19 April 2011

Man U legend Byran Robson helping UNICEF in Bangkok

Story and video by Heamakarn Sricharatchanya

BANGKOK - For many people, football is a sport, a passion and a part of their regional identity. For UNICEF, football is a way of keeping children fit and healthy and of teaching them life skills like discipline and teamwork. UNICEF also teams up with leading football clubs and players to raise awareness and funds for the work on children’s rights.
Manchester United legends Bryan Robson and Andrew Cole were in Bangkok earlier this month as part of a fundraising tour to help the Manchester United Foundation raise £1 million for UNICEF’s work for children worldwide. In Thailand, a number of unique Manchester United items were put up for auction at a charity dinner, and all proceeds raised from the auction will be used by UNICEF to help disadvantaged children in Thailand.

During their fundraising mission in Thailand, Robson, the longest serving captain in the club’s history, who is also known as “Caption Marvel” and is now the manager of the Thailand national team, visited the Pak Kred Reception Home for Boys to learn how UNICEF is supporting children who have been abused or trafficked.

Also visiting Ban Poomvet was John Shiels, Manchester United Foundation Chief Executive.

The Pak Kred Reception Home for Boys, also known as Ban Poomvet, is Thailand’s only reception home for boys. The reception home provides temporary shelter for over 130 Thai and foreign boys between the ages of 6 and to 18 who are in need of protection. Some of the boys are street children, orphans or beggars, while others are victims of trafficking, abuse or domestic violence. About 40 per cent of boys at Bann Poomvet are from neighbouring countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar.

At the shelter, UNICEF is supporting Friends International, a non-governmental organization, in providing life-skills and non-formal education to non-Thai children in their native languages. The staff also help social workers at the shelter write up case reports on the children which contains information about the reasons they come to Thailand and problems they face back home. The reports are given to government agencies in each country where officials try to locate the children’s families.

“I spoke to the staff here and it’s not just about bringing kids off the street but it’s about educating them how not to end up back on the streets,” Robson said. “It’s also about trying to get some of the Burmese and Cambodian kids who’ve been trafficked to Thailand back to their own countries."

During the visit, Robson and Shiels learned about the children’s activities at the shelter, including non-formal education and vocational trainings such as hairstyling, making ceramic pottery and playing music on traditional instruments.

But the most fun part of Robson’s  and Sheils’ visit to the shelter was running a coaching session for the boys, who had assembled in their Manchester United kits at the shelter’s football field. They put the boys in pairs, with one boy as a striker and his partner a defender, and taught them how to both score goals and defend against them. At the end, Robson took a shot and scored.

“What’s great for me is that they’re doing sport as well as education,” Robson said. “We all know that education is very important, but when kids get onto a playing field, no matter what sport they’re doing, they really enjoy being outside. And it’s good for them, for their health and keeping fit.”

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