Gary V celebrates 10th year as UNICEF Ambassador
© UNICEF Philippines/2008/Alquinto
Despite hectic schedules, performing and speaking engagements, Gary V also takes his role as a child rights advocate seriously.
To many of his fans and admirers, he is known as Mr. Pure Energy or The Total Performer. To child rights advocates, he is known as Mr. Gary Valenciano, The Filipino Children’s Hero.
Despite hectic schedules, performing and speaking engagements as well as his upcoming concert, “Gary V Live at 25” in Araneta Coliseum this November 14 and 15, Gary V also takes his role as a child rights advocate seriously. This 2008, Gary Valenciano celebrates his tenth year as National Ambassador of the UN children’s agency UNICEF with a visit to Sitio Avocado, a former war zone in Negros Oriental. Aiming to draw attention to the power of community action, the legendary performer shows how education can be a catalyst for change in these times of conflict.
In the 1980’s Sitio Avocado was a no-go area, as regular battles and skirmishes took place between the rebels and the military. But after the arrival of former nun Monica Sison as the new principal, the school and community started working together and slowly restored the important place of education in the community. Now the classrooms are full, and as well as children inside, you can find parents and former rebels who have decided to lay down their arms and go back to school.
“I learned in Sitio Avocado that nothing is impossible. If you have vision and passion, nothing is impossible. These children do not only want to know more, they want to know what is right,” he said.
Gary spent the day talking to elementary and high school students, bringing them words of inspiration and encouragement. He told them about his personal experiences as a juvenile diabetic and how he was able to surmount the many challenges he met in his life. He also performed a mini-concert to the delight of his Sitio Avocado fans, and was unable to hold back tears as he was singing his last song for them. The children’s hero truly has a soft spot for children in his heart.
In December of 1998, Gary V was singled out for his unwavering commitment to helping underprivileged children and was conferred the title UNICEF National Ambassador, the first in the Philippines. Since then, Gary has become the face of the Child-Friendly Movement—a movement that made people talk about, understand, believe in, and take action for the rights of Filipino children.
Gary went to remote villages all over the country to bring light to issues concerning children and their families. He visited schools and asked children: “If you were the school principal, what would you do to make schools a better place for children?” Gary also went to jails and youth reform centers to give them the message that indeed they deserve a second chance. He went to calamity-affected areas and comforted parents who have lost their children. He visited Muslim villages in North Cotabato, Mindanao where he felt safe with and accepted by a people whose faith is different from his. He helped pass a landmark law making detention of children in jails a last resort. In his tenth year as UNICEF National Ambassador, Gary V gives the same energy to fighting for child rights as he does when he performs on stage.
“My vision as an ambassador for UNICEF for the next ten years is hopefully to encourage efforts to know more about UNICEF and unite our efforts for the rights of all children. We have seen great progress and I’m sure together we can achieve a lot for children here in the Philippines. I feel that is what I will be carrying out in the years to come,” he said.