‘Our children are not for sale’ Jackie Chan makes his voice heard against trafficking
By Sandar Linn
Yangon, Myanmar, July 2012 – the World famous film star, action hero and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan made a three-day visit to Myanmar early this month, rallying support to combat child trafficking.
Jackie Chan, idol of many Myanmar children and adults, began his mission in Mandalay, the country’s second largest city. There Mr Chan met children and young people who had survived trafficking, who are growing up without parents, those who live and work on the streets. He visited vocational training activities that are designed to equip children with livelihood skills.
At the Girls’ Training school, Chan keenly listened to how human trade inflicted pain and alienation on the children who were affected. They also shared with him their hopes and aspirations.
“The children I met in Myanmar have inspired me,” said Jackie Chan. “The boys and girls who had been trafficked, their optimism and determination to build better lives for themselves has deeply impressed me.”
The captivating advocate for children also met with Myanmar Police Force officials at Anti Trafficking Task Force Unit in Mandalay. Making his rounds to meet children with endless energy, the action movie star later visited children aged between 9 and 16 years at the Boys’ training school, spontaneously joining them in traditional water festival dance and in playing football.
Jackie Chan passionately sang in sign language: ‘One country, one world’
The celebrated movie star was touched when the children in the School for the Deaf showed his name in sign language. In response Jackie Chan passionately sang in sign language: ‘One country, one world’ – a song that he wrote for children. “Jackie’s visit has been an inspiration to the children in our school. Their eyes and faces lit up as he reached out to them. Not only will they remember the visit of the charismatic super hero but also his advice to study hard,” said Daw Tin Mar Ohn, deputy head of the School for the Deaf.
Other places he visited include Myanmar Buddhist Orphanage Association (MBOA), a monastic institution in Mandalay, registered under the Department of Social Welfare where he met boys who come from various parts of Myanmar for shelter and education. A Head Monk and ten other resident monks with the help of some older boys administer MBOA and care for the 162 boys, who are currently enrolled.
Jackie passed on important messages
Every child and young adult he met, Jackie passed on important messages that his learnt from his father: “Education comes first. Stay in school and study hard and don’t do drugs.”
The tireless movie star also visited the non-formal education programme in Mandalay, he listened attentively to the story told by children. The name of the story was Stranger Danger and the moral of the story was how to be aware of and avoid the traps of trafficking.
Mr. Chan, who amused all with his brilliant martial art moves, met children and young people on his visit and listened to their concerns and hopes for the future, while delivering messages of education, discipline, respect and unity.
After spending two days in Mandalay, Mr. Chan flew to Yangon where he visited a community centre run by local NGO, Ratana Metta Organization (RMO) in collaboration with UNICEF for the protection of orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected and infected by HIV and AIDS.
At the Centre, Mr Chan was amused by children acting out parts from his famous movies following which he happily answered questions from them. At a mission-ending press conference in Yangon, Mr. Chan called for media’s strong support in covering children’s’ issue.
“Trafficking is not an issue specific to Myanmar, it’s a global issue. Everyone will have to work together to put an end to it, importantly the media. I would like to see more media coverage on children who were trafficked than on celebrities,” he appealed.
In the same evening, in a dinner hosted by UNICEF and Myanmar Motion Picture Association. Mr. Chan called on many of the Myanmar celebrities present to consider this a responsibility to the society by using their celebrity status.
“Let’s join hands and start today to beat trafficking. If you speak on TV, news or in your film about the issue, your fans, including children, would listen and that’s how it works,” said Mr. Chan.
I had the opportunity to visit countries and learn more about children
He concluded his simple but powerful comment at the reception by saying “As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador I had the opportunity to visit countries and learn more about children. I became aware of lending my voice and sharing what I earned and learned with those who need it. Thanks UNICEF, for giving me a chance to become a better person.”
The charismatic Hollywood star distributed gifts made by children that he bought from the training schools, as a reminder to Myanmar celebrities to work actively on the issue.
“Jackie Chan’s visit was enormously popular. He was welcomed with extraordinary warmth by children and adults alike. Clearly he is a powerful role model and his visit has done much to accelerate Myanmar’s combat to stop child trafficking”, said Ramesh Shrestha, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar. “It is important that we build on Jackie Chan’s call and continue to strengthen our prevention and advocacy efforts.”
Jackie Chan’s successful visit added impetus to Myanmar’s commitment to halt the child trafficking, as presented in the Myanmar National Plan of Action to combat human trafficking.