AS Roma have partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States and Telefono Azzurro in Italy to use the club’s social media channels to raise awareness about the plight of missing children this summer.
In recent seasons, Roma have carved a reputation as digital leaders when it comes to the club’s innovative use of social media, in particular the award-winning transfer announcements released over the past two summers.
Having helped kick-start the trend for funny and weird social media player signing announcements in 2017, Roma killed off that video style in 2018 in favour of deliberately lo-fi efforts, including intentionally bad photoshop – helping the transfer unveilings once again go viral on Twitter.
In 2019, Roma are taking a completely different approach to announcing new signings – in an effort to use the club’s extensive digital media following and presence for social good.
With each player signing announcement the club makes this summer, a video will be released that will feature the faces and details of a number of children who are currently missing – with the goal of generating publicity that could result in someone, somewhere, offering valuable information about the whereabouts of the missing child.
Initially, the club will release two videos per player announcement through its social media accounts – one featuring Italian children, and one featuring American teenagers. The club is currently in talks with a British charity about providing information and photos on more children currently missing in Europe.
The details of the children featured in the videos, all of whom are currently missing, have been provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States and Telefono Azzurro in Italy, after the club partnered with both organisations for the initiative this summer.
Founded in 1984, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation, and prevent child victimisation. NCMEC works with families, victims, private industry, law enforcement, and the public to assist with preventing child abductions, recovering missing children, and providing services to deter and combat child sexual exploitation.
Today, with better public awareness, training, laws, and technology, NCMEC is able to help bring more missing children home every day, including long-term missing children.
Telefono Azzurro was founded in 1987 in Bologna by Ernesto Caffo, then associate professor of Child Neuropsychiatry at the University of Modena, to support the rights of Italian children and adolescents and help protect them from abuse and violence.
Telefono Azzurro also operates a direct line for people to call regarding missing children. In Italy, on average a child goes missing every seven days - and only 18% of those are eventually brought home.
Since its foundation Telefono Azzurro has been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the protection and safety of at-risk youngsters. In 2018 the organisation handled 150 reports of missing children.
The two non-profits form part of the Global Missing Children’s Network (GMCN), an international group that helps government agencies and non-profit organisations across 30 countries and five continents work together to try and find missing and abducted children throughout the world. Both organisations collaborate extensively in order to increase the chances of finding missing individuals.
“The idea for the new transfer announcement initiative actually came from reading an article about the 25th anniversary of Soul Asylum’s ‘Runaway Train’ video, which famously highlighted actual cases – with photos and names – of children missing at the time,” said Paul Rogers, head of strategy at AS Roma.
“Taking inspiration from the use of milk cartons to display a photo of a missing child in America, the band’s video director Tony Kaye decided to use the medium of a pop video played on MTV and music channels globally to try and help find 36 missing children. In the end, I think they helped locate 21 children. There were four versions of the video made, two for the United States and one each for the UK and Australia.
“With Roma, we thought, we could try and do something similar but updated for the social media generation, which didn’t exist when Soul Asylum released their video. We want to use the viral nature of social media transfer announcements to help raise awareness for missing children. We have a massive social media following and our announcements generate incredible reach and awareness, all over the world, so we thought that at the exact moment when the world’s attention is on the club’s announcement, we could use our social media channels not for self-promotion but rather to help both the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Telefono Azzurro find missing children.”
Around one million youngsters around the world go missing every year – of which only a small percentage are ever found.
"We were delighted to be contacted to work with AS Roma on this project,” said John Clark, chief executive and president of NCMEC. “It’s an incredible initiative and a very innovative way to help tackle a universal issue.
“The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children assists with more than 25,000 missing children cases in the United States every year. If this initiative - using the power of social media - can raise awareness about not just the missing children featured, but also the work we do year-round, in terms of raising awareness and preventative measures, then it will have been a success.
“NCMEC sees first-hand the importance of not losing hope when it comes to finding a missing child. We know that children come home after days, years, and decades of being missing. We depend on organisations like AS Roma to spread awareness and use their voice for change. We could not be prouder of AS Roma for spreading awareness on a global scale.”
Ernesto Caffo, president of Telefono Azzuro, added: “We are thankful to AS Roma for creating this opportunity to shine a light on the serious issue of missing children, a cause that too often receives little coverage in mainstream media.
“This important initiative is an opportunity to raise public awareness of an issue that affects so many families throughout the world, and also for different countries to come together and attempt to find common solutions to the issue, across borders.
“The international community needs to push towards a target of wider collaboration on this issue, something we have been working on in Italy with co-operation between national institutions, law enforcement agencies and the legal system.”
Below are the children featured in the first two transfer announcements, along with the places they were last seen.
Tammy Flores, 15, Victorville, CA
Ssamali Kwatia, 10, Lake Bluff, IL
Steven Campbell, 10, El Paso, TX
Ork'o Frisancho, 20, Baltimore, MD
Jaylene Jimenez, 15, Brooklyn, New York
Diego Flores, 13, Victorville, California
Alora Benitez, 16, Redondo Beach, California
Raymi Frisancho-Kiss, 14, Baltimore, Maryland
Alessia Vere Schepp, 14, Saint Sulpice, Switzerland
Karim Dhahri, 14, Reggio Emilia, Italy
Elena Ramponi, 5, San Lazzaro di Savena, Italy
Jasmine Eleonora Sbaragli, 16, Lucca, Italy
Livia Chiara Schepp, 14, Saint Sulpice, Switzerland
Neve Adele Fiorentino, 15, Brescia, Italy
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of missing children in the United States should call the NCMEC on 1-800-843-5678, or submit their details via the charity’s cyber tipline: http://www.missingkids.com/
Those who might have information about the whereabouts of children missing in Italy and Europe should visit Telefono Azzurro’s website to find further details on how to submit their information: