Actress, singer and UNICEF Ambassador Selena Gomez traveled to Valparaiso, Chile in her first visit to the southwestern coast of South America earlier this week. Accompanied by UNICEF staff and family, Gomez witnessed UNICEF’s efforts to help raise awareness and promote early childhood education and development.

Selena Gomez in Chile for UNICEF
Selena Gomez in Chile for UNICEF

UNICEF is helping Chilean families get out of poverty, prevent violence within the home and promote education,” said UNICEF Ambassador Selena Gomez. “To witness first hand these families’ struggles, and also their hope and perseverance, was truly inspiring.”

During her visit to Chile, Gomez witnessed a UNICEF supported program, “Programa Puente” which helps families better understand and develops skills to deal effectively with early childhood education, development and parenting skills, and other issues related to raising children. Families are selected based on vulnerability factors and are assigned a professional social worker to support and guide them in their efforts to out poverty.

Families arrived at the Playa Ancha Alto to share with Gomez the impact the Bridge Program has had on their lives and to receive a copy of the Family Guide “Tiempo de Crecer/Time to Grow,” a manual developed by UNICEF and the government-based program Solidarity and Social Investment Fund/FOSIS. The purpose of this material is to provide adults information that enables them to recognize the developmental progress of children in terms of physical, emotional, social and cognitive development based on their age.

The activity included the participation of the mayor of Valparaiso, Jorge Castro, UNICEF Representative, Gary Stahl, and the Regional Director of FOSIS, Rodrigo Jarufe. The mayor of Valparaiso took the opportunity to thank Gomez for her participation in the activity and reiterated his commitment to continue working for children in the area. “We thank Selena for making the time to be with us in this activity.”

Meanwhile, Stahl stated that, “UNICEF considers it important for families to have relevant and timely information on how to improve their lives and those of their sons and daughters. We are confident that in this material they will find important information on the various stages of children’s development.”

Claudia Chaparro spoke on behalf of the beneficiary families. She is a single mother of 3 children, who values the support of the Bridge Program in their daily lives. “It has given me tools to raise my children. We are a poor family and we want to get out of poverty and the Bridge Program helps us with this task every day,” she said. Claudia Chaparro considered the Guide “Time to Grow” very useful in providing concrete parenting skills. “It’s great that UNICEF supports these initiatives.”

She then thanked Gomez for her involvement in the activity and for being a role model, and emphasized the simplicity and humility of the artist. “It’s great that someone like you will take the time to visit the children and be with them. It is very important for a child with limited resources. They see you every day on television, and I do too.”

Meanwhile, the Regional Director of FOSIS appreciated the Guide and the presence of Gomez. “Selena you are an example to thousands of children that will benefit from this Guide. And there is no better agency than UNICEF, the world leaders on these matters, to give us this material.”

After Gomez’s formal activity, there was a chance for her to chat informally with two families and their social workers about their lives and this program.

The main work of UNICEF in Chile is focused on policy and institutional and public reform. Since 2002, UNICEF has worked with the “Programa Puente” to develop educational materials for families and the professionals who serve as family support. “Programa Puente” works with approximately 8,911 families in the region of Valpara√≠so.

Gomez was appointed UNICEF Ambassador in 2009, becoming the youngest person ever to hold this post.

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