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Irish cricketer visits Jamaican programme for people with disabilities

© UNICEF Jamaica/2007
Irish cricketer Andrew White during his visit to GO 3D Projects, a UNICEF-supported rehabilitation service for people with disabilities in Jamaica.

By Gail Hoad

SPANISH TOWN, Jamaica, 28 March 2007 ─ In the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, Ireland is probably the team that best knows what it is to beat the odds. Having prevailed over Pakistan and tied with Zimbabwe during the group stage matches, they made their first-ever ICC Cricket World Cup appearance.

So it is no surprise then that the team all-rounder, Andrew White, last week visited a non-governmental organization in Jamaica working to equip disabled young people with the skills and support they need to meet the challenges of HIV and AIDS.

Mr. White made his visit to GO 3D Projects, a community rehabilitation service in Spanish Town dedicated to the development of people with disabilities. With financial and technical assistance from UNICEF, this partner organization has produced a manual and resource materials on sexual and reproductive health education – and HIV prevention – for youths with learning disabilities.

‘A great cause to work for’

The visit was an eye-opener for Mr. White. “Cricket gives me the opportunity to travel all over the world, and opportunities like this help us to see a lot of persons who are less privileged,” he said. “Cricket has been good to me and this is a way of giving back.”

While this was the Irish player's first time working with UNICEF and UNAIDS, he is no stranger to working with children and young people with disabilities. He has done talks and promotional work in schools with special-needs children in Ireland. HIV and AIDS is another area he is ready to tackle.

“I feel the HIV/AIDS campaign is a great cause to work for, as AIDS is such a big problem worldwide,” said Mr. White. “And I think it is great that the International Cricket Council [ICC] has taken this on board.”

HIV prevention with the disabled

The ICC, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS have all teamed up for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 to highlight the situation of children and youth affected by HIV. All these organizations are partners in the Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS global campaign.

Surrounded by members of the local and international media two days before Ireland’s match with the West Indies at Jamaica’s Sabina Park, Mr. White spoke to young people at 3D while staff members from the NGO shared information about their work on HIV prevention with the disabled.

UNICEF Representative in Jamaica Bertrand Bainvel said the personal involvement of cricketers like Mr. White was important to the campaign. These sports stars are role models who can raise awareness among the public about how HIV and AIDS affect children and spread the message of non-discrimination, he noted.

Specific approaches for youth

“This 3D project focuses more attention on persons living with disabilities, and this highlights the fact that everyone has the right to protection, and that we need approaches and tailored responses to children’s needs and specific vulnerabilities,” said Mr. Bainvel.

“We need approaches that are specific to age, to sex and adjusted to the abilities of children and young people to understand the messages,” he added.

Mr. Bainvel stressed the need to recognize the rights of all young people to get skills that will help them protect themselves against HIV infection – as well as their rights to have access to prevention, testing, treatment, care and support services.

Bridging the gap

The UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Jamaica, the Bahamas and Cuba, Miriam Maluwa, also highlighted a fundamental gap in addressing the issue of HIV and the disabled.

“In the focus on HIV and persons with disabilities there is a gap,” she said. “There is need for this to be a more comprehensive and integral part of the national response to HIV and AIDS. Communities are doing great work in this area, but we need to mainstream it. What we really need is an integrated approach.”

Mr. White, who besides being a cricketer is a teacher of physical education, is doing his part to go to bat for the needs of the disabled. He expressed optimism that the partnership for children and AIDS will be effective in reducing the impact of HIV.

“Hopefully the World Cup and the ICC’s involvement will help in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and if what we do can save even one more life it is worth it,” he said.



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