UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham plays with children during a visit to Xianghuaqiao Kindergarten in Shanghai, China, March 27, 2019. (Photo provided by UNICEF)
(ECNS) - Global football icon David Beckham visited a kindergarten supporting migrant families in Shanghai on his first official visit to China as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
At the Xianghuaqiao Kindergarten, Beckham joined pre-school children to play games and participate in learning activities.
He also spent time chatting with some of the parents, all of whom had left their hometowns to seek better employment opportunities in Shanghai, China’s economic powerhouse.
The kindergarten is one of seven in which UNICEF is piloting a new project that promotes play to strengthen the confidence and social skills of children aged between three and six who have been affected by migration.
Known as the Play for Resilience project, it is centered around creating a safe, inclusive, child-friendly, and stimulating environment for children, according to UNICEF.
“When young children play and learn in a safe environment, it gives them the positive experiences they need for healthy development,” Beckham said during his visit.
“Through my work with UNICEF, I've learnt how children – especially those affected by migration – benefit from quality early childhood education. It gives them a solid foundation, boosts their confidence and helps them make new friends.”
In China, it’s estimated there are more than 240 million migrants, who often face the difficult decision of choosing whether to leave their children in their hometowns or bring them to a new environment.
Data shows that China has 68.77 million left-behind children who spend long stints of time separated from their parents who work in other areas.
The number of children constantly moving with their migrant parents is approximately 34.26 million. Among every five children living in urban areas, one is said to be affected by migration.
UNICEF said it works closely with the government and other partners to provide families in China equal access to basic services, especially the most disadvantaged and hardest to reach.
Beckham also said he hopes there will be more places like Xianghuaqiao Kindergarten to offer this learning support to every child in China.
Since his appointment as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2005, David Beckham has demonstrated a deep personal commitment to speaking out on behalf of the world's most vulnerable children. Over the past 14 years, Beckham has travelled extensively to meet children across the world, and see UNICEF's work on the ground. In 2015, he founded 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund to help children, especially girls, unlock their incredible potential.