UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan visits children of Myanmar
By Janine Kandel
YANGON, Myanmar, 11 July 2012 – 12-year-old Zaw* is a boy trying to build a future. Life has not always been kind to Zaw, who was trafficked as a young child to Malaysia and then forced to beg in the streets.
But Zaw has worked hard to overcome these experiences, and last week he had the thrill of meeting one of his idols – actor, martial arts icon and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan.
Inspired by strength of children
In a special centre, Zaw and other young trafficking survivors spoke to Mr. Chan about their experiences. Mimi was sold by traffickers twice, first at the age of 10 and then again at the age of 17. With UNICEF support, Zaw and Mimi now recovering from their horrific ordeals, learning new skills and being reunited with their families.
The young people talked about their hopes and dreams for the future and listened closely as Mr. Chan offered his encouragement and support, along with tips about how they can protect themselves.
Mr. Chan was moved by their stories. “Look at how brave and strong all of you are. You were forced to do horrible things by very bad people. Yet they haven’t stopped you,” he said. “You are here building a new life for yourself, and I deeply admire this.”
Education is key to protection
Continuing his trip in Mandalay, Mr. Chan visited children who are especially vulnerable to trafficking. In schools, community centres and residential care facilities, he met children living on the streets, working instead of attending school and growing up without families. He also met children affected HIV and those living with disabilities.
In a non-formal school, 13-year-old Cho Cho explained that she attends evening classes because she has to work in the mornings, picking tea leaves for US$2 per day to support her mother.
Mr. Chan also met 9-year-old Mg Mg who lives in a monastery school. Because Mg Mg comes from a state where ethnic conflicts persist, his parents have sent him far away to ensure his safety and allow him to get an education.
Mr. Chan had important messages to deliver to all of the children he met. “Stay in school and study hard,” he told them. “Education is the best way to protect yourself against bad people. The bad people know many tricks to fool you, and you have to be smarter than them.”
‘Our children are not for sale’
Mr. Chan was greeted not only by the children who had to been preparing for his visit but also by hundreds of fans welcoming him to Myanmar. Mr. Chan was happy to use his fame to encourage fans to rally against human trafficking.
He concluded his visit to Myanmar by hosting a press conference in the capital Yangon. There, he confirmed his commitment to fighting human trafficking and asked the media for help. “Please expose every trafficking story and talk about the issue as much as you can,” he urged them. “We need to bring these horrible crimes out in the open. Our children are not for sale.”
*The children in this story are identified by nicknames