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Jackie Chan and other celebrities attend ‘Champions for Children’ event in Beijing

© UNICEF China/2008/Dean
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan at the UNICEF-sponsored 'Champions for Children' event, which was held to draw attention to the rights of the China’s most vulnerable children.

By Lei Pang

BEIJING, China, 15 August 2008 – One day after the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, UNICEF China hosted ‘Champions for Children’ – an evening of advocacy for the most vulnerable children in China. The event gathered high-level Chinese officials Olympians, artists and corporate partners at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The event started with an acknowledgement to the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF, who has been a significant supporter to UNICEF’s work in China over the years. Among the celebrities in attendance was UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Jackie Chan.

Champions for Children centred mainly on helping children – especially girls – who do not have equal access to education or participation in sports, as well as children affected by HIV/AIDS. The event also focused on children affected by the recent Sichuan earthquake.

Children share experiences

“After the earthquake hit Sichuan, UNICEF was one of the first international agencies to get aid to children there,” said Mr. Chan. “So far, they have provided over $12 million of relief for children.” He then invited six children from Sichuan to come onstage and share their experiences.

“We were having our music class when the earthquake hit,” said Yuan Jin, 10. “Our classroom collapsed just within 10 seconds. At that time, everything was so dark. I screamed for help. Luckily, I was saved by my teachers and parents an hour later.”

Zhou Jie, 13, lost her father in the disaster. “I want to say to my father in heaven: Please don’t worry about me. The teachers, classmates and many kind people care about me. I will study hard and take care of my mother,” she said.

Each of the children in attendance was given a UNICEF school bag that Mr. Chan autographed onstage. Sixty thousand of the bags have already been delivered to children in the earthquake zone.

© UNICEF China/2008/Dean
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lang Lang performs at 'Champions for Children' in Beijing.

An ‘exciting time in Beijing’

Renowned pianist and UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador Lang Lang gave two piano performances during the event, which he dedicated to the fulfilment of each child’s dream.

“When UNICEF asked me to come to the Champions for Children event during the Olympics, I was very excited because I knew this was going to be a very exciting time in Beijing and a great time to help UNICEF,” said Mr. Lang.

UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia Jelena Jankovic, the second-highest ranking professional women’s tennis player in the world, brought up the topic of gender equality. She introduced a new media campaign organized by the non-governmental organization All China Women’s Federation, in partnership with UNICEF, which will advocate equal opportunities for girls.

“UNICEF supports programmes in China to help change attitudes that discriminate against girls, and in doing so, help girls realize their dreams,” said Ms. Jankovic.

Three other prominent women with outstanding achievements in their respective professions also attended the event – China’s top female conductor Maestro Zheng Xiaoying, well-known scholar and writer Yu Dan, and TV talk show hostess Chen Luyu.

Equal opportunities for recreation

Champions for Children concluded with a play performed by eight children affected by HIV/AIDS who are currently participating in UNICEF China’s annual ‘Children and AIDS’ summer camp programme.

Some of these young performers had lost one or both of their parents to AIDS. In the play, they expressed their wishes to participate in sports like other children. The play was simple, but it carried a profound message.

“A world without discrimination means that all children – including children affected by AIDS – should have equal opportunity to education, recreation and sports, to help them realize their full potential,” said UNICEF Representative in China Dr. Yin Yin Nwe.




9 August 2008:
UNICEF's Gareth Evans reports on how the Olympics in China are providing an opportunity to help improve the lives of vulnerable children.
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