|© UNICEF Brazil/2007/Constantino|
|UNICEF Brazil's newest 'Champion for Brazilian Children' Felipe Massa (left) with UNICEF Representative in Brazil Marie-Pierre Poirier at the announcement of Mr. Massa's appointment.|
By Kent Page
SÃO PAULO, Brazil, 25 October 2007 – Brazil has a new champion for children’s rights; the wildly popular Formula One driver Felipe Massa.
"I’m going to work very hard and do everything I can to help make life better for children in Brazil," said Mr. Massa. "I know from my own experience how valuable it is for children to have the right to play, and the positive impact sports can have in your life. Playing sports as a child taught me how to be a better team player and to concentrate on important things, like the value of learning and always trying to do your best."
Key ally for children’s rights
During a press conference held just two days before Brazilian Children’s Day, a countrywide celebration, Mr. Massa met with 100 youths from the low-income neighbourhoods of Brasiliandia and Jardim Ângela in São Paulo. He signed autographs for the youths and waved the starting flag for a children’s bike tour through the very same go-kart track where he first honed his racing skills as a child.
"We think Felipe is number one," said Maria, 14. "He is very nice and he signed his name on my ball cap. And I got to take my photo with him!"
Felipe joins UNICEF Brazil’s team of celebrity supporters, including singer Daniela Mercury – now celebrating 12 years as a UNICEF Ambassador – who welcomed Felipe to the team, noting that his passion and dedication to helping children is the sign of a true champion.
"For UNICEF, this is a very important day because we are being joined by another key ally as we work to ensure that the rights of each and every child and adolescent in Brazil are realized," said UNICEF Representative in Brazil Marie-Pierre Poirier. "Felipe is a role model for children and young people in Brazil."
Improvements made, more to be done
While there have been improvements in the situation of children in Brazil, including reductions in infant mortality and increased access to basic education, millions of Brazilian children and adolescents remain extremely vulnerable, especially in the Semi-Arid and Amazonia regions and in major urban centres throughout the country.
UNICEF is focusing its efforts on the rights of children in these areas to survive and develop, learn, be protected and protect themselves against HIV/AIDS.
"I am really very proud to be joining UNICEF, which has done such good work for children in Brazil for so many years," Mr. Massa said. "UNICEF’s work has made many children’s dreams come true, and I think it’s the least I can do to help out. It’s my first day on the job and I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I know that together, we can build a better present – and a better future – for each and every child in Brazil, and for children around the world."