FC Barcelona Foundation, Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) and UNICEF have launched the ‘1 in 11’ campaign to extend educational opportunities to marginalized children in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal, with the goal of expanding to more countries.

Video: Lionel Messi and Serena Williams launch the #1in11 campaign to the world

Globally, one in 11 primary school-age children – or 58 million out of 650 million children – are out of school. The majority are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable: children living in areas affected by conflict; children in extreme poverty; children with disabilities; children from indigenous communities. In addition, in many schools, sports programming does not exist, even though studies have shown that including sports in school curricula can inspire children to attend and stay in school, lead to better physical health, and help to improve their grades.

The ‘1 in 11’ campaign will raise funds through individual donations and a major art auction at Sotheby’s in London on Thursday 12th February, featuring donated works by renowned artists including Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Richard Serra and Shirin Neshat. Hirst and Murakami have created specially commissioned works of art featuring Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona player, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and President of the Lionel Messi Foundation. Murakami designed the campaign logo.

Lending their voices, and their athletic ability, to ‘1 in 11’, Messi and international tennis champion and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Serena Williams launched the #1 in 11 campaign film and ‘Keep Ups’ challenge – challenging people to keep a ball up in the air for at least eleven touches.

“I’m supporting the 1 in 11 campaign because I believe every child has the right to fulfil their potential and realise their dreams,” said Messi. "Education is fundamental to this, but millions of children across the world are out of school and not getting the start in life they are entitled to.

“I believe that through sport we can teach values of respect, teamwork and effort, and ultimately inspire children to attend and stay on in school, so they will receive the quality education which will equip them with the skills they need for life.”

A special global premiere screening of the campaign film, featuring both Messi and Williams attempting their own ‘Keep Ups’ challenge, took place at half time on the big screens at Camp Nou stadium during the FC Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid match on Sunday 11th January.

“In many countries we take it for granted that every child has the right to receive a quality education, but ‘1 in 11’ children around the world do not enjoy that right – and without it, may never reach their full potential,” said Williams. “We need to kick start global progress and get that number down to zero, so every child has the chance to learn.”

The funds raised by ‘1 in 11’ will focus initially on pilot education programmes in the three countries. In Indonesia, the campaign will support schools in six districts to include children with disabilities. In Nepal, UNICEF has worked with the government to identify 10 priority districts that will offer sports programming for children up to secondary school, particularly aimed at breaking down the societal barriers for children with disabilities and including them in school. In Bangladesh, the campaign’s focus will be on reaching out-of-school children.

Through the ‘Keep Ups’ challenge, Messi and Williams are inviting their fans and followers to join, donate to the campaign and share their own ‘Keep Ups’ via social media and at www.1in11.org.

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