|From left: Fundació FC Barcelona Executive Director Marta Segú, FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta, UNICEF Private Fundraising and Partnerships Director Philip O'Brien and UNICEF Representative in Swaziland Jama Gulaid display FC Barcelona's team jersey while announcing photo exhibit at UNICEF House.|
By Elizabeth Kiem
NEW YORK, USA, 11 June 2009 – Fresh from their 2009 Champions League victory, Futbol Club Barcelona yesterday launched a photography exhibition to raise awareness about the team's other passion – the lives of young people living with HIV.
The photo display, 'Life and Hopes of Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Swaziland', was unveiled at UNICEF headquarters in New York by FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta and UNICEF Private Fundraising and Partnerships Director Philip O'Brien.
"I think it cements their own view of the contribution they've made in terms of the programmes they're supporting, and does it in a public way," said Mr. O'Brien. "It's a very legitimate and good thing for them to do."
The 28 photos – all shot by Pep Bonet – show UNICEF's work on the ground in Swaziland. They were first displayed in 2007 at FC Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium.
A history of philanthropy
The FC Barcelona Foundation, which has a long history of philanthropic activity, has been a UNICEF supporter since 2006, when the club agreed to donate €1.5 million (about $1.9 million) towards UNICEF's programmes annually. The alliance continues through 2011.
|FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta (left) and UNICEF Private Fundraising and Partnerships Director Philip O'Brien at UNICEF House in New York.|
At the press conference in New York, Mr. Laporta confirmed that the Barcelona players will continue to wear jerseys bearing the UNICEF logo through the end of the partnership. He expressed hope that the new club President, due to take over in 2010, will extend the alliance with UNICEF.
Mr. Laporta also announced that the success of the partnership over two years had convinced him to broaden the agreement, allowing the Barcelona funding to be used without programmatic restrictions.
"You only get that when you've built trust," said Mr. O'Brien, who noted that while the club's financial contribution is significant, the influence of team Barcelona is invaluable. "I would never dream of quantifying the relationship in money terms with Barca," he added.
Fighting AIDS in Swaziland
During the first year of its partnership with UNICEF, FC Barcelona's supported programmes benefiting children affected by HIV and AIDS in Swaziland – including the children featured in the photo exhibit.
Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. More than 56,000 children in this country of 1 million have been orphaned by AIDS. Thousands more are in need of support, protection and treatment.
In committing to the fight against AIDS in Swaziland, FC Barcelona has invested more than money and advocacy.
"When you have friends, when you have got support that comes from far away, then that makes the challenges more manageable and you can face them squarely," said UNICEF Representative in Swaziland Jama Gulaid. "Barcelona not only sent financial assistance but also sent a delegation to see the realities of children in Swaziland."
'It touches our hearts'
Included in that delegation was Mr. Laporta, who, when asked about his own impressions of the photo exhibit, was visibly moved.
"When I am seeing these pictures, I remember my personal experience in Swaziland," he said. "It's really nice to remember that we are contributing to help these kids. It touches our hearts."
The photo exhibit will be on display at UNICEF House until the end of August.
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