MANILA, Philippines - Football star David Beckham visited streetchildren in the Philippines during the LA Galaxy's stay in the country last week.
At a center supported by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Unicef goodwill ambassador met children who have all spent the early part of their lives living and working on the streets of towns and cities across the Philippines.
"As a father, I can’t imagine how life was for these young children living and working on the streets. They are exposed to so many threats and dangers, and are missing out on the basics in life – having people around who love and guide them," Beckham said after meeting some of the children.
Beckham was welcomed to the center and by its manager, Siony Flores who explained to him the profile and background of the 130 children temporarily staying there.
"Here we give the children guidance, care and opportunities to learn new skills. But the real focus is on helping children integrate back into their communities, with their families or relatives where a caring, home environment can take them forward in their lives," Flores said.
It is estimated that there are 250,000 children living and working on streets of towns and cities across the Philippines. These children are exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation, according to the Unicef.
The UN organization works to help vulnerable children leave the streets and get back into a caring, supportive environment either with their parents, other relatives or sometimes in temporary centres.
The children toured Beckham around the center. He took part in sewing sessions and art classes, and was entertained by an impromptu rap and dance session.
The children helped him learn about the reality of their lives, the Unicef said in a press statement.
"Whilst many of these children have been through tough experiences in their young lives, like any child they still have hopes and dreams. The staff here has a huge responsibility and they are doing an amazing job giving these children the love, guidance and care they’ve been missing," Beckham said.
The culmination of the visit was a 20-minute football game with the children, which gave Beckham the chance to show off some of his football skills.
"All these children have been failed by adults in the crucial early years of their lives. I would not be where I am today without the love and support of my family – every child deserves that, every child deserves a second chance," Beckham said.
Conan, 17, who toured Beckham around, was just 7 when he was brought to the center.
"I can’t believe we had such a famous footballer come and play with us – we are such a small team, with little equipment. But I feel very special now, and more determined to improve my game," he said.