UNICEF

When finishing her final film roles, Audrey Hepburn was appointed the Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF. Hepburn was always open about her childhood during the war and saw this opportunity to give back and help those in need. Hepburn’s travels were made easier by her wide knowledge of languages; besides being naturally bilingual in English and Dutch, Audrey also was fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, and German.

Though she had done work for UNICEF in the 1950s, starting in 1954 with radio presentations, this was a much higher level of dedication. Those close to her say that the thoughts of dying, helpless children consumed her for the rest of her life. Her first field mission was toEthiopia in 1988. She visited an orphanage in Mek’ele that housed 500 starving children and had UNICEF send food. Of the trip, she said, “I have a broken heart. I feel desperate. I can’t stand the idea that two million people are in imminent danger of starving to death, many of them children, [and] [sic] not because there isn’t tons of food sitting in the northern port of Shoa. It can’t be distributed. Last spring, Red Cross and UNICEF workers were ordered out of the northern provinces because of two simultaneous civil wars… I went into rebel country and saw mothers and their children who had walked for ten days, even three weeks, looking for food, settling onto the desert floor into makeshift camps where they may die. Horrible. That image is too much for me. The ‘Third World’ is a term I don’t like very much, because we’re all one world. I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering”.

In October, Hepburn went to South America. In Venezuela and Ecuador, Hepburn told the United States Congress, “I saw tiny mountain communities, slums, and shantytowns receive water systems for the first time by some miracle – and the miracle is UNICEF. I watched boys build their own schoolhouse with bricks and cement provided by UNICEF”.

Hepburn toured Central America in February 1989, and met with leaders in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In April, Hepburn visitedSudan with Wolders as part of a mission called “Operation Lifeline”. Because of civil war, food from aid agencies had been cut off. The mission was to ferry food to southern Sudan. Hepburn said, “I saw but one glaring truth: These are not natural disasters but man-made tragedies for which there is only one man-made solution – peace”.

Hepburn made many other missions, with her final one being in September 1992, four months before she died, where she went to Somalia. Hepburn called it “apocalyptic” and said, “I walked into a nightmare. I have seen famine in Ethiopia and Bangladesh, but I have seen nothing like this – so much worse than I could possibly have imagined. I wasn’t prepared for this”. “There are graves everywhere. Along the road, around the paths that you take, along the riverbeds, near every camp – there are graves everywhere”.

In 1992, United States President George H. W. Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work with UNICEF, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded her The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to humanity. This was awarded posthumously, with her son accepting on her behalf.

Hepburn on her last mission to Somalia

Information from http://www.unicef.org

%d bloggers like this: