How Olympic Athlete Naomi Osaka is Improving Gender Equality
Naomi Osaka is a half Japanese and half Haitian Olympic tennis player who represents Japan in competitions. Osaka has great role models who have supported her throughout her entire life. As such, Osaka understands the immense impact that positive role models can have on young adolescents, especially girls. When girls turn 14 years old, they are estimated to leave sports twice as often as boys their same age. Naomi Osaka is improving gender equality through her love of sports by positively impacting young people’s lives and creating a space for people to embrace their culture. Furthermore, Osaka’s foundation and others are working hard to build classrooms, tennis courts and more to help alleviate global poverty.

Naomi Osaka Play Academy

The Naomi Osaka Play Academy is an initiative founded last year that aims to change girls’ lives through play and sport. Osaka wanted to start the initiative in Tokyo knowing how impactful role models were to her at a young age. Additionally, Play Academy has provided grants and gender-inclusive training to three organizations that empower young girls. Its success expanded to Los Angeles where Osaka aims to ensure that Black, Asian and Latinx communities have more opportunities to engage in sports. The initiative has proven to be extremely successful. As such, Osaka began working within communities in Haiti, where her father is originally from.

Play Academy in Haiti

About 90% of Haitian adolescents report never having played a sport before. Fortunately, Play Academy has partnered with GOALS Haiti to reach this underrepresented demographic. Osaka believes in empowering young adolescents in Haiti to embrace diversity. The initiative has allowed for the construction of classrooms, tennis courts and it has sent many children abroad to expand and improve studies. Furthermore, Play Academy and GOALS Haiti aim to improve and advance youth leadership. Both organizations share the same goal of promoting gender equality through soccer and education while creating stronger and healthier communities in rural Haiti.

Naomi Osaka believes it is incredibly important to have women in leadership positions. Women including Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris are just a few leaders that have influenced Osaka in her life. She hopes athletes including herself and Serena Williams, who own National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) teams, will inspire young girls all around the world.

Osaka is improving gender equality worldwide by promoting a passion for sports and giving children opportunities to enjoy participating in sports. Osaka is unique as a Japanese national while directly resonating with Haitian communities. Acknowledging the importance of having role models, Osaka hopes that her and others’ work will help alleviate poverty. She also hopes it helps girls create a more equitable future while nurturing and inspiring the world’s next athletes.

Mio Vogt
Photo: Flickr

People cheer for athletes when they score touchdowns or goals, but there is much more to cheer for. Athletes are some of the most charitable individuals in the world. Many athletes are using their money, time and influence to impact communities in need both locally and globally. Here are five athletes making a difference around the world.

5 Athletes Making a Difference

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo: One of the most well-known and successful soccer players in the world is Cristiano Ronaldo. While his list of sports accolades is expansive, many are not aware that his humanitarian works are equally impressive. Since his rise to prominence, Ronaldo has been an advocate of various causes, ranging from the prevention of AIDS/HIV to slavery and human trafficking. Ronaldo was awarded the title of the most charitable athlete by’s campaign “AthletesGoneGood” in 2015. Ronaldo currently serves as an ambassador for Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision. In a recent display of activism, on March 24, 2020, Ronaldo donated $1.08 million to 3 hospitals in Portugal, working to fight COVID-19 in the country.
  2. Serena Williams: On the tennis court, Serena Williams is one of the world’s greatest players but outside of her matches, she spends much of her time dedicated to philanthropy. Williams currently serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Through this role, she works to establish schools in an effort to provide quality education for vulnerable children through UNICEF’s Africa program and Schools for Asia initiative. Williams has volunteered since 2015 to help immunize children in Ghana. She has also assisted in spreading the Largest Lesson. This program works to spread knowledge about how to combat global issues such as inequality, injustice, extreme poverty and climate change. Additionally, Williams runs her own charity called “The Serena Williams Fund,” which works to impact a variety of issues around the world ranging from race relations to inequity.
  3. Serge Ibaka: NBA player Serge Ibaka is committed to helping children both locally, in his immediate Toronto area, and globally by assisting The Republic of Congo and other impoverished countries around the world. Ibaka, who grew up in the Republic of Congo, founded the Serge Ibaka Foundation because he recognized the need for adequate education and health to provide children with an avenue to a successful future. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization implemented a relief program in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. The organization has currently gathered 80 tons of food, which is expected to impact 8,000 families in the region.
  4. Neymar Jr.: Soccer player Neymar Jr. has dedicated the majority of his humanitarian work to assisting impoverished Brazilian communities in an effort to ensure that they have access to adequate Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) facilities. In 2014, he partnered with Waves for Water, which works to bring clean water to vulnerable communities in the country. In April 2020, it was revealed that Neymar donated $950,000 to UNICEF and Paris-Saint-Germain to assist in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil.
  5. Yuna Kim: Since the start of her career, South Korean figure skater, Yuna Kim, has not only been passionate about her craft but also aware of the importance of helping those in need. Kim was a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and, through her position, she has been an advocate for helping those affected by natural disasters. She donated $83,000 to Haiti in 2010 after an earthquake ravaged the country. After a similar natural disaster impacted the people of Nepal, Kim donated $100,000 to help. Yuna Kim has taken her charity work as an opportunity to carry out her faith, by donating her money to a variety of Catholic hospitals and charities in Seoul, Korea, and by giving a large sum of money to the missionaries of Salesian of Don Bosco in South Sudan. These missionaries work to establish schools and assist vulnerable populations in the war-torn country.

Athletes are well known for more than just their abilities on the court, in the field or on the ice. Many athletes use their money to help people in need around the world. When it comes to these athletes, there is more to cheer for than the points they score.

Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

UNICEF Goodwill AmbassadorUNICEF appointed its first Goodwill Ambassador in 1954 — actor and comedian Danny Kaye — and has expanded this initiative ever since. Celebrity partners come from a wide variety of backgrounds — from music to film to sports — but they all have one thing in common. They are all dedicated to helping children in need around the world. These are just eight celebrities who have served as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors.

8 Celebrities Who Are UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors

  1. Liam Neeson – International actor Liam Neeson became a national UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Ireland in 1997 and then an international Goodwill Ambassador in 2011. His goal was to help children overcome poverty, violence, disease and discrimination. Representing UNICEF, Neeson has worked on the organization’s Change for Good partnership with Aer Lingus and the Believe in Zero campaign that fights child mortality. He joined UNICEF’s Unite for Children Unite Against Aids to create public service announcements with other stars like Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Saradon, Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan in 2005. In 2016, the actor traveled to a refugee camp in Jordan to meet with children and teens and hear their stories.
  2. Susan Sarandon – Appointed in 1999, Susan Sarandon is one of the few celebrities who has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for more than two decades. The actress has used her celebrity status to raise awareness on a number of areas but primarily hunger, women’s issues and HIV/AIDS. As a Goodwill Ambassador, she visited children in many countries, including India and Tanzania in 2000, Brazil in 2003 and Cambodia in 2011. Sarandon also published UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2000. The actress also visited Nepal in 2015 to help victims of the devastating earthquake and build awareness for relief efforts. Outside of UNICEF, she also has been involved with and donated to Heifer International, Action Against Hunger, Champions for Children, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  3. Shakira – Colombian pop superstar Shakira became an international UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2003. She was appointed for her charity work, beginning in 1997 when she was only 18 years old with the founding of her Pies Descalzos Foundation, which was dedicated to providing education to underprivileged children in Colombia. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, she campaigned to stand against AIDS in Spain and against violence in El Salvador in 2006. She also visited Bangladesh, Israel, India and Azerbaijan to advocate the importance of education and empower young girls. In 2008, she joined other Latin American artists to found ALAS, an organization devoted to advocating for early childhood development in politics across Latin America. In 2015, the singer spoke on behalf of UNICEF at the United Nations General Assembly to urge global leaders to invest in early childhood development and she did so again in 2017 at the World Economic Forum.
  4. Jackie Chan – Jackie Chan became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2004. However, the international star has been ardent about charity work for decades. He founded the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation in Hong Kong in 1988 to offer scholarships for young people in China. In 2004, he founded the Dragon’s Heart Foundation to build schools for children and helps the elderly in rural China. As a Goodwill Ambassador, Jackie Chan is focused on tackling issues that could devastate a child, such as diseases, HIV/AIDS, economic hardship and natural and unnatural disasters. The martial arts expert traveled to Cambodia in 2004 and 2005 to visit children affected by landmines, as well as to Vietnam and Timor-Leste to promote the importance of education for children. Chan also traveled to Myanmar in 2012 to combat child trafficking, meet with survivors and assist at-risk children. He also called on leaders to join the fight.
  5. Priyanka Chopra Jonas – Miss World 2000 and one of the biggest Indian stars, Priyanka Chopra Jonas has been working with UNICEF since 2006. She was appointed a national Goodwill Ambassador for India in 2010 and became a global Goodwill Ambassador in 2016. She is also the founder of the Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education and donates 10 percent of her earnings to the organization. The Chopra Foundation covers educational and medical expenses for 70 children in India, 50 of whom are girls. With UNICEF, Chopra Jonas has been involved in their Girl Up program and the “Deepshikha” campaign. While the latter campaign is based in India and the former is global, both programs help girls become educated, healthy and empowered. Additionally, with UNICEF, she visited Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2017, and Ethiopia in 2019 to meet refugee children and build awareness.
  6. Serena Williams – Arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time, tennis star Serena Williams was appointed an international UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2011. She has been working with UNICEF since 2006 when she traveled to Ghana for a large vaccination campaign. Since her appointment, she has used her platform to focus on improving education for children around the world. She has built the Serena Williams Secondary school in Kenya and the Salt Marsh Basic School in Jamaica through her partnerships with Build African Schools and Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation respectively. Williams has also partnered with the Common Ground Foundation, Global Goals, the Small Steps Project and World Education.
  7. Tom Hiddleston – Although a Marvel villain on screen, Tom Hiddleston is a hero in real life as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the United Kingdom. Appointed in 2013, the British actor has repeatedly used his fame to advocate for the world’s poor. On behalf of UNICEF in 2013, Hiddleston visited West Africa and Guinea to raise awareness about children in need and those on the ground working to help them. Later that year, he spent five days spending only $1.50 on food to raise awareness to his followers on what it is like to live below the poverty line. He then went on several occasions to visit children living in war-torn South Sudan, calling on global leaders to protect children caught in conflict zones.
  8. Millie Bobby Brown – Netflix’s “Stranger Things” actress is the youngest ever UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Brown was only 14 years old when she was appointed by UNICEF in 2018 but has partnered with the organization since 2012. As a Goodwill Ambassador, the teen actress plans to “raise awareness of children’s rights and issues affecting youth, such as lack of education, safe places to play and learn and the impact of violence, bullying and poverty.” She hosted the organization’s 70th-anniversary celebrations at the United Nations in 2016 and its Inaugural World Children’s Day in 2017. In November 2019, she headlined a global summit at the United Nations headquarters with David Beckham and together demanded rights for every child. She urges global leaders to listen to the voices of children and to take action for those who do not have one. Aside from her work with UNICEF, Brown has also raised $40,000 for the Olivia Hope Foundation, an organization dedicated to ending the suffering of children with cancer.

– Emily Young
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Athletes
Athletes spend numerous hours during the week training and preparing for their next matches, games and adventures. Through their unmatched hard work, they are able to capture titles while simultaneously building a career and global fame.

Going above and beyond, many athletes use their popular status and successful careers to improve the world around them. These four humanitarian athletes utilize their fame and the small amount of free time they have to contribute to global charities.

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Professional Soccer Forward)
    Ronaldo is known as one of the most generous athletes in the world. He often donates his bonus checks and portions of his salary to various charities and countries in need of reconstruction and help. For example, he donates millions of dollars to foundations like UNICEF and “World Vision,” which aim to enhance the lives of children in impoverished countries through the enhancement of health and education. When he’s not sweating on the field, he also takes time to physically participate in fundraising campaigns.
  2. Serena Williams (Professional Tennis Player)
    When Williams isn’t grinding on the court winning grand slams, she’s looking to improve the status of the world’s poor. She was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2011 because of her commitment to helping the youth around the globe. In 2010, Williams announced the New Schools for Asia Campaign under UNICEF, which looks to provide children in the Asia-Pacific area with schooling. Around the world, there are 67 million people who are not enrolled in school. Of those 67 million people, 26 million live in the Asia-Pacific area. UNICEF’s executive director talked about Serena, explaining that she “isn’t just a tennis champion, she is a champion for children—and a passionate advocate for providing every child with a quality education.”
  3. David Beckham (Professional Soccer Midfielder)
    Beckham was also appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. His focus under UNICEF is the Unite Against AIDS campaign. After visiting Sierra Leone in 2007, he said, “In Sierra Leone, one in four children dies before reaching their fifth birthday – it’s shocking and tragic especially when the solutions are simple – things like vaccinations against measles or using a mosquito net to reduce the chance of getting malaria.” Beckham hopes to draw attention to the safety and health of children through his global presence.
  4. Jessica Watson (Sailor)
    Watson is known for circumnavigating the globe solo at the age of 16. Now at the age of 23, she continues to the explore the world as a representative for the World Food Program. This humanitarian athlete focuses her time and energy on Laos, saying, “At age 16 I achieved my dream. I want the school children in Laos to be able to achieve their dream. And stopping hunger is the first step in that process.”

Watson works with the School Meals program, making sure that kids in school are able to eat a nutritious meal every day. Global hunger affects 1 out of 7 people in the world. Jessica Watson, along with the World Food Program, aims to help 80 million people in 80 different countries combat lack of food.

These four humanitarian athletes have been able to use their global status to make a positive difference. By representing various foundations, they are not only able to raise awareness of global crises to fans around the world, but their use of fame also makes fighting global poverty a little easier.

Casey Marx

Photo: Flickr