Friday, December 13, 2019

Inside the Leo Messi Foundation, the Ballon d’Or winner’s charity that invested £30m into a single Barcelona hospital – The Sun

LEO MESSI is recognised as one of the biggest sporting phenomenons the world has ever seen.

Everybody knows the Ballon d'Or winner as the free-scoring Barcelona forward, who makes it a habit of frightening every defence he comes up against week in, week out.

But, what he keeps on the down-low, is his remarkable charity work.

Spurred on by his experiences as a sickly child in Argentina, requiring daily injections to combat a growth deficiency, Messi, 32, predominately provides aid through his Leo Messi Foundation to children in need.

SunSport takes a look at the Argentinian star's selfless acts of kindness, including his efforts to travel around the world as a UNICEF ambassador to help those from unprivileged backgrounds.

LEO MESSI FOUNDATION

In 2007, the famous No10, said to be worth £310m, decided to set up his charity.

It was a visit to a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts where Messi was moved to tears meeting terminally ill children that encouraged him to put his salary to better use.

"After having visited a hospital one day, I realised the special significance that a public figure has," he said.

"I understood that seeing a well-known footballer could really help those ill children.

Just being there with them puts a smile on your face and it gives them a special joy and a greater desire to keep on fighting, as they really believe that they'll overcome their illness and be able to pursue their dreams.

"I achieved my dream of becoming a footballer and want them to know that I fought hard to get here and have to fight even harder to remain where I am.

"I want to make the most of that effort and success to help the children who need it most.



"I made that choice because it moves me every day to see that a child smiles when they think that there's hope and when I see that they're happy.

"That's why we decided to create the Leo Messi Foundation. I'll continue to fight to make the children happy and do so with the same strength and commitment that I need to continue playing football."

SJD PEDIATRIC CENTER BARCELONA

The foundation's mantra is 'Choose to Believe' – a sentiment that echoes Messi's own achievements.

Their main objectives are to help children, of all nationalities, who are battling against illness, promote health education and support ill children and their families.

It works alongside hospitals and clinics in both Argentina and Spain, making several donations for specialised equipment, to treat patients with gastrointestinal problems in his hometown or to provide resources to research rare diseases in Spain.

Currently, the Leo Messi Foundation is building its most ambitious project – a new pediatric oncology centre, set to be amongst the biggest in Europe, on the site of the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, the leading centre in Spain for child cancer care.

The cost of the centre, which will be called the SJD Pediatric Center Barcelona, is estimated to be around £30m, and will open its doors in the second half of 2020.


SPECIAL OLYMPICS CATALONIA

Since 2014, the Leo Messi Foundation has supported the Special Olympics in Catalonia by providing financial assistance needed to run the event.

Messi believes it's important to promote sports practice, social integration, and improve the quality of life for children with disabilities.

And without fail, the sports star makes sure he attends the event – meeting the athletes and wishing them his best.

His participation every year spawns the twitter trend #messiisalwayswithus.

JOSEP CARRERAS FOUNDATION

This year, Messi's charity began working with the Josep Carreras Foundation to promote research into childhood leukaemia.

Aptly named, 'No Child With Leukaemia' the footballer has promised to fund the charity.

The study itself focuses on a type of lymphoblastic leukaemia which especially affects babies under one year of age.

Messi has pledged to support the Josep Carreras Foundation financially for the next two years with their efforts.


RHABDOMYOSARCOMA PROJECT

The Leo Messi Foundation has also assisted the research efforts into rhabdomyosarcoma, a tumour that affects adolescents and adults, over a four-year period.

A staggering £200,000 donation from the Argentine has allowed the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona to achieve encouraging results in its project.

The aim is to secure a first clinical trial that will allow for further progress to be made with the research into this disease.

UNICEF

In addition to his foundation, Messi has been an ambassador for UNICEF since 2010, although he first started working with the charity in 2004.

During that time he has travelled the world helping those less fortunate than ourselves.

In 2010, Messi provided much cheer by visiting Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake that devastated the Central American country.

Three years later he paid a visit to Bangkok to meet and play football with young people with disabilities, and was joined by former Barcelona team-mate Jose Manuel Pinto.

Then in 2015, he offered UNICEF financial aid for the construction of several health centres in Nepal, after the earthquake shook the region.




That same year Messi donated £315,000 to UNICEF on the Spanish equivalent of Children in Need, ‘Un Sol Para Los Chicos’ (A Sun For The Children).

In 2016, the Leo Messi Foundation launched the 'Back to Learning' scheme that helped children affected by the war in Syria get back to school by building prefabricated classrooms.

While the foundation also donated around £200,000 to build water pump in Kenya, as well as nutritional supplies, to help fight child malnutrition.

TO AFGHANISTAN WITH LOVE

Probably Messi's most famous charitable act, the world smiled when he met six-year-old Afghan child Murtaza Ahmadi.

The boy, born in extreme poverty, was spotted wearing a blue plastic bag on which he had scrawled Messi's name on the front, as well as his famous shirt number in his homeland.

Messi sent him a signed Barcelona jersey, as well as a football after seeing the images on social media.

Then, the organising committee for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar invited the boy and Messi to Doha, where they met as Barcelona played a friendly against Al Ahli and they melted our hearts.

You can imagine, Messi will continue to make boys' dreams come true in years to come.



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