|© UNICEF video|
|England cricketer Ian Bell gives a batting lesson during his visit to the Centre for Adolescent Renewal and Education in St Lucia.|
By Lisa McClean-Trotman
ST. LUCIA, Eastern Caribbean, 20 March 2007 – England cricketers took time off from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 on Monday to meet local young people here and show their support for the global campaign on children and AIDS.
Batsman Ian Bell, bowler Sajid Mahmood and all-rounder Ravi Bopara visited children in St. Lucia to help draw attention to the impact HIV and AIDS can have on young people and to highlight the importance of HIV prevention and education.
The two separate visits were among several being organized by UNICEF offices in the Caribbean this month as part of the alliance between the International Cricket Council (ICC), UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS to support the Unite for Children. Unite Against AIDS campaign.
A chance to give back
Mr. Bell visited the Centre for Adolescent Renewal and Education (CARE) Odsam Centre, where the UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Office has been supporting the training of youth facilitators to teach life skills.
During his visit to CARE, Mr. Bell had the opportunity to see how the students have been applying the information about HIV learned in class. Some of the youths performed a self-penned skit dramatizing the impact of stigma and discrimination on children affected by HIV.
The students also took Mr. Bell on a tour, showing him their creative work in carpentry and dressmaking, as well as auto mechanics. “Play hard and work hard,” he advised the students during an interactive session.
"It's massively important to give back,” Mr. Bell said afterwards. “I feel very lucky and privileged of the fact that I've been able to achieve what I want to. And it's nice to be able to give back to kids, and hopefully give them … some insight into how I've been able to do it, and how other people have, so they can go off and try to achieve exactly what they want to in life."
|During a visit to a UNICEF-supported school in Saint Lucia, England cricketer Sajid Mahmood plays with children.|
Visits make a difference
At around the same time Mr. Bell was visiting the CARE centre, his two England teammates were visiting the Vide Bouteille Combined Primary School in Castries, where UNICEF has also been supporting the teaching of life skills.
Mr. Bopara and Mr. Mahmood also took time to interact with the students and learn about the impact that the programmes at the school have had on their lives.
The cricketers’ visits left a mark on the players and the children alike. “The visit has given me more desire, more passion to work on my designs,” said Alicia Bretney, 18, who attends CARE and intends to focus on dressmaking as a career. “Just knowing that someone took the time to visit is an inspiration.”
‘Adopting a positive lifestyle’
Visits such as these afford international cricketers the opportunity to inspire children and young people to reach for their goals – an important factor in HIV prevention.
“Our research is showing that the children with low self-esteem and self-confidence are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure and making poor choices when confronted with issues concerning their sexuality, among other issues,” explained UNICEF Health Education Specialist Elaine King. “So if a cricketer can boost the self-confidence of one child, then that is one more child on his or her way to adopting a positive lifestyle.”
Video messages supporting the Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS campaign by 28 of the world’s top cricketers – including Mr. Bell, Australian captain Ricky Ponting and Indian captain Rahul Dravid – are being broadcast on TV globally and at the ICC World Cup 2007 matches. View these public service announcements in the special cricket section of the AIDS campaign website.
`The spirit of cricket'
ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 wraps up in Barbados [with video]
England cricketers support St. Lucia AIDS centre [with video]
Cricketers promote safe sex and abstinence [with video]