“It does not matter what school of martial arts we are from as long as we are united. Training for martial arts helps you to strengthen your eyes, your mind and your body,” he said as he ended a visit from 24 – 26 June to the youngest nation in Asia and the Pacific, co-hosted by UNICEF and the Secretary of Youth and Sports. “When you have a good body and mind, let’s help people. Don’t harm them.”
Jackie Chan, who became famous for his fast-action and humorous Kung Fu Film, met thousands of young people in this small half island nation, including leaders of popular martial arts groups. He listened to their concerns, heard their hopes for the future, and brought a message of discipline, respect and unity.
Timor-Leste, which received its independence six years ago, is one of the poorest in the region. With one in three Timorese between 15 and 29 years old, many youth are faced with limited opportunities. The Government recognizes that strong youth-focused policies, as well as better education and employment opportunities are critical. The martial arts have historically been very popular with youth, who joined them for sporting, fitness and self-defense purposes. But with the descent of the country into violence during post independence, some of these groups turned to crime and violence.
Minister Miguel Manetelu thanked the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, appointed in April 2004, for coming to Timor-Leste. “We hope that all the young people here will remember your words,” he said. “We must make peace last in this country.”
At the climax of his visit on Wednesday, Jackie Chan brought together over 3,500 Dili-based martial arts students in a unifying exercise at the national stadium to promote the peaceful yet powerful role that young people engaged in martial arts can play.
In a short series of powerful thrusts with his fists, clenched followed by jabs and kicks, he led thousands of young people who followed in unison to the sound of rhythmic drum beats. Thousands of people, many travelling from afar to the coastal capital Dili, cheered them on. Earlier, a colorful dragon dance welcomed Jackie as he arrived at the stadium, its walls decorated with graffiti messages of peace and harmony. Martial arts students from Wushu, Kempo, Karate and Aikido groups each performed two-minute demonstrations.
“Jackie’s visit has been an inspiration to many kids here. I can see their eyes and faces light up as he waves, gives high fives and reaches out to them with his charismatic style.” said Jun Kukita, UNICE Timor-Leste Country Office. “UNICEF is committed to working with the Timor-Leste’s government to fulfill the rights of young people and to make sure they have the opportunity to learn, develop practical skills, and play an active role in the development of the country,”
Jackie Chan also flew by helicopter to Ainaro in the southwest of the country over undulating hills dotted with green trees and bushes and passing over the highest peak, Mt. Ramelau. After landing at a football field, he was greeted by 600 martial arts students in this rural area, who linked arms with him to show unity and danced the traditional “tebe dahur”. Afterwards, he stopped by to speak with a rural family and observe how people live in the remotest part of the country.
At Comoro Youth Centre, back in Dili, Jackie was shown the importance of vocational youth training and observed lessons in life skills, English and electronics. The Government recently adopted a National Youth Policy which seeks to provide adolescents with more opportunities to learn farming, fishing and forestry as well as skills in small scale business.
On a visit to a child-friendly school in Camea, Jackie Chan chatted to a classroom of children engaged in an art and math classes taking time out to skip rope and play volley ball with them. Many of the children said they had to walk around an hour and half up rugged hill sides to get to school. He toured the water and sanitation facilities, which were completed in the water-scarce area this past March.
Many young Timorese do not attend school regularly and often drop out too early because parents can not afford to pay for books and transport to school among other reasons.
“I’ve heard how tough it is for some children to go to school here,” he said. “Education is a priceless investment in the lives of young people. We must help them stay in school and finish their education so they can have a better future.”
Jackie also attended dinner hosted by President Jose-Ramos Horta, had an official meeting with the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and was briefed by Special Representative of the Secretary General Atul Khare.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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