|Player:||NW Bracken, GC Smith, MS Dhoni, KC Sangakkara|
|Event:||Australia in West Indies 2008|
DateLine: 30th June 2008
Australia fast bowler Nathan Bracken visited local youth groups in Grenada this week to show his support for the ICC's partnership with UNICEF and UNAIDS and to raise awareness about the HIV virus.
Bracken took time out from the ongoing ODI series against the West Indies to visit the Grenada Youth Development Centre, a multipurpose facility which offers a wide range of sporting and cultural activities to help the personal development of young people. As part of the services provided, the centre equips the youths with skills that will reduce the risk of them being infected by HIV.
"I am glad to help in any way I can," said Bracken
"The problem of AIDS is global and the more awareness we can raise about it will help reduce the stigma and will give people the information they need to avoid infection," he said.
The centre had been extensively damaged during Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, which caused devastation throughout Grenada killing 37 people, but with funding from the Australian government it was restored to provide opportunities to the local community.
After visiting the centre, Bracken then went to GRENCODA, a non-governmental organisation committed to the development of Grenada's rural community by providing after-school and summer programmes for young people aged between seven and 17 years in 17 communities throughout St Patrick's, St Mark's and St John's.
Bracken had the opportunity through the GRENCODA programme to meet local children and find about the range of activities offered on the summer programme. These include computer technology, furniture making, craft, agriculture, sport, plumbing and auto-mechanics, while the after-school programmes focus on computer technology and homework support.
Both the summer and after-school programmes incorporate personal development and life skills building activities such at goal setting, decision making, negotiation and conflict resolution, HIV and drug-abuse prevention.
As well as taking questions from the children on a wide variety of topics, Bracken was only too happy to get involved in a game of cricket which helped reinforce some of the key messages of the ICC's partnership with UNICEF and UNAIDS.
"When I went there, it was a good opportunity to see what sports they're able to play," said Bracken.
"It was pleasing to see that the kids wanted to play cricket and they wanted to do well and bowl straight.
"They were learning discipline, which can help them in whatever they are doing, and apply it to other areas in life as well."
Bracken, who also stars in a global public service announcement campaign on HIV/AIDS along with other leading world cricketers including Graeme Smith, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, believes that it is important for cricketers to use their status to deliver important social messages.
"I look at it as an opportunity to give something back to young people who don't always have the education or opportunities in life that I enjoyed. The programmes that I saw today really give young people an opportunity to learn.
"The message that I gave them was it doesn’t matter what you want to achieve in life, you have to work hard for it. I am exactly the same as them and have to work hard to achieve things."
Tom Olsen, UNICEF representative for Barbados and the eastern Caribbean, said his office was happy to help facilitate the visit because of the recognition of the strong link between sports and positive youth development.
"We see the visit as not simply talking about cricketing skills but as a demonstration to the children that commitment to sports can impart the discipline and life skills which can help them to negotiate the challenging situations which will confront them well into their adult life," he said.
The ICC's commitment to raising awareness of HIV/AIDS and reducing stigma around the disease began in 2003 when it became the first international sporting federation to partner with UNAIDS. UNICEF joined the partnership in 2006, which has also been supported by the Global Media Aids Initiative.
At the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 and ICC World Twenty20 2007 there were 24 separate player visits to community projects in South Africa and the West Indies aimed at raising awareness of the disease.
Further activities are planned at the ICC Champions Trophy 2008 in Pakistan, where players will wear red ribbons as a show of support for people living with HIV/AIDS.