Audrey served as Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations International Chidren's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), from 1988 until her untimely death in January 1993.
Founded in 1946, UNICEF advocates and works for the protection of children's rights, to help the young meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. UNICEF, the only organization of the United Nations dedicated exclusively to children, works with other United Nations bodies, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to lighten children's loads through community-based services in primary health care, basic education, and safe water and sanitation in developing countries.
For most of its 50 years, UNICEF has benefited greatly from the support of internationally known personalities. Audrey served as Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations International Chidren's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), from 1988 until her untimely death in January 1993. Through her work with UNICEF, she used her image and the great interest people had in her to attract world attention to her cause, but also of repaying the United Nations for rescuing her from starvation in 1945 Holland. Audrey's movie career took a back seat to her work for UNICEF which proved more meaningful to her than restarting her acting career. Audrey represented the agency in many capacities, not only appearing at public occasions to support the good cause of UNICEF but also traveling widely to the world's trouble spots to assess the situation of children.
Audrey's deeply sensitive appeals for children while visiting Ethiopia, Somalia and the Sudan cannot be forgotten. In 1993, the Academy posthumously gave Ms. Hepburn the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work as Unicef's ambassador to the world's children, a well deserved tribute to an exceptionally beautiful woman.
Audrey would describe her work for Unicef in the introduction of the book, Betrayal: A Report on Violence Towards Children in Today's World:
As we move into the twenty-first century, there is much to reflect upon. We look around us and see that the promises of yesterday have to come to pass. People still live in abject poverty, people are still hungry, people still struggle to survive. And among these people we see the children, always the children: their enlarged bellies, their sad eyes, their wise faces that show the suffering, all the suffering they have endured in their short years.
They are children living in tents in the desert, in homes that have become bombed-out shells ravaged by years of war, in the streets, subway station, rice fields. Children living in decaying orphanages, over-crowded hospitals, and abandoned tenements.
During the past years I have traveled the world and seen these children, so many of them, leading lives of tremendous pain. And yet, they retain their sweetness and their patience; their eyes reflect a deeper understanding, an awareness that this is not as it should be. They deserve better - a life of security and opportunity and freedom and peace of mind. Most of them have never experienced such a life, but they sense its absence. The eyes say it all... And ironically, as we move into another century, perhaps that is what ultimately unites us as a world: the fact that, no matter how prosperous a nation, how developed, all share the plight and embarrassment of having so many suffering children. We are united by our neglect, our abuse, our absence of love. Have we forgotten about the children, and thus forsaken the next generation?
UNICEF is committed to these children; our mission is to bring their condition to the world's attention. We are determined not to forget about them, not to let them disappear into abstract political discourse. By bringing them to life in words, our hope is to keep them alive in reality.
She would visit such locales as Ethiopia, the Sudan, El Salvador, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. When she wasn't visiting these countries, she helped raise funds for UNICEF. As she would reflected: 'I'm glad I've got a name, because I'm using it for what it's worth. It's like a bonus that my career has given to me.' Perhaps Audrey was suited for the job and according to Robert Wolders, since 'she was a composite of reactions against bias, intolerance, and anger. Not necessarily directed toward her, but based on observation. This is why she was so even and fair with everyone. Her indignation toward intolerance grew to where there was a range toward the injustices she observed.' About her work for Unicef, Audrey also would say: 'I've been auditioning my whole life for this role, and I finally got it.'
Asked about "what you really do for UNICEF?", she would answer:
My task is to inform, to create awareness of the needs of children. It would be nice to be an expert on education, economics, politics, religions, traditions and cultures. I'm none of those. But I am a mother and I will travel.
Working for UNICEF, she would provide a very good increase to the fund-raising campaigns of the national UNICEF committees everywhere.
The impressive images of Audrey Hepburn in the Third World would leave the rest of the world with the impression that she made dozens of UNICEF pilgrimages, although over four years of her work for the organization, there were just eight missions - but of increasingly profound impact.
Next Page: Audrey Hepburn's UNICEF Field Missions