Dirk Bachmann - UNICEF ambassador spreading message by motorbike

07-08-2003

Dirk Bachmann has a rather unusual way of spending his time - riding round the world on his motorbike raising awareness of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Several years ago, Dirk emigrated from his native Germany to New Zealand, where he works as a language teacher. But his work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF - and in particular the campaign to eradicate polio - has taken him around the globe. On Wednesday he made a brief pitstop in the Czech Republic, and had time to drop into Radio Prague.

Dirk, goodwill ambassadors are usually famous celebrities - how did a Kiwi English teacher like yourself get the job?

"That's right, I'm not famous at all! I've given several hundred interviews, but nothing compared to Harry Belefonte or Sir Peter Ustinov or Roger Moore - all those beautiful, rich and famous people. It might be just a New Zealand thing. New Zealand is a special country I think, it doesn't really matter that much if you're famous or not: you're just one person, and if you do the right thing then people applaud it and they think it's a good thing. Maybe that's why [me and my two colleagues] have become goodwill ambassadors."

Tell me about being a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF? What does that involve?

"Basically you represent UNICEF. You try to help out wherever you can, whenever you can, in whichever country. Personally I'm in charge of a polio campaign. For example currently I'm living in Germany, and I've organised some campaigns for children in Iraq - not necessarily against polio, but just to help them. Basically you represent the organisation, you give media interviews, you try to attract people's attention - using the help of the media - so that they listen and maybe do something UNICEF wants them to do, like an immunisation programme."

Does UNICEF operate in the Czech Republic itself?

"There is a UNICEF office here - the national committee. I visited them today, and they're really nice people I must say. You don't have a polio problem here - the last case of polio in the Czech Republic was back in the 50s, and I really congratulate you on this. You've got 100 percent coverage. However, I think the Czech people need to keep immunising, not only against polio but in general. And the Czech branch of UNICEF is also part of a programme adopted by the Italian committee - it's called 'Adopt a Doll, Save a Child'. So far there are more than 250 schools here in the Czech Republic [taking part in the programme], and the schoolchildren there are producing the dolls, and then they're going to be sold for - I think - 600 crowns, and that money will be used to immunise children."

600 crowns - that's about 20 dollars. How many children will that immunise?

"Well, it depends on the country obviously. It takes about five dollars to immunise a child, and that involves tetanus, diphtheria, polio etc, so you can basically save four children. The nice thing about it is that children help children. They do this, in their free time, and then somebody else buys this doll, so there are at least two people who feel really good about doing something good for someone else."

Well I wish you the best of luck with the polio eradication programme, and everything else in the future. Dirk, thanks a lot for coming in and speaking to us.

"Thank you very much, and I just want to add that the welcome by the Czech people here is just great, so warm and friendly. I feel really comfortable here."

And to follow Dirk's travels around the globe, and learn more about the UNICEF campaign against polio, see the website http://www.2-mad.com

07-08-2003