England support AIDS fight
Several England players have visited projects in St Lucia as part of the ICC’s partnership with UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS.
Ian Bell visited the Centre for Adolescent Renewal and Education (CARE) Odsam Centre, which offers an alternative two-year programme for teens, who for a variety of reasons are not in secondary school.
During the first year, the focus on is on life skills education, including HIV prevention and during the second year they focus on learning vocational skills.
While at CARE, Bell got the opportunity to see how the students have been applying the information learnt in class about HIV when some of them performed a self-penned skit showing the impact of stigma and decimation on children affected HIV.
In addition Bell was also taken on a tour by the students where he also saw their creative works, in carpentry, dressmaking as well as auto mechanics.
Around the same time Ian Bell was visiting the CARE centre, two of his other team mates, Ravi Bopara and Sajid Mahmood, were visiting the Vide Bouteille Combined Primary School in Castries, where the UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Office has also been supporting the teaching of life skills.
Bopara and Mahmood also interacted with the students and learnt about the impact the programmes at the school have had on their lives.
The visits left an indelible mark on the on the children. 18-year-old Alicia Bretney, who attends CARE and intends to focus on dressmaking as a career, said: “The visit has given me more desire, more passion to work on my designs. Just knowing that someone took the time to visit is an inspiration.”
According to Bell, visits such as these afford international cricketers the opportunity to give back and to inspire others to reach towards their goals. This is important in HIV prevention.
"It's massively important to give back”, he said.
“I feel very lucky and privileged of the fact that I've been able to achieve what I want to, and it's nice to be able to give back to kids, and hopefully give them an opportunity or some insight into how I've been able to do it, and how other people have, so they can go off and try to achieve exactly what they want to in life."
One of the objectives of the Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign is to empower young people with the skills to protect themselves from HIV and visits such as these are important because they boost the children’s self- esteem which is crucial for young people as they adopt, as well as maintain a positive lifestyle.
This was noted by UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Office Health Education Specialist, Elaine King, who said: “Our research is showing that the children with low self-esteem and self confidence are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure and making poor choices when confronted with issues concerning their sexuality, among other issues.
"So if a cricketer can boost the self confidence of one child, then that is one more child on its way to adopting a positive lifestyle.”