to help raise awareness of the issue of HIV/AIDS and its impact on children.
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