David Beckham’s visit to the Philippines

Inspiring dreams by sharing his passion

This past December UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham took time away from his Asian soccer tour to visit ‘Village for Youth’ a youth residence in Manila, Philippines.

Home to 130 girls and boys, the UNICEF supported centre cares for former street children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned.

“I was lucky, throughout my life I had the support of my mom and dad,” Beckham said during his visit.

‘Village for Youth’ not only provides children with a safe home, it also ensures young people have access to good health care and education as well as career and life-skills training. During David Beckham’s visit, the soccer super star tried out a sewing class, played a soccer game and took part in an art lesson with the boys and girls.

“I have four children myself, and they depend on me and my wife,” he said. “So it’s so sad to see so many children that don’t have that support, that don’t have that love.”

Almost half the population of the Philippines lives on less than $2 a day, with approximately a quarter of the country living below the international poverty line. Women and children are also particularly vulnerable to displacement from conflict or natural disasters like last month’s tropical storm that left 235,000 people, including 100,000 children, displaced.

“The combination of extreme poverty and the impact of natural disasters or conflict has resulted in approximately a quarter of a million children living on the streets in the Philippines,” says UNICEF Canada’s President and CEO David Morley. “At UNICEF we work to reach as many of these children as possible and return them to caring supportive environments.”

One of the young people is 17-year-old Conan.

Conan spent his early childhood living on the streets in Manila and was arrested at just sevenyears-old. His family didn’t claim him and he eventually ended up at the ‘Village for Youth’.

The impact of these programs is undeniable 

He has flourished in a supportive environment and is a talented soccer player.

In March 2010 Conan played at the Street Children’s Football World Cup in South Africa to draw attention to the number of street children worldwide. Globally its estimated 100 million children are living and working on the streets.

Conan was thrilled to meet David Beckham.

“He’s an inspiration for me. One day I would like to play international football, just like him,” Conan said.

UNICEF’s work with government authorities and local partners has resulted in significant breakthroughs to increase child protection in the Philippines.

In 2006, the government signed the Juvenile Justice Act raising the age of criminal liability to 15-years-old. UNICEF and its partners have also reached thousands of at-risk elementary and high school students with life-skills and vocational training and continues to work closely with the justice system establishing child-sensitive rules and procedures.

This year UNICEF hopes to reach an additional 135,000 at-risk children with protection and psychosocial support through child-friendly spaces and youth clubs, and by working closely with government social service agencies.

The impact of these programs is undeniable.

“It’s a huge responsibility to have children that have come in that have lost their parents or have been abandoned,” says David Beckham before leaving the ‘Village for Youth’. “This is somewhere where a lot of great people are working hard looking after these kids.”