|Children from the Cyril Ross Nursery, guests of Sri Lankan cricket star Kumar Sangakkara, enjoy the match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad.|
By Stuart Sutton-Jones
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, 22 March 2007 – Wednesday was a special day for the children of the Cyril Ross Nursery in Tunapuna, just outside the Trinidadian capital, Port of Spain. The Nursery is well known in Trinidad as home to 38 children – 36 of them living with HIV.
For too long, children have been the forgotten face of the AIDS pandemic. But they were not forgotten by Sri Lankan star wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara, who invited them to join him at the Queen’s Park Oval here for Sri Lanka’s crucial match with Bangladesh.
The previous weekend Mr. Sangakkara spent time with the children at the Cyril Ross Nursery on a visit arranged by UNICEF and UNAIDS. He charmed them and played toss-ball cricket, after telling them he would do all he could to help make the world AIDS-free.
“I do this because I am not alone, but am part of everyone else. I am not just a cricketer and I will not always be a cricketer, I have to think of what I can do in the future,” he said during his visit.
Before leaving the nursery, Mr. Sangakkara invited the children to attend one of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 matches. Good as his word, 15 tickets arrived at the home with an invitation for a group of children to attend the match the next day.
An extraordinary day
It is the reality of the lives of these children that they do not have much entertainment apart from the occasional soccer practice. Most have no family and receive no visitors. So none of the children has ever attended an international cricket match, nor been to Trinidad’s famous Oval cricket ground.
Even the group’s chaperone, Beverly Lopez, who has worked at the Cyril Ross Nursery for some years, had not been to the arena since she was young. “My father used to take me to the Oval years ago, so this reminds me of those happy days of when I was a child,” she said.
For the children themselves, it was an extraordinary day. “This is cool, but I want the West Indies to win the World Cup,” said one child. “But which is Uncle Kumar’s team?” said another.
Role models of fitness
There they were, out in the sun at one of the great venues of world cricket, being looked after by Yehali Sangakkara, Mr. Sangakkara’s wife. They were watching two teams of great athletes striving to win, but fairly, within the controlling rules of a world game – perfect role models of fitness, discipline, skill and control.
Watching the game, the children know they have a chance to emulate the cricketers. They know they have a future.
Twenty-two of the children are on medication provided free to the Cyril Ross Nursery. As a result, their health is relatively good. HIV/AIDS is a fact of their lives, not the label that defines them.
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