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

symphony for peruJuan Diego Flórez is a highly-recognized, award-winning Peruvian tenor, who has sung on the most coveted stages, including Covent Garden and Milan’s La Scala. He is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and in 2011, he started Symphony for Peru. The foundation offers music classes and activities for children in low-income families, giving them a chance to develop their talent, teach them values through the arts and pull them away from at-risk situations.

The Need for Creativity

After struggling in the 80s and 90s with terrorism, hyperinflation and corruption, Peru started recovering and achieving steady economic growth from the beginning of 2005 to 2013. Poverty rates decreased and the stable economy gave Peruvians hope of improving their quality of life. This growth, however, has not been able to translate into proper educational or social development. Although it no longer stands in the last place of the PISA rankings, there is still much work to be done. With this in mind, Flórez stepped in and decided to help in the best way he knew: through music.

Juan Diego Flórez created Symphony for Peru, or Sinfonía por el Perú in Spanish, in 2011 to promote musical education in Peru’s most distant and poorest communities, throughout Coastal, Andean and Amazon regions. Flórez used the structure of the Venezuelan government’s music program as inspiration for Symphony for Peru; José Antonio Abreu created this program, who linked musical skills as a route to improve social and personal development.

Music to Peru’s Ears

Symphony for Peru aims to help children in low-income communities. The organization provides music education not only for children to develop their creative skills, but also to provide a different form of entertainment or hobby, taking them away from the risks of the streets, including drugs, crime and teenage pregnancy, and into the classroom.

As it is spread out throughout the country, the Symphony for Peru created different core groups of around 400 and 600 children who participate in either choirs, orchestras or jazz bands. It also works to have two luthier workshops, where children can practice instrument development by learning how to build and tune their own instruments. Another important aspect of the organization is their main Symphony Orchestra, which performs a couple of times per year and has recently recorded and released its own Christmas album.

Perhaps the most innovative way to show the results of the work Symphony for Peru is doing is by letting the children speak for themselves. Students in the organization can show their improvement and talent with patrons and the general audience in free concerts that Flórez organized. These often happen in July, Peru’s independence month.

An Impact through Music

More than 8,000 children have developed their skills as part of the program, and as a result, perseverance and efficacy at school has improved, as well as their behavior and ability to focus in the classroom. Additionally, the organization has proven to be a useful and more productive way for children to spend their time, and the levels of both psychological and physical abuse in the families of students have drastically decreased.

There is no doubt that Flórez is one of Peru’s most important cultural ambassadors. His talent and work ethic lead him to the top, and music critics compare him to some of the best opera tenors in the world like Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. His greatest gift, though, may not be his musical talent, but his selflessness and generosity, as well as his will to give back to his country and share his skills with the people who need it the most.

– Luciana Schreier
Photo: Flickr

Priyanka Chopra
Brought to fame by winning the Miss World title, Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra has been making waves globally. Not only has she starred in the ABC primetime show Quantico, but also she has acted in the Hollywood movie Baywatch. The humanitarian side of Priyanka Chopra, however, is one that her fans are often not aware of.

Chopra is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has sponsored the education and medical costs of seventy children in India. Furthermore, 10 percent of her income goes toward running her nonprofit, the Priyanka Chopra Foundation of Health and Education.

Chopra was introduced to social work at the young age of nine. According to the New York Times, her parents would take her on trips to the underdeveloped regions of India to provide medical assistance. There, she witnessed the blatant discrimination between girls and boys. “Parents believed that their sons were better than their daughters,” Chopra recalls.

Her experiences as a child are reflected in her choice of working with young children, especially young girls. Recently, Chopra spent two days in Jordan to visit Syrian children. She told UNICEF that “an entire generation of children are being shaped by violence and displacement.” Furthermore, she explains that this catastrophe does not only encompass Syrian citizens but the entire world–it is a humanitarian crisis.

The Za’atari refugee camp harbors the highest number of Syrians in Jordan. Chopra spent time meeting with girls there at the school sponsored by UNICEF. While chatting and playing with the children, she faced the harsh reality of child marriage and the dearth of educational resources. There were “too many girls younger than 18 with kids,” she explained to UNICEF.

Although they are eager to learn and often hope for professional careers, there are not enough resources for these children to get a competitive education. Many doors of opportunity close to these children when they become part of the job market in the future. The Washington Post reports that over half a million Syrian refugees of school age are not enrolled in school.

Chopra, however, should not be underestimated in her mission to make sure that “no child is denied a dream.” Although she cannot eradicate poverty, she surely will do her best to encourage and support many children globally, as she has already done in her native country, India.

Other than her collaboration with UNICEF, as a producer, she has also encouraged underprivileged artists. By producing movies in Indian regional languages, she gives artists an opportunity that would have otherwise been ignored. Her latest movie, Pahuna, highlights the conditions of refugees in the Indian state of Sikkim.

Forming personal relationships with the children and posting her experiences on social media, Chopra is using her platform and reach to expose the world to the reality of many troubled countries. The humanitarian side of Priyanka Chopra is slowly coming into the view of the world.

Chopra once told the New York Times that “these young people have the potential to transform society if we invest in them.” Since then, she has proven on multiple occasions her commitment to the youth of the world.

Tanvi Wattal

Photo: Flickr

Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom has traveled to Nepal twice to learn about how UNICEF aids impoverished communities. He has become informed about the impact UNICEF has, whether it be educating people about water sanitation, providing vaccinations or providing safe homes for young girls.

Bloom and UNICEF

During a trip to Nepal in 2007, Orlando Bloom was made aware of the power and importance of spreading information. He learned about the process, supported by UNICEF, that young kids often use to create clean and sanitary water using UV rays from the sun. By filling a clear plastic water bottle to the top (leaving no air inside) and placing it at a 30-degree angle on a rooftop, the sun’s rays are able to kill any unsafe bacteria and germs.

In an interview, Bloom explains, “When the message is made clear to people, they can start to advance forward.”

By educating and spreading valuable information to kids on creating safe water, they are able to bring multiple bottles of clean water home to their families. He encourages people to spread valuable information that can help communities, as he has first-hand seen the benefits of this through UNICEF’s water sanitation programs.

Rita’s Story

Bloom’s trip to Nepal opened his eyes to how precious a resource water is. He was able to spend time with a 6 year old girl named Rita, who occupies half of her day collecting water.

She uses a water tank in a basket, which connected to a strap that goes over her head. He explains her journey, “She walks a few miles up and down a mountain to get to a well and collects water to bring back to her house. And the water she’s collecting from the well is not clean, it can make her sick.”

Bringing it Home

Now at home in the United States, Bloom is speaking out about the importance of conserving water. Inspired by his trip to Nepal, he explains that we cannot take our daily access to water for granted. He has instilled this mindset into his son, for example, by teaching him to turn off water while brushing his teeth.

Orlando Bloom has also visited places including Liberia, Jordan and Moscow to learn about the struggles families go through, to further raise awareness for other issues besides water conservation and sanitation.

Casey Marx

Photo: Flickr

UNICEF, or the United Nations Children’s Fund, is an internationally known organization that provides long-term aid and humanitarian services to children in struggling countries. The organization has just named singer Katy Perry the new 2013 Goodwill Ambassador as of December 3 2013.

Katy Perry is famous for her upbeat pop songs and wild dress style, but there is a serious empathetic and generous side to the artist that many of her fans may be unaware of. Katy has been supporting the fight against global poverty for many years, and in April of 2013 she visited the slums in Antananarivo, Madagascar to witness the situation firsthand.

UNICEF made it possible for her to travel to one of the poorest island nations in the world and learn how the organization works to help those in need. Providing educational programs for children, protecting women and children against rape and abuse, as well as integrating water and hygiene support into the community are some of the many ways UNICEF attempts to aid residents of the slums, and Katy Perry experienced the magic in person.

A strong online presence worked to UNICEF’s advantage when Katy Perry allowed them to use her most recent hit ‘Roar’ for their promotional video, which can be found on YouTube. Perry has more than forty-eight thousand followers on Twitter, and she uses this powerful social media influence to reach out on behalf of others. Recently she has tweeted to her mass following in a plea to generate funds for the victims of the typhoon that struck the Philippines in November. Follow this link to view Katy Perry’s twitter.

Perry is only one of the long line of celebrities offering their voice to the issue of global poverty in distressed nations. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Liam Neeson, and Matt Damon are a few of the most widely acknowledged contributors to disaster relief and foreign aid. Many of the aforementioned stars have founded their own charities and traveled, like Katy, to witness the execution of their programs in person.

Celebrity endorsement is one of the oldest tricks in the book in terms of creating awareness. Usually celebrities are used to glamorize products and increase sales, but UNICEF and other aid organizations have realized the enormous power celebrities have to change the lives of people struggling against poverty. Being a focus in the public eye gives celebrities real life power to influence the thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes of people around the world. Celebrities have begun using this spotlight to educate others on issues affecting mass amounts of people and inspiring audiences to make their own contributions. Spreading knowledge about the global situation in various countries is the first step to inspiring action, and a little effort from just one individual is enough to make a difference to the lives of many.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Look to the Stars, Twitter, Fuse, UNICEF
Photo: Hollywood Reporter

UNICEF’s First Celebrity Ambassador, Danny Kaye

“I believe deeply that children are more powerful than oil, more beautiful than rivers, more precious than any other natural resource a country can have. I feel that the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life is to be associated with UNICEF ” – Danny Kaye.

Celebrities tend to get a bad rap. They make oodles of cash and then most of them use it to live extravagant, self-absorbed lifestyles. But some of Hollywood’s most recognizable names have chosen instead to use their fame for good. Audrey Hepburn, Selena Gomez, and Laurence Fishburne just to name a few, have been UNICEF celebrity ambassadors. These celebrities travel the globe and bring awareness to the incredible work that UNICEF does everyday. And it all started with actor and comedian, Danny Kaye.

Danny Kaye was born David Daniel Kaminsky on January 18, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of three sons born to Ukrainian Jewish Immigrants Jacob and Clara Kaminsky. From a young age Danny seemed destined to become an entertainer. At 13 he boldly dropped out of high school to pursue a career in show business. He soon returned to Brooklyn to work a string of odd jobs, none of which lasted very long, and eventually returned to his first love, acting.

During his career Danny wore many hats. He had starring roles in film, theater, and television. The beloved actor appeared in the family classic “White Christmas” alongside Bing Crosby and got the whole country laughing with his role in “The Court Jester”. His zany comedic style and heartwarming attitude won him fans the world over. Then, at the height of his career in 1954, he embarked on a whole new journey, becoming the first ever UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a role he would hold until his death in 1987.

As an ambassador for UNICEF, Danny was the first celebrity to publicly advocate for a global cause. He was vocal about his belief that the world’s children held the key to the future and in an interview he said, “Any organization that perhaps creates a better understanding for the children would in some measure contribute to the security and the health and the peace of the world”.

Danny worked tirelessly to use his fame to bring the plight of the children he cared for so dearly to the attention of the world. He gave countless interviews, starred in a few UNICEF public service announcements, and provided much needed laughter and entertainment for kids around the world. In 1979, he even earned himself a spot in The Guinness Book of Records by flying a jet to 65 cities in 5 days to greet thousands of UNICEF volunteers for the annual Halloween Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign. Kaye continued his mission to educate the world about the lifesaving work of UNICEF until his death in 1987.

Danny Kaye is gone but not forgotten. The legacy he created by using his stardom for good paved the way for countless celebrities to follow in his footsteps. Since 1954, UNICEF has had over 40 international Goodwill Ambassadors.

– Erin N. Ponsonby

Source: UNICEF