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World No. 1 tennis player, UNICEF team up to support early childhood growth

来源: Xinhua 作者: 2015-08-28 10:20:51

  Jim Yong Kim(L), president of the World Bank and Novak Djokovic shakes hands after signing a Memorandum of Understanding between the World Bank and the Novak Djokovic Foundation at the United Nations Children's Fund(UNICEF) headquarters in New York, Aug. 26, 2015. World No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic on Wednesday teamed up with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank to bring attention to the issue of early childhood development.

  World No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic on Wednesday teamed up with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank to bring attention to the issue of early childhood development.

  UNICEF announced the appointment of Djokovic as a Goodwill Ambassador of the UN agency.

  At a joint press briefing at UNICEF headquarters in New York, Djokovic officially began his new role as UNICEF Global Goodwill Ambassador. He also signed a memorandum of understanding between the World Bank and the Novak Djokovic Foundation, agreeing to work together to promote early childhood development.

  Djokovic first teamed up with UNICEF in 2011 when he was appointed a UNICEF Serbia Ambassador. Since then, he has been lending his support to improving the lives of children, especially those who are amongst the most marginalized, with a particular focus on the importance of early childhood education and development in providing children with the best start to life.

  It is in recognition of his deep commitment to children's rights that UNICEF invited him to become a Goodwill Ambassador, the UN agency said.

  There is now a widespread recognition that children who receive care, protection and stimulation -- starting well before school years, will have a much greater chance to reach their full potential.

  Djokovic told journalists about the importance of both education and play for young children. He also spoke about his own childhood growing up in Serbia during times of war and economic crisis.

  "For very young children between ages three and five and six ... it is very important that they play, smile and embrace life," said Djokovic.

  The early years of life were particularly important for education because children's brains develop much faster, he added.

  "I'm not in the scientific sector, but I know a few things about the science saying that from zero to six years of age a child's brains growth is immense and logically a child receives information much quicker than any age or any years after that," said Djokovic.

  Djokovic, together with his foundation, has helped support schools in Bangladesh, China and the Philippines, as well as social inclusion and poverty reduction projects in his home country of Serbia.

  He spoke about the importance of early childhood development for vulnerable children, adding that his own experiences growing up in Serbia had added to his sense of responsibility to help children in need.

  "There were times when Serbia was going through the war, economic crisis that gave me even stronger personality and character and made me appreciate life's value," said Djokovic.

  He said he had been inspired to start his foundation because he "could relate and identify myself with many children in Serbia and what they are going through and their childhoods."

  "Unfortuantely in Serbia we have a very low rate of children going to preschool," said Djokovic. Only around 50 percent of children in Serbia attend preschool.

  Also speaking at the event, Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, said that for the poorest children in Serbia the figures were much worse.

  "Less than 10 percent of children from the poorest households go to preschool," he said.

  "The situation is even worse for children from Roma households, only 6 percent of Roma children living in settlements attend early education programs," he added, referring to the often-persecuted ethnic minority.

  However, Kim also touched upon the positives, pointing out the economic benefits of investing in early childhood development (ECD).

  "Children from disadvantaged families who took part in ECD programs earn 25 percent higher wages as adults," said Kim.

  He said that childhood development could be "as simple as encouraging mothers to play with, talk to and even sing to their toddlers at home."

  Yoka Brandt, UNICEF deputy executive director, also emphasized the importance of early childhood education.

  "In the very first years of life the brain has the potential to develop at an astounding pace, a pace that is never again in life repeated," she said.

  "Almost a thousand brain connections form per second and these connections are the basis for children's health, well being, and life-long learning," she said.

  Djokovic joins other famous UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors including women's number one tennis player, Serena Williams, football player David Beckham and actor, Audrey Hepburn.

  Djokovic thanked UNICEF for considering him for the role of Goodwill Ambassador.

  "I hope that I will be responsible and I will make sure to represent UNICEF with dignity as this very noble and beautiful institution deserves," he said.

Keywords:Djokovic,tennis player,childhood

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