UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Tetsuko Kuroyangi visits Nepal
By Rupa Joshi
CHITWAN, Nepal, 9 June 2009 – Just days after being honoured for her 25 years of dedicated service to the world’s children as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi made her 29th trip to visit UNICEF programmes by travelling to Nepal.
Her first stop was at a reintegration programme for children previously associated with armed groups. Ms. Kuroyanagi met with teachers and members of child clubs at a school where children who were caught in the civil conflict in Nepal are now studying, and she learned about the social integration process used to assimilate them.
“School is the best entry point for these affected children to be children once again,” she said. “I witnessed firsthand the support system in the school, which has provided an enabling environment, where children that have borne the brunt of war will feel accepted.”
At the Shishu Kalyan Primary School in Bharatpokhari village, Ms. Kuroyanagi joined the children in assembly. “This is the best example of what a difference education makes in children's lives,” she said. “It is so apparent. I can see it in their eyes!”
In Pokhara municipality, Ms. Kuroyanagi met girls and boys who were working as domestic helpers, in tea shops and hotels, or in the Ram Ghat sand mines nearby. After work, these children come to the UNICEF-supported Contact Centre for Working Children for two hours of literacy classes.
Besides acting as a drop-in facility for the children, the centre runs a ‘bank’ where the children have their own savings accounts.
In a hostel for blind children at Amar Singh High School in Pokhara, Ms. Kuroyanagi's acting skills were put to good use by young members of the listeners' club affiliated with ‘Chatting with My Best Friend’, a weekly radio programme that UNICEF has supported for the past eight years.
The children performed a radio drama with a role for Ms. Kuroyanagi, playing herself as a guest at the school. The drama highlighted the problem faced by blind children, who often lag behind in their studies due to the dearth of braille versions of textbooks.
While in Pokhara, Ms. Kuroyanagi also visited the Gandaki Regional Hospital paediatric ward.
Economic impact of HIV
In the neighbouring district of Syangja, Ms. Kuroyanagi met with several women and their children living with HIV. The women, who are members of the Sankalpa Samuha organization, now have the opportunity to learn skills in order to earn money for their families. They have also received support enabling them to send their children to school.
“I was amazed to listen to these women,” said Ms. Kuroyanagi. “They are all so young, so innocent, and yet so resilient. Despite the hardships that they face, they are optimistic about the future. Hearing their stories, I came to understand that HIV is not just about health and disease but also about economic disparity, social discrimination and protection.
“That is why I think UNICEF's project is very well tailored to the needs of the women. Besides addressing their health issues, it also provides the women with psychological support, the opportunity to learn skills for income generation and also support for their children and family.”
Raising funds for UNICEF
Throughout her trip, Ms. Kuroyanagi was accompanied by a film crew that is working on a documentary called ‘Ms. Kuroyanagi's Report from Nepal’, which will be aired on Asahi TV in Japan. In addition, Ms. Kuroyanagi will devote a special programme to Nepal on her personal talk show, ‘Ms. Kuroyanagi's Room’.
All of these broadcasts will solicit contributions from the Japanese audience to support UNICEF programmes benefitting the children of Nepal.