UNICEF Goodwill AmbassadorUNICEF appointed its first Goodwill Ambassador in 1954 — actor and comedian Danny Kaye — and has expanded this initiative ever since. Celebrity partners come from a wide variety of backgrounds — from music to film to sports — but they all have one thing in common. They are all dedicated to helping children in need around the world. These are just eight celebrities who have served as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors.

8 Celebrities Who Are UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors

  1. Liam Neeson – International actor Liam Neeson became a national UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Ireland in 1997 and then an international Goodwill Ambassador in 2011. His goal was to help children overcome poverty, violence, disease and discrimination. Representing UNICEF, Neeson has worked on the organization’s Change for Good partnership with Aer Lingus and the Believe in Zero campaign that fights child mortality. He joined UNICEF’s Unite for Children Unite Against Aids to create public service announcements with other stars like Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Saradon, Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan in 2005. In 2016, the actor traveled to a refugee camp in Jordan to meet with children and teens and hear their stories.
  2. Susan Sarandon – Appointed in 1999, Susan Sarandon is one of the few celebrities who has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for more than two decades. The actress has used her celebrity status to raise awareness on a number of areas but primarily hunger, women’s issues and HIV/AIDS. As a Goodwill Ambassador, she visited children in many countries, including India and Tanzania in 2000, Brazil in 2003 and Cambodia in 2011. Sarandon also published UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2000. The actress also visited Nepal in 2015 to help victims of the devastating earthquake and build awareness for relief efforts. Outside of UNICEF, she also has been involved with and donated to Heifer International, Action Against Hunger, Champions for Children, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  3. Shakira – Colombian pop superstar Shakira became an international UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2003. She was appointed for her charity work, beginning in 1997 when she was only 18 years old with the founding of her Pies Descalzos Foundation, which was dedicated to providing education to underprivileged children in Colombia. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, she campaigned to stand against AIDS in Spain and against violence in El Salvador in 2006. She also visited Bangladesh, Israel, India and Azerbaijan to advocate the importance of education and empower young girls. In 2008, she joined other Latin American artists to found ALAS, an organization devoted to advocating for early childhood development in politics across Latin America. In 2015, the singer spoke on behalf of UNICEF at the United Nations General Assembly to urge global leaders to invest in early childhood development and she did so again in 2017 at the World Economic Forum.
  4. Jackie Chan – Jackie Chan became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2004. However, the international star has been ardent about charity work for decades. He founded the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation in Hong Kong in 1988 to offer scholarships for young people in China. In 2004, he founded the Dragon’s Heart Foundation to build schools for children and helps the elderly in rural China. As a Goodwill Ambassador, Jackie Chan is focused on tackling issues that could devastate a child, such as diseases, HIV/AIDS, economic hardship and natural and unnatural disasters. The martial arts expert traveled to Cambodia in 2004 and 2005 to visit children affected by landmines, as well as to Vietnam and Timor-Leste to promote the importance of education for children. Chan also traveled to Myanmar in 2012 to combat child trafficking, meet with survivors and assist at-risk children. He also called on leaders to join the fight.
  5. Priyanka Chopra Jonas – Miss World 2000 and one of the biggest Indian stars, Priyanka Chopra Jonas has been working with UNICEF since 2006. She was appointed a national Goodwill Ambassador for India in 2010 and became a global Goodwill Ambassador in 2016. She is also the founder of the Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education and donates 10 percent of her earnings to the organization. The Chopra Foundation covers educational and medical expenses for 70 children in India, 50 of whom are girls. With UNICEF, Chopra Jonas has been involved in their Girl Up program and the “Deepshikha” campaign. While the latter campaign is based in India and the former is global, both programs help girls become educated, healthy and empowered. Additionally, with UNICEF, she visited Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2017, and Ethiopia in 2019 to meet refugee children and build awareness.
  6. Serena Williams – Arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time, tennis star Serena Williams was appointed an international UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2011. She has been working with UNICEF since 2006 when she traveled to Ghana for a large vaccination campaign. Since her appointment, she has used her platform to focus on improving education for children around the world. She has built the Serena Williams Secondary school in Kenya and the Salt Marsh Basic School in Jamaica through her partnerships with Build African Schools and Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation respectively. Williams has also partnered with the Common Ground Foundation, Global Goals, the Small Steps Project and World Education.
  7. Tom Hiddleston – Although a Marvel villain on screen, Tom Hiddleston is a hero in real life as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the United Kingdom. Appointed in 2013, the British actor has repeatedly used his fame to advocate for the world’s poor. On behalf of UNICEF in 2013, Hiddleston visited West Africa and Guinea to raise awareness about children in need and those on the ground working to help them. Later that year, he spent five days spending only $1.50 on food to raise awareness to his followers on what it is like to live below the poverty line. He then went on several occasions to visit children living in war-torn South Sudan, calling on global leaders to protect children caught in conflict zones.
  8. Millie Bobby Brown – Netflix’s “Stranger Things” actress is the youngest ever UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Brown was only 14 years old when she was appointed by UNICEF in 2018 but has partnered with the organization since 2012. As a Goodwill Ambassador, the teen actress plans to “raise awareness of children’s rights and issues affecting youth, such as lack of education, safe places to play and learn and the impact of violence, bullying and poverty.” She hosted the organization’s 70th-anniversary celebrations at the United Nations in 2016 and its Inaugural World Children’s Day in 2017. In November 2019, she headlined a global summit at the United Nations headquarters with David Beckham and together demanded rights for every child. She urges global leaders to listen to the voices of children and to take action for those who do not have one. Aside from her work with UNICEF, Brown has also raised $40,000 for the Olivia Hope Foundation, an organization dedicated to ending the suffering of children with cancer.

– Emily Young
Photo: Flickr

“I feel as though I have power.” These are the powerful words of one of nine girls whose stories are documented in the critically acclaimed film “Girl Rising.” Released this year and featured on CNN recently, the documentary follows the struggles of nine girls in nine countries all striving to achieve the same goal: an education. The obstacles they faced were daunting. From forced marriage to war, from bondage to orphanhood, these girls were able to climb out of the depths of despair with a perseverance that has already inspired millions.

The film’s Academy Award nominated director, Richard Robbins, describes his film project’s founding goals as, “Change minds. Change lives. Change policy.” His vision has since led to the 10X10 organization, a campaign that strives to educate girls around the world. Centered around the film, 10X10 has spread its roots through partnerships with companies like Intel that run programs to educate the world’s women, and through networks like CNN that promote women’s education via featured programs and documentaries.

Among the inspiring stories told in the film are those of Sokha and Azmera. Sokha, an orphan from Cambodia, struggled for most of her life to find enough food to eat. And Azmera, one of two children in her Ethiopian family, was nearly married off at the young age of 13. But for each girl a guiding light,  a “series of miracles” in Sokha’s case, and an incredibly supportive brother in Azmera’s case, helped them get to school. Sokha and Azmera’s narratives are shared by those of their counterparts in the film originating from Egypt, India, Nepal, Peru, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Sierra Leone.

These girls have found fans in some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, Kerry Washington, Salma Hayak, Cate Blanchett, Frieda Pinto, Liam Neeson, Priyanka Chopra, Chloe Moretz, and Alicia Keys have all joined the campaign and are featured in the film.  In Meryl Streep’s own words, “If to see it is to know it, this film delivers hope; reasonable, measurable, tangible hope that the world can be healed and helped to a better future.”

– Lina Saud

Sources: 10 By 10 Act, Girl Rising, CNN
Photo: WWeek