UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lillian Thuram visits Palestinian children in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM, 11 April 2011 – Invited by the Palestinian football Federation and the French General Consulate in Jerusalem, Lilian Thuram, renowned French national team soccer player, is visiting the occupied Palestinian territory for the first time since he was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in France.
As part of his visit, Thuram spoke and played with Palestinian children in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, where Burj Al Luq Luq social centre provides a welcome relief from the political tension and the poverty that affects many youngsters.
During his visit, Lilian Thuram explained that he enjoyed speaking with youngsters everywhere in the world. “I’ve heard a lot about Palestinian children and the environment in which they grow up. Today, I was able to share their enthusiasm and see how determined they are to succeed”, he said.
According to a study published last year, the poverty rate in East Jerusalem rose from 59 per cent in 2008 to 71 in 2009. Life as a child in the Old City is especially difficult, as children are surrounded by drug use and poverty.
In the densely populated Old City, the Burj Al-Luq Luq Social Center, supported by UNICEF among others, offers a rare open space where boys and girls can play and practice sport at ease, and receive counseling.
“Children should not be in the streets, where they may be subjected to violence or tempted to participate in unhealthy activities”, said Jean Gough, UNICEF-oPt Special Representative. “Adolescent-friendly centers help children be children, regardless of the political climate. They provide a safe environment where youngsters can feel free to express their creativity and begin to build a better future.”
The Adolescent-Friendly Space helps children develop stress-management skills and practice sport to forget about the difficult environment they live in. The Space also provides remedial Arabic and Mathematic classes to help children stay in school, and raises awareness on substance abuse.
In 2008, after a career that took him to the summit of world football in clubs as prestigious as FC Barcelona and Juventus and in the French national team, Lilian Thuram left football to launch his Foundation on Education against Racism. He was appointed UNICEF / France Goodwill Ambassador last October, as he led his first mission to Haiti.