|© UNICEF video|
|Children at the Little Champs Academy in Alexandra, one of Johannesburg’s poorest townships, enjoyed a visit from New Zealand cricketers in South Africa for the ICC Twenty 20 tournament.|
By Guy Hubbard
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 6 September 2007 – It was all song and dance as sporting heroes from the cricketing world arrived at the Little Champs Sports Academy in Alexandra township.
Ross Taylor, Jeetan Patel and Gareth Hopkins from the New Zealand Black Caps cricket team are in South Africa for the inaugural World Twenty 20 championships, and have taken time out of their training schedule to visit and coach children from the academy.
As if that wasn’t excitement enough, the cricketers were joined by Kami and Neno, characters from South Africa’s own Takalani Sesame children’s television programme.
|© UNICEF video|
|A child at the Little Champs Academy, where sports and HIV/AIDS awareness play a large role in the curriculum.|
Impact of AIDS on youth
The visit was part of UNICEF’s continuing partnership with the International Cricket Council (ICC), which promotes the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS global campaign and aims to reinvigorate life skills programmes for young people in order to decrease their vulnerability to HIV infection.
As the tournament approaches, the campaign will use the high profile of international cricket stars to draw attention to the plight of children living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.
“We see this as our little contribution to ensure that the lives of children and young people are not lost to the prevalence of AIDS and HIV, especially in South Africa and other countries most impacted by the disease,” said Mr. Taylor.
|© UNICEF video|
|Gareth Hopkins of the New Zealand Black Caps takes time out from training to visit with children at sports camp in Alexandra.|
Children need role models
Alexandra is one of Johannesburg’s poorest townships and, like many areas in South Africa, it has been hard hit by HIV and AIDS. In a country where 5.5 million people are living with the virus, which is also the cause of 10 per cent of all child deaths, many children are orphans and many are living with the disease.
There are few sporting facilities here and even fewer areas where children can play safely. The Little Champs Academy coaches children between the ages of 3 and 7, and integrates sports into their learning curriculum to give them valuable life skills, especially around AIDS awareness and prevention.
“Here the children not only learn the value of exercise, but they also learn to have relationships with other kids their age and they learn to share,” said Little Champs coach Refilwe Phukujoa, adding that “it even helps them in their school work.”
After enthusiastic renditions of the Little Champs and Takalani theme songs by the children and a dance-off between Kami, Neno and the New Zealand players, it was back to training, this time with the three Black Caps in tow.
“It’s been great being here today as role models, and hopefully we can inspire these kids to reach their goals” said Mr. Hopkins.
Every minute of every day, AIDS costs the world another child’s life. It’s time for us all to Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS. Donate now!
ICC Twenty 20
ICC Twenty20 finals boost global AIDS campaign [with video and audio]
Cricket stars back global AIDS campaign [with video]
International Cricket Council website
(external link, opens in a new window)