UNICEF and 'Viet Nam’s Next Top Model' form a unique partnership for children
By Sandra Bisin and Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong
HO CHI MINH CITY, Viet Nam, 21 January 2011 – Finalists of the popular television show ‘Viet Nam’s Next Top Model’ recently paid a visit to a very special pagoda where children affected by HIV and their families are receiving support and counselling from Buddhist monks and nuns. It was their first stop on a tour of UNICEF-supported projects in Viet Nam.
One of the finalists, Khieu Thi Huyen Trang, 20, later talked about her conversation with a mother who is living with HIV.
“She told me she still has not told the schoolteacher that her daughter is HIV-positive, because she is afraid of people’s reactions,” said Ms. Khou. “She knows they will not allow her to go back to school. I would like to tell everyone that children affected by HIV need support from us and should be cared for by everyone.”
Understanding the issues
As part of a unique partnership with the ‘Next Top Model’ programme, UNICEF Viet Nam took the three finalists – all of whom are 20 years old – on a two-day journey through Ho Chi Minh City and Ninh Thuan Province in southern Viet Nam.
The trip gave the young women a better understanding of some of the key factors affecting children’s lives in Viet Nam today. They were familiarized with a broad range of issues, including the importance of hygiene and sanitation to ensure children’s health, the impact of prenatal sex selection on Viet Nam’s population and the value of exclusive breastfeeding.
‘An eye-opener for me’
“I learnt many interesting things, especially about exclusive breastfeeding,” said finalist Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy. “Now, I know that breast milk is best for children and they should only be fed with breast milk in the first six months of their lives – only breast milk, not anything else, not even water. It’s an eye-opener for me, and I am confident that I will breastfeed my babies when I get married and I have children.”
Getting mothers to breastfeed their babies is still a critical need in Viet Nam, where only 17 per cent of infants are exclusively breastfed.
“Hearing from ‘Viet Nam’s Next Top Model’ finalists that exclusive breastfeeding is a good thing – that it is a lot cheaper than using formula milk and will contribute to keeping babies healthy – is a big sign of achievement,” said UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam Lotta Sylwander. “We know that their message will be broadcast and listened to by millions of viewers.”
Messages of hope
The third finalist on the trip was Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan. The host of the ‘Next Top Model’ show, who travelled with the finalists, is UNICEF Viet Nam Goodwill Ambassador and international supermodel Vu Nguyen Ha Anh.
“With her commitment and understanding of children’s issues, Ha Anh will fantastically carry the right messages and bring hope to millions of children,” said Ms. Sylwander, “We hope that following the field trip with UNICEF, and interactions with children receiving our assistance, Viet Nam’s next top model will be willing to continue supporting our work and follow in the footsteps of our Goodwill Ambassador.”