Carl Lewis jump-starts ‘School without Violence’ campaign in Serbia
By Jadranka Milanovic
BELGRADE, Serbia, 10 May 2006 – Track-and-field legend and nine-time Olympic Gold Medal winner Carl Lewis joined UNICEF in Serbia during this year’s recent Belgrade Marathon to promote the country’s ‘School without Violence’ programme.
Sport is just one tool used by the programme to promote a healthy way of living and help create a safer, non-violent environment for children. The School without Violence initiative targets not only physical violence but also verbal, psychological and social abuse among peers.
Launched by UNICEF last year with the Government of Serbia and the Institute for Advancement of Education, the multi-faceted programme is tailored to benefit children, teachers, parents and communities. It currently involves more than 25,000 primary school pupils and is funded entirely by local donations from individual Serbians and the private sector.
Funds and awareness raised
“This UNICEF programme is so important because young people need to come together and work out problems,” said Mr. Lewis to an audience made up of Serbian dignitaries, business leaders, government officials and journalists.
Mr. Lewis, selected by the International Association of Athletics Federations as the top male athlete of the 20th Century, also thanked UNICEF for giving him the opportunity to come to Belgrade and be a part of the programme.
UNICEF entered a partnership with the Belgrade Banca Intensa Marathon this year to secure funds for the inclusion of an additional 50 to 60 schools in School without Violence. All the activities organized around the main event were aimed at raising awareness about the programme and fundraising for its expansion.
The NIS Petrol Company, which hosted Mr. Lewis at the marathon, also teamed up with UNICEF for a reception collecting donations for the programme from the private sector.
According to UNICEF’s Representative in Serbia and Montenegro, Ann-Lis Svensson, last year’s School without Violence fundraiser yielded a total of $240,000, enabling 54 schools to join the programme. It was centred around a celebrity basketball game featuring UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia and Montenegro Aleksandar Djordjevic.
This year, “as many as 112 schools in Serbia have applied to participate in the programme,” said Ms. Svensson.
The UNICEF Representative went on to thank donors who had already contributed and invited other partners to join UNICEF in combating school violence and bullying. NIS Petrol and Banca Intensa immediately took up her suggestion, each ‘adopting’ a school to engage in the programme’s step-by-step approach toward becoming violence-free. The steps include:
The high level of interest in the School without Violence approach, noted Ms. Svensson, “shows that schools are very much interested in solving the problem of violent behaviour among schoolchildren and youth, and that they are highly motivated to actively address the problem.”
Added Mr. Lewis, who knows something about inspiration: “Every child that does something positive and uplifting inspires every other child.”
TV spot: "School without Violence" with Sasa Djordjevic