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South African cricketers instil hope in the lives of Indian children affected by HIV

© UNICEF India/2006/Matta
Star cricket player AB De Villiers of South Africa helps an Indian girl polish her batting skills.

By Gurinder Gulati

AHMEDABAD, India, 27 October 2006 – South African cricket players Shaun Pollock, AB De Villiers, Andrew Hall and Jonty Rohdes recently visited India – not to play cricket games, but to spend time with children affected by HIV.

“We had never imagined in our life that one day we will meet and play with world-renowned players,” said Shaikh, one of the 14 star-struck children who came from various parts of India to meet their heroes.

The event was organized by UNICEF India as part of the global campaign, UNITE FOR CHILDREN  UNITE AGAINST AIDS.

Sharing hopes and dreams

The children and cricketers tied blue-and-red bracelets called ‘Suraksha Bandhans’ around each other’s wrists, signifying their pledge of mutual support in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

© UNICEF India/2006/Matta
South African cricketer spending time with children affected by HIV in India.

The cricketers also signed autographs, had their pictures taken with the children and helped polish the youths’ cricket skills. The children shared their hopes and dreams for the future with the players.

“I really enjoyed talking to Jonty Rohdes. He is my role model,” said Chinmoy, 11. “I asked him how he felt when he was selected to play cricket for his country. Jonty smilingly replied that he was just surprised.”

‘Icons of youth’

UNICEF’s State Representative in Gujarat, Dr. Yogendra Mathur, thanked the players for sparing precious moments for the children. “Everybody in this country is fond of cricket, and you are the icons of the youth and people of India,” said Dr. Mathur.

“A word from you about alleviating the discrimination that we see today will go a long way in nurturing and fostering care for these children,” he added, referring to the persistent stigma associated with HIV and AIDS in many Indian communities.

“We can never measure the impact we may have made on these children,” said Mr. Pollock. “But I am sure that if we can change the mindsets of even 10 people, we have done our bit. We hope it will give people more confidence in dealing with HIV patients when they see us touching, hugging or playing with these children. We will do what we can do give these children a normal life.”




27 October 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on a visit by South African cricket players to Indian children affected by HIV.
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