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Indian cricket star brings message of hope to Trinidad youths

© UNICEF/2007/Cvillar
Indian cricket star Sachin Tendulkar with young cricketers from the Pride in Gonzales project in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

By Stuart Sutton-Jones

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, 21 March 2007 – They came from all over the community of Gonzales – schoolchildren, local residents, young cricketers and youth groups – drawn to a playing field for a visit from one of the greatest batsmen of all time, India’s Sachin Tendulkar.

In this cricket-mad part of the world, which is host to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, children grow up knowing the names of the great players, and everyone here knows the name Tendulkar. But as Trinidadians will tell you, many in Port of Spain also know the name Gonzales. The community has a reputation as a place where children and young people are at risk from gangs, crime, drugs and HIV.

But in recent years the people of Gonzales have been changing things for themselves through the non-governmental organization Pride in Gonzales, which offers youths an opportunity to direct their energies into the arts through training in video and other media.

The result, according to Gonzales residents, is that young people now know there are alternatives to a life of crime and drugs. And it was this changing community and its young people that Mr. Tendulkar came to see and to celebrate.

© UNICEF/2007/Cvillar
Sachin Tendulkar having a ‘one on one’ private conversation with youth coordinators from the Pride in Gonzales project.

Youths share stories

Hosted by young people from Gonzales, the visit unfolded under banners proclaiming Unite for Children. Unite Against AIDS – the name of the global campaign on children and AIDS. The coordinator of the Pride of Gonzales arts programme, Joyelle Cameron, led Mr. Tendulkar onto the field accompanied by the Director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team, Dr. Karen Sealey, and UNICEF Special Envoy to the Caribbean Karin Sham Poo.

At one point the star player left the arena to spend a private 20 minutes with four young people connected to Pride of Gonzales, among them Joyelle Cameron.

Joyelle shared with Mr. Tendulkar her experience growing up in a depressed community with gang wars and a high crime rate. But she also told him this experience had created within her a passion and commitment to help bring change to her community.

Effect on spread of HIV/AIDS

“You see all these young people dying on the streets,” said Joyelle, “and so you feel that you must do something.”

Joyelle went on to explain how she and her friends Johanna Thomas, 18, and Lisa Samai, 17, had joined the Pride in Gonzales project in order to become part of the change happening in their community.

In his address to the children in the arena, and to the media, Mr. Tendulkar noted that change can only come from within the community itself. When a community moves in the direction that Gonzales is now beginning to follow, he added, any change is possible – including having a positive effect on the spread of HIV and AIDS.



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