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UNICEF Philippines Goodwill Ambassador Gary V visits Yolanda-affected children, pledges support in getting children back to learning

©UNICEF Philippines/2014/JReyna
UNICEF Philippines National Ambassador Gary Valenciano greets children affected by Typhoon Yolanda at the Sto. Niño Special Education Center in Tacloban City on 29 January 2014. UNICEF is supporting children to go back to learning after the disaster by providing them with school supplies, supporting the repair of damaged schools, and training teachers on disaster preparedness.

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines, 30 January 2014 – UNICEF Philippines Goodwill Ambassador Gary Valenciano, on a two-day visit to Tacloban City, met with children and their families affected by Typhoon Yolanda, listened to their stories and offered support and strength by his uplifting words and music.

Throughout his visit, Valenciano stressed on the importance of continued education for the children affected. He met children in day care centres, elementary and high school students, and children with special needs, attending classes in temporary learning centres and repaired classrooms.

"You are doing an amazing job in recovering from the disaster. You are not alone, UNICEF has been there with you before and during the disaster and we will be there with you throughout the recovery," said UNICEF Philippines Goodwill Ambassador Gary Valenciano.

Gary went to affected schools and witnessed the enormous efforts that went into back-to-learning against all odds and despite massive destruction but also recognized the challenges ahead to ensure that all children return to learning.

"We appreciate Gary Valenciano's support in inspiring children and parents, and for stressing the importance of returning to and staying in school," said Angela Kearney, Representative a.i., UNICEF Philippines. "Schools serve as a lifeline for children who have been through troubling experiences from the massive disaster, offering not only education but bringing rhythm back to children's daily lives and providing a safe place where they can learn and play and be children."

Gary shared messages of resilience and encouragement, connecting with children in elementary and high schools, who are attending classes inside UNICEF tents, with children in the day care centres, and children with special needs in special education classes. And no less with teachers and school administrators who, despite suffering personal losses, committed to reopening schools and welcoming children back to learning.

Gary's visit was capped with an inspiring performance in a crowded Rizal School where he conveyed messages of hope and recovery to children and adults alike.

Typhoon Yolanda had severely disrupted children's education with some 3,200 schools and day care centres destroyed. UNICEF and cluster partners are supporting the Department of Education's Balik Eskwela campaign to get 550,000 children, teachers and day care workers to return to school. Many children have returned to schools in early January. The campaign, however, will continue to support all children back to learning.

UNICEF support includes repairing classrooms and establishing tents and temporary learning spaces, and providing a range of supplies including school-in-a-box kits, school and recreational materials, and early childhood care and development kits. UNICEF supports training of teachers and day care centre workers on education in emergencies.

A UNICEF Philippines Goodwill Ambassador since 1998, Gary Valenciano is a long-standing supporter and advocate in advancing the causes of children. Over the years he has supported a wide array of issues relating to children in emergencies, peacebuilding, child nutrition and juvenile justice, just to name a few.



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