U.S. FOOTBALL STARS KICK OFF CAMPAIGN IN SRI LANKA TO HELP TSUNAMI SURVIVORS
COLOMBO - Two leading U.S. professional football players, New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer and Kansas City Chiefs fullback Tony Richardson, are today kicking off a four-day visit to tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka to work with the United Nations World Food Programme on its emergency operation to feed hungry families there.
Toomer and Richardson launch their itinerary in Sri Lanka with a trip to the southern city of Galle, where they will help unload food aid from trucks for temporary storage in the WFP warehouse until it is distributed to families struck by the 26 December tsunami. Tomorrow, the American football players will pack the WFP rations and help distribute them to people who lost their homes and livelihoods.
"We are thrilled to have these two great players here in Sri Lanka to raise awareness about the critical work we do in Asia, as well as the rest of the world," said Jeff Taft-Dick, WFP Country Director for Sri Lanka.
"Both Amani and Tony will be lending their physical support to the people affected by the tsunami, but they will also be drawing attention to the needs of so many hungry and vulnerable families in other parts of the world," Taft-Dick said.
WFP is helping feed more than 850,000 people in Sri Lanka affected by the tsunami, with a large logistics network spread throughout the country.
Toomer and Richardson are also pitching in with the post-tsunami clean-up, spending tomorrow afternoon cleaning and painting school desks at a Galle primary school, where the schoolchildren will get WFP food every day they are in the classroom. The players will also visit a health clinic that will receive WFP nutritional food supplements for children.
The two players will travel to Ampara on Saturday, to see first-hand the full force of the tsunami's blow. The coastline and the people of Ampara suffered some of the worst destruction and loss of life from the disaster.
"Amani Toomer and Tony Richardson will be able to take the message of the tsunami survivors back to their countless fans in the United States and around the world," observed Taft-Dick. "Their commitment and hard work here in Sri Lanka will speak volumes about the plight of the people and what must be done to bring them back to normal, stable lives. And now with this mission to Asia, the players are real world heroes to millions of people.
Toomer travelled on 11 February with his teammate, New York City Giants quarterback Kurt Warner, to Indonesia for a three-day visit to Aceh province, the landfall closest to the epicentre of the undersea earthquake that triggered the tsunamis. There, among other activities, Warner and Toomer loaded food onto a WFP helicopter and flew to the coastal town of Lamno, where they gave food rations to displaced people temporarily living in a hospital.
Toomer said that he had been very impressed by the resilience of the tsunami survivors he had met on this visit, by the way they had "taken so much in stride."
"They have the right attitude," said Toomer. "They really seem to be trying to move on and rebuild their lives."
WFP, the world's largest humanitarian organization, feeds an average of 90 million people each year across the globe. In Indonesia and Sri Lanka, two of the countries hardest hit by the tsunami, WFP is feeding more than one million people.
NFL players have been active with the WFP throughout the tsunami crisis. The Indianapolis Colts donated $50,000 and a further $60,000 was raised by fans at a game between the Colts and the Denver Broncos on 9 January. Quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb volunteered their time to record a commercial for WFP, which aired during the NFL playoff games in January. The commercial was shown during five playoff games, with the airtime, valued at millions of dollars, donated by the NFL.
Media wanting to cover the visit of the NFL players to Sri Lanka can call WFP Public Information Officer Heather Hill at Mobile + 661 701 9208 for further details. Photographs and video footage of the visit are also available upon request.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, WFP provides food aid to an average of 90 million people, including 56 million hungry children, in more than 80 countries.
WFP Global School Feeding Campaign - For just 19 US cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school - a gift of hope for a brighter future.
Visit our website: www.wfp.org.
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