By Geetanjali Master
NEW DELHI, India, 10 March 2011 - The grounds at the Firoz Shah Kotla cricket ground in New Delhi were lit up with a different shade of green on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. South African cricketers, Greame Smith and Wayne Parnell along with players of their team were tossing cricket balls with a group of children affected/ infected with HIV as a part of the THINKWISE campaign for increased awareness about HIV and AIDS.
Excited expressions, laughter and cheering echoed through the empty stands around the grounds, as the South African players taught the children the basics of catching, throwing and fielding. The players, adults and children present cheered and clapped as the children went about learning the basics.
“It was like a dream come true for me and my friends. Cricket is worshipped in our country and cricketers are our role models. I still cannot believe that I am enjoying an afternoon with the South African Cricket team.” shared one of the children.
The girls were particularly excited for they got the chance to understand the rules of the game. Though they were playing the game for the first time, the girls were confident that they will soon pick up the basics of the game.
The players patiently explained the techniques to the children and were totally involved with the experience. “Catch the ball in both hands first, before you throw, make sure one hand aims at the wicket, and then throw the ball, sometimes you will hit and at times you will also miss.” explained Richard Pybus, coach of the South African team.
Post the exercise and excitement of the game, the group sat down for a conversation to share their thoughts and feelings about working together to fight HIV and AIDS.
“HIV is a very real disease and has affected people all around the world including in our country and here in India. All of us here today are using the World Cup as an opportunity to help strengthen the promotion of HIV messages in India,” said Greame Smith
“The key for us is to educate people during the tournament - to help prevent HIV and to show that people living with HIV lead normal lives - I believe that it will contribute in reducing stigma,” said Smith. We must encourage everyone to take responsibility and lead the path to finding solutions together,” he added.
ICC’s Think Wise partnership with UNAIDS and UNICEF is focused on promoting HIV prevention. The campaign will encourage young people to be informed, take appropriate action to prevent HIV infection and stand together against the stigma and discrimination often facing people living with HIV.
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 provides an opportunity for cricketers to deliver important social messages to the hundreds of millions of supporters who will be watching the tournament across the world
“Any sport is a big leveler and goes much beyond caste, class and gender. It creates equity and hence using cricket as a platform to impart information on HIV will be most effective in reaching the message to diverse audiences. We hope that the activities which were implemented during the ICC world cup 2011 will leave a legacy of more aware and empowered young people who will know the facts and take the relevant steps to protect themselves,” shared Ivonne Camaroni, Chief of HIV programme at UNICEF India.