December 2012: Spanish basketball star visits UNICEF Zambia
By Mark Maseko
LUSAKA, Zambia – Friend of UNICEF Spain and National Basketball Association (NBA) star José Manuel Calderón visited Zambia to see firsthand UNICEF’s child survival work, including water and sanitation, education, child led climate change reduction advocacy, and social protection .
“I have seen in Zambia how the work of UNICEF saves lives and gives opportunities to children,” said Calderón, who won a silver medal as part of Spain’s national basketball team at the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. “Every child has the right to education, nutrition, and access to clean water, and protection, and all of us can do so much to change their lives for the better.”
During his four-day visit, Calderón, 31,who plays with the Toronto Raptors in Canada, saw UNICEF-supported activities in Lusaka, the capital and country’s largest city, and then Choma, Kazungula and Livingstone, all in Southern Province. He interacted with street children at the Fountain of Hope centre in Lusaka and later visited Chief Mapanza’s chiefdom in Choma to see activities under the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiative. CLTS is a community-based strategy where villages and urban neighbourhoods work with their neighbours to adopt improved sanitation and hygienic practices and construct latrines. Through Chief Mapanza’s efforts, sanitation coverage in his chiefdom was reached to the level of 100 per cent and his chiefdom was declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) in November 2011, the second chiefdom in Africa to be so honoured.
UNICEF Spain Partnerships Manager, Cristina Ribes Espinosa, who was part of the team that accompanied Calderón to Zambia, was pleased that the visit would help garner support for UNICEF’s work.
“This field visit contributed in different ways to the work that UNICEF Spain does for children in Spain. First of all, by showing José the impact that UNICEF’s work makes on children lives we increase his commitment to UNICEF,” said Espinosa.
“That means that he will be more and more involved in many different activities, campaigns and emergency appeals, becoming an active member of the UNICEF family to raise awareness and funds for the work that we do for children all over the world. We strongly believe that after this visit that José will inspire others to support UNICEF,” she added.
Espinosa further explained that it was important for UNICEF to spread its message, vision and mission to wider and new audiences.
“Having Jose communicating his experience in Zambia with UNICEF in the mass media means that we are reaching many people, not only in Spain but also abroad, like his fans and followers,” said Espinosa.
Calderón also saw school water and sanitation activities, as well as social cash transfer programmes in Kazungula district. UNICEF is supporting the Government of the Republic of Zambia’s social cash transfer scheme to help extremely poor households with small cash grants which they use to help meet basic needs.
Calderón later joined UNICEF child climate ambassadors in Livingstone in conservation activities that included tree planting at the Victoria Falls. The climate ambassadors are part of over 700 children in Zambia that have received training in climate change and HIV prevention through the Unite4Climate project supported by UNICEF with funding from UNICEF national committees in Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and ING.
On the last day of his visit, Calderón met basketball coaches and under-20 Zambian national basketball teams at the Olympic Youth Development Centre in Lusaka. He witnessed their preparations for the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa Zone Six under 20 games, which will be held in Lusaka in December.
UNICEF Zambia Representative Dr. Iyorlumun J. Uhaa praised the role of celebrities in supporting UNICEF to implement programmes.
“UNICEF values the contribution of goodwill ambassadors and other celebrity supporters like José in helping us achieve results for children. We are honoured that José, in collaboration with UNICEF Spain, decided to visit Zambia and see our work on the ground,” said Dr. Uhaa.
Calderón was named a Friend of UNICEF Spain in 2009. He supports UNICEF by raising awareness about child rights and also helps UNICEF in raising funds for its work.