Monday, December 25, 2006

Roger Federer serves an ace at Cuddalore - The Hindu

by Vani Doraisamy

Learns "one of life's most important lessons" from tsunami orphans "It was mutual love between us as I inspired them and they inspired me back to raise more funds."

LOVE ALL: Tennis World Number One Roger Federer, who is UNICEF's Goodwill Ambassador, converses with children at a government-run orphanage in tsunami-affected Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu on Friday. Federer, on his first visit to India, promised to come "again and again" and said the children had inspired him to raise more funds for tsunami rehabilitation. — Photo: R. Ragu

CUDDALORE: Tennis ace Roger Federer discovered a whole new meaning for `Love All' in Cuddalore on Friday, when he learnt "one of life's most important lessons" from tsunami orphans.

"These children have taught me how lucky I am, making the incredible amount of money I do at the prime of my career. It was mutual love between us as I inspired them and they inspired me back to raise more funds and create awareness about tsunami rehabilitation.

"It is heartening to learn that things have improved tremendously in Cuddalore in the last two years. I shall keep coming here again and again," Federer, who was in Cuddalore as UNICEF's goodwill ambassador said. This is his first visit to India.

Federer struck an instant rapport with the 70-odd children at the orphanage — many of whom had never heard of him before — and spent more than an hour answering all their questions. "Now I know everything about them — their names, their age, lessons and friends."

Three-year-old Abhinaya instantly won his heart. The little girl spontaneously flung herself into his arms and remained there for the rest of his stay.

"India can be very proud of its tsunami recovery programme. It has been an extremely emotional experience for me. I shall now try to raise more funds for the rehabilitation effort," he said.

The champion of nine Grand Slams, however, refused to answer any questions on his game and merely said, "I have some thoughts on how I could use the Roger Federer Foundation in tennis-for-charity to help disadvantaged children."

Collector Gagandeep Singh Bedi explained the progress made so far in tsunami rehabilitation in the State.

Federer also visited the Integrated Child Development Scheme Centre at Thazhanguda village and sat through a puppetry show by children on HIV awareness.

Federer's visit was, however, marked by drama outside the orphanage as UNICEF representatives were mobbed by reporters who were denied access to cover the champion's visit. Federer was whisked away by security personnel and left for Villupuram to know about the tsunami recovery programme there.

Federer was appointed UNICEF's goodwill ambassador in 2006 and has, since then, helped in several fund-raising initiatives.


No comments: