KATHMANDU, Nepal — Selena Gomez, best known for her role in the Disney Channel original series Wizards of Waverly Place, has been in the Hollywood limelight for some time. Whether she’s breaking up with Justin Bieber or starring alongside James Franco in the recent film Spring Breakers, Gomez is constantly on the move. Most recently, Gomez took a trip to Nepal to shine light on children in need who live in a country labeled as having one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world.
“This visit to Nepal was extraordinarily powerful—at times, devastating and heartbreaking, but also incredibly inspiring,” said Gomez. The 21-year-old starlet and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Ambassador visited the region to witness the impact of programs which focus on education, nutrition, health and protection.
“At first when you witness children living in extreme poverty you wonder how it is possible that they can be deprived of their basic human needs and rights. Then you talk to these children and you see hope, promise and a bright future,” said Gomez.
Even though UNICEF is consistently working in the region, food security remains a dangerous concern for children and families alike, especially for those living in rural communities. Currently, 41 percent of children under five are stunted, 29 percent are underweight and a startling 11 percent are severely wasting. This in turn affects Nepal’s overall economic growth as citizens suffer from poor physical status and are unable to give back to their communities.
“The children of Nepal have taught me that with a lot of passion, optimism and hard work, anything is possible,” said Gomez. “That’s the message I would like to convey to young people across the world: Believe in your dreams and pursue them.”
While such hope is inspiring, a lack of basic infrastructure and changing climatic patterns continue to have a devastating impact on Nepal’s citizens and communities. Not only does Nepal lack access to basic health centers, but war and conflict also share some of the blame and are responsible for dragging down many of Nepal’s youth.
“It was difficult to hear about the harsh lives these girls led in the camps, but I was inspired by their motivation to build a better future,” said Gomez, after visiting the village of Kohalpur during her trip to Nepal. There, Selena Gomez met with former child soldiers who were being reintegrated back into society after being recruited by armed militias some eight years ago.
“This generation of children believes they can make a difference, and they take action. It starts with quality education and leadership opportunities, like those UNICEF is providing. I’m so proud to serve as a UNICEF Ambassador and be part of a greater movement to help the world’s children,” said Gomez.
Selena Gomez also visited the Satbariya Rapti Secondary School, a child-friendly establishment supported by UNICEF, where she sat with children who were enthusiastically studying mathematics, science and language.
“It was amazing to learn from these young boys and girls about how they are influencing their peers as well as adults on issues that have an impact on their lives. Many of the children I talked to expressed a desire to be future leaders in their society, and I was moved to hear them emphasize the importance of education,” said Gomez.
Selena Gomez has acted as UNICEF’s Ambassador since 2009 and has visited other regions suffering from poverty, such as Chile and Ghana. While her trip to Nepal has ended, Gomez will continue to raise awareness for impoverished children around the world.