Just another day in UNICEF Philippines
by Pam Pagunsan
An up-close, personal encounter with football living legend and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham during his recent trip to the Philippines.
The site we picked was a UNICEF-supported centre in Manila where David could meet children who used to live and work on the streets.
A mix of boys and girls, the centre temporarily houses more than a hundred children with ages ranging from seven to seventeen years old. The government run “village for the youth” provides a comprehensive program to help young people get back a sense of structure and normalcy in their lives. What also made this location perfect was the staff at the centre, who were gentle, caring and dedicated to the task at hand, and of course the children themselves.
Manila, Philippines - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham tries on a graduation gown sewn by children in a UNICEF supported centre for children who once lived and worked on the streets. ©UNICEF/2011/Villafranca
After the tour, David and the children had a chance to sit down and talk about how football and living in the centre has changed their lives.
Manila, Philippines - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham visits a UNICEF suppported centre for children who once lived and worked on the streets. ©UNICEF/2011/Villafranca
Clark was just nine when he entered the centre with his sister. Now 11, Clark shared what football has taught him, “In football we get pushed, fall down and get hurt while playing. The game has taught me to how forgive. . .when I grow up I want to be an architect and I will build a big school where children can learn.”
Planning to be a sailor someday, 15 year old Nelthon talked about what football has done for him, “I had asthma before but it went away when I started playing football. Football has been great for my health.”
Meeting David Beckham was a dream come true for the centre’s volunteer football coach Jess Landagan, himself a former streetchild who went on to play for the national team. “Football is my passion and it is my way of giving back. I connect the sports to their education and then also their character. I can see the changes in their lives.”
After the game, I had a chance to ask David is thoughts on the visit, “The first moment I walked into the centre I got a really good, positive feeling. The children I’ve met here have gone through so much but through the guidance of the caring adults, children as young as nine or ten are learning responsibility and about respect. They talk about their hopes and dreams and their families. All the values they’re learning in the centre are really incredible,” David shared visibly touched by experience.
The interview was quite a surreal experience. All my years working for a broadcast network has served me quite well so that I knew what I had to do and how to compose myself when doing interviews with celebrities. However, a part of me was also saying “Oh my gosh, how cool is it that I’m interviewing David Beckham!” Unfortunately, I don’t have a better picture of this momentous occasion because the photographer forgot to put me in the shot!
David’s visit was truly a magical experience not just for the children and staff but for me and the rest of the UNICEF team involved. All the preparation, stress and late night jitters were worth it because at the end of the day, we were able to deliver on our main goal: to give the children and David genuine bonding moments they will remember, hopefully for the rest of their lives.
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