Smiley’s message to children: 'Your life is your own. Avoid living your life for others!"
UNICEF National Ambassador met with children and adolescents in Brasov
Brasov, 8 November 2023. Smiley, The National Ambassador for UNICEF, was in Brasov on Tuesday to meet the children benefiting from UNICEF's "Romania for every child" initiative. Smiley met the children from Kindergarten No. 9 in Brasov and the staff of the institution, then visited the Integrated Community Centre Brasov, where vulnerable children, children with disabilities benefit from specialized services provided by an excellent team of local professionals. Smiley also had a meeting with teenagers from the Brașov Local Children's Council and the deputy mayor of the municipality, Flavia Boghiu, and also visited the Katya Centre, where refugee children from Ukraine and their families receive support.
At Kindergarten No. 9, the teachers told Smiley about the educational activities focused on the needs of each child, as well as the outdoor activities organised as part of the "Romania for every child" project. The artist joined the children in leaf painting and gymnastics, the latter taking place on one of his songs.
"I love interacting with children. Children are very sincere and, because I now have a child of my own, I feel I'm getting closer and closer to childhood age. I'm going back to the childhood games and the free and sincere joys that childhood offers," Smiley said. The artist also shared some memories from previous visits to vulnerable communities: "Education is the biggest challenge for a parent, in my view, but in some communities, the challenge is how the child gets to school. I've known children waiting for their siblings to change their shoes. These are real challenges that still exist in Romania."
The initiative "Romania for every child. Ensuring social inclusion - breaking the vicious circle of exclusion for the most vulnerable children in Romania" is implemented by UNICEF and partners from June 2021 in Brasov municipality and four localities in Bacau county. In the Integrated Community Centre in Brasov, since the beginning of the project, more than 2,000 children and adults have benefited from services, 150 children being the beneficiaries of specialized services provided by two physiotherapists, two psychologists, a speech therapist, a medical assistant and a social worker, as well as an education referent.
Smiley learned about the work of this team of professionals coordinated by the Social Assistance Department (DAS) from the deputy mayor of Brasov, Flavia Boghiu, and the director of Department of Social Assistance, Mariana Topoliceanu, who told him how the Centre has changed for the better the lives of thousands of Brasov residents. The artist learned from professionals about dance therapy and attended a physiotherapy session.
"Today, Smiley, UNICEF ambassador, is in Brasov to visit the projects that Brasov has with and with the support of UNICEF. They started from kindergarten number 9. Now we are at the Integrated Community Centre, opened within the Social Welfare Department, a place where children with disabilities, children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, come and do activities at this centre - we are talking about speech therapy, rehabilitation, physiotherapy or learning life skills or even fun activities like learning a new dance. All of this happens here at the Department of Social Assistance with the support of UNICEF. Next, the UNICEF team will also visit the new Community Refugee Centre, which we opened with their support and that of the UNHCR, and will also meet with the local Children's Council, the city's advisory body, made up entirely of children. We are glad to have this partnership with UNICEF in Brasov, which helps us to make decisions and implement projects that will help the children of Brasov reach their full potential in our city", said Brasov's Deputy Mayor Flavia Boghiu.
The visit continued at the Katya Centre, the service hub for refugee children and their families from Ukraine, a project of the Metropolitan Agency for Sustainable Development Brasov, supported by UNICEF.
The last meeting of the day was with the members of the Brasov Local Children's Council, set up within the framework of UNICEF's Child Friendly Cities Initiative. The National Ambassador for UNICEF entered into a lively dialogue with the teenagers present, who presented him with their projects and their vision to change the city and make it truly child-friendly. The discussion continued on topics of great interest to young people, such as education, the problem of bullying in schools, the pressure students feel to perform at school, which affects their mental health.
Smiley told teenagers that it is important to live their dreams, express their opinions freely and fight for what they believe in. "I was told to mind my own business, to do a serious job, not with music," he said, recalling some of the advice he received early in his career. "Your life is your own. Avoid living your life for others. The decisions you make will impact you first and foremost," he added.
The artist confessed that he spent an emotional day among the children and professionals he met. "Today, for me, was a roller coaster of emotions. I first went to the kindergarten, where I found good cheer, then I went to the community centre, where I also felt the excitement of people who are dedicated to helping disadvantaged children, children with disabilities," he said. "It seems to me that these people - educators, therapists, civil servants working to make things happen - are a special kind of people. They are people with a calling, who should be valued, supported in every way. To be applauded, respected and embraced by communities. We don't see them or know exactly what they do, we are tempted to say they are a system. This is where I think we are wrong! We need to realise that without them nothing would happen. All the people I met today are happy people, you can see on their faces that what they do fulfils them. And it's wonderful to see that there are some people who have realised that the greatest joy in life is to give something to someone."
The conclusion at the end of the day was optimistic, just like the artist's music: "I think there is hope, I think that if more and more people get together who really want change and are willing to work for it, more and more things will change in Romania and more and more quickly. I think UNICEF is making a difference because it knows how things work elsewhere. And if others can, why can't we?".
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.