First Trip to Thailand Was an Eye-opener

Manchester United did put their best foot forward on behalf of children’s charity UNICEF on Monday afternoon.

Extending a link that dates back to 1999, United have pledged to raise at least £1million, to help save the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable children.

“Our first trip to Thailand in 1999 was a real eye-opener,” said the Scot.

“We met children as young as six who had been rescued from street prostitution.

“It shocked many of my players and made them realise what the real world was like because they can live a very cocooned existence and are very wealthy.

“But the players are heroes to these kids. Just being there is an uplifting experience and gives them encouragement to get on with their lives.”

One of the first countries to receive funding from the new commitment will be Senegal, where one child out of 11 dies before his or her fifth birthday.

The partnership will equip 35 child survival centres with everything mums and babies need to ensure a child survives their first five years.

No United player is more associated with the work of UNICEF than Ryan Giggs, who was part of the Thailand trip a decade ago and has undertaken countless ambassadorial visits since, most recently a trip to Sierra Leone – birthplace of a paternal grandfather.

“My mum was a nurse, so when I used to finish school every day I would go and hang about down at the hospital,” Giggs said.

“I saw young people with serious illnesses at first hand.

“Every so often a United player or someone from Coronation Street would go down and I was struck by what a difference it made to people. That impact stuck with me.”

In China and South Africa in recent years, children who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS or been abandoned in similarly tragic circumstances have been visibly lifted by a visit from United players.

It is that resonance United aim to use to raise funds through its Foundation, attempting to prove the club is not purely a cash-generating machine.

“This is the longest running partnership in sport from a charitable perspective and we are very proud of it,” said chief executive David Gill.

“We are often accused of being too commercial and being too interested in pound notes.

“But we are aware of our wider responsibilities, both in this country and worldwide.”

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