Orlando Bloom and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hold a meeting to discuss humanitarian aid projects and issues of reconstruction focused on the interests of children, in this screengrab from a video obtained from social media on March 26, 2023. © @zelenskiy_official/via REUTERS
Orlando Bloom, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations children’s organization UNICEF and star of the Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings movies, visited a children’s center in Kyiv in March. Bloom has supported UNICEF since 2007 and received the 2015 BAFTA Britannia Humanitarian Award in recognition of his work with the organization.
Bloom headed to the war-torn cities of Kyiv, Irpin, and Demydiv for a three-day trip as part of his role as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. The British actor said it was his first trip to Ukraine since 2016. He met with young people who have been impacted by the Russian invasion and met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
During their meeting, Bloom told Zelenskiy: “To see the children, to see in their eyes, its palpable the anxiety and yet the strength of the Ukrainian people is something that is really awe-inspiring. And, of course, your messaging is the reason for that. So it’s remarkable to see how you are holding this country.”
He also gave the president a message from his own mother, telling him: “Your defeat would be the defeat of hope; hence you must win.”
Zelenskiy later addressed the meeting in his nightly video message, saying: “During the meeting, we discussed humanitarian aid projects, issues of reconstruction focused specifically on the interests of children. UNICEF and our teams will work in several directions, bring victory closer and return a happy childhood to Ukrainian children. He knows what this aggression has brought, how full-scale the world’s efforts must be to stop it, to restore Ukraine after the war.”
During the trip, Bloom witnessed how the war in Ukraine continues to have a devastating impact on children’s lives more than one year since the invasion in February 2022.
“When I first came to Ukraine in 2016, I saw the catastrophic consequences that war has on children and families, and how basic needs such as being at school and psychosocial support are critical for children’s wellbeing,” shared Bloom, who visited Moldova last year to meet refugee families fleeing Ukraine. “Now, with children across the entire country affected, that support is more vital than ever.”
The actor visited a school in the town of Irpin where UNICEF officials have helped convert the basement into a bomb shelter to provide the children with a safe place to continue their studies whenever air raid sirens go off.
“I arrived in Ukraine today for my first trip back since 2016. I would have never expected the war to have escalated throughout the country since I was there,” Bloom said on Instagram. “But today, I was fortunate to hear children’s laughter at a UNICEF-supported Spilno center, a safe, warm, and nurturing space for children to play, learn and receive psychosocial support.”
The Spilno centers, spread throughout Ukraine, offer support for displaced children and their families, with more than half a million children and their caregivers having visited one in the past year, according to a UNICEF statement on its website.
According to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office, as of March 26, 2023, at least 465 children have been killed in the 15-month-long war Russia waged against its neighbor.
Bloom also described how the war has impacted children’s education: “Some of the children I have met—such as 10-year-old Hanna from Volnovakha, Donetsk region—have had limited access to face-to-face education for more than a year.
“While UNICEF is helping ensure that children are able to learn online, they are still missing out on the crucial experience of interacting with their classmates and teachers. Especially for younger children, these interactions are key for their emotional and cognitive development and cannot be replaced by a computer screen.”
Photo © Pexels/Алесь Усцінаў By Yurii Kovalenko Yuliia Mykytenko smiles as she adjusts her new trousers, confident she’s finally found a Ukrainian army uniform that
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