UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom visits South African children
WESTERN CAPE, South Africa, 5 December 2012 - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom met up with children and young people near Cape Town to learn more about their lives and to help the world hear what they have to say.
Working with vulnerable children
The first stop for the British actor, who is in South Africa to film the movie Zulu, was to meet with child and young care workers in the town of Grabouw at a UNICEF-supported Isibindi programme, which provides community-led assistance for orphans and children at risk of abuse, neglect or dropping out of school.
“We work with children who are vulnerable, many of whom are affected by HIV in some way,” said Isibindi child care worker Nozuko Ngwalase.
Ms. Ngwalase explained that many children either must care for sick parents or have lost their parents and must fend for themselves.
“If there is no mother, if she has died, it also means it will be very difficult for the children to get government assistance, like the social grant. So we also help them to get those grants so that they can live day to day.”
Ms. Ngwalase helped 16-year-old Prince get social grants for himself and his three siblings after their mother died. Prince’s father works far away and has little time to look after the children, so Ms. Ngwalase comes by every day before and after school to help with homework or anything else that comes up.
Providing safe spaces
While in Grabouw, Mr. Bloom spoke with several children about their experiences, and how they are coping. He then joined the children at the Safe Park.
“In this area, we don’t really have parks,” explained Ms. Ngwalase, “but we have public space. So we make a circle in the grass, and that is our safe place to play – the kids are supervised, and we make sure they are safe in every way.”
Safe Park happens every day after school, and on weekends for specific play hours.
UNICEF provides assistance to the National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers, which runs Isibindi programmes countrywide.
On the air
The actor later met with young reporters at an Atlantis community radio station, where he gave an exclusive in-studio interview.
The young people are part of the Youth Reporters Network, a partnership between UNICEF, the Children’s Radio Foundation and the Department of Basic Education that gives young people a platform through which they can broadcast their views on matters important to them, such as violence in school and teen pregnancy.
“I’ve realized that people can put a smile on their faces and just act like everything is okay, but when you go up to them and you speak to them face to face, you get the real facts and the real story,” said 19-year-old Nazeema Sauer, a youth reporter for the network’s weekly Teen Express show. Like all Youth Reporters Network shows, Teen Express is researched, written and produced by the youth themselves.
“Everyone has a real story – it can be a nice story; it can either make you sad or it can make you happy,” continued Nazeema. “And a lot of the stories that people have told me, the interviews, the audio profiles that I’ve done with them personally, it has inspired me.”
Children and youth account for half of South Africa’s population, yet their voices are seldom heard. Atlantis community radio is one of 12 community radio stations in South Africa participating in the Youth Reporters Network.
Opening hearts and minds
For Mr. Bloom, standing up for children’s rights is universal.
“The idea that there is a young girl in a town 60 miles from here with a disability who is being sexually abused, or taken advantage of – or that there are young kids just around the corner who are getting in and out of taxis and taking rides and thinking that sexual favors for a ride in a taxi is okay – is preposterous to me, and hard to fathom, and something that we all need to be aware of and open our eyes and our hearts and minds to.”
The actor, perhaps best known for his roles in Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, has long supported UNICEF’s work. He became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in October 2009. Before then, in 2008 and 2007, Bloom visited UNICEF-supported schools in Nepal to help advocate on behalf of the rights of children, including access to quality education and clean water.