"Music can speak louder than words, and I will use my music to speak out on behalf of children everywhere," said the US singer and songwriter Judy Collins on her appointment as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in September 1995.
A dream of peace
Collins first became associated with UNICEF when she volunteered to help promote the book I Dream of Peace: Images of War by Children of Former Yugoslavia, published by UNICEF in the spring of 1994. She also wrote a song inspired by the children's writings and drawings, donating the proceeds to UNICEF.
In November 1994, Collins travelled to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Croatia to see first hand the devastating impact of the war. She visited UNICEF-supported projects offering children art therapy and trauma counselling as well as landmine-awareness training. Collins has spoken to audiences about these children and performed the song she dedicated to them in many of her concerts since her return to the United States.
In May 1995, Collins was presented with the Danny Kaye Memorial Award by the US Fund for UNICEF, in recognition of her invaluable support.
Collins has a long history as an activist. She was involved in protests against the Viet Nam war, being arrested and jailed after one demonstration. It was poignant, then, that in September 1995 she was invited to join a fact-finding mission to Viet Nam organized by the US Fund for UNICEF. There she learned about the special needs of Vietnamese children and witnessed UNICEF’s role in improving their lives through health care, immunization, clean water and sanitation and traditional and non-traditional education.
|© UNICEF/HQ 97-0561/Nelson|
|Collins (centre) is surrounded by children holding balloons following the dedication of a children's library. Croatia, 1997.|
In September 1997, Collins returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Croatia, visiting schools and hospitals that had been rebuilt with support from UNICEF. This mission also took her to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where she witnessed the problems facing children and mothers in the region.
Collins has been a particularly strong and consistent campaigner on the issue of landmines over the years. Her missions to various countries have allowed her to promote UNICEF's work in this and many other areas of the organization's work. She has taken every opportunity to support and help raise funds for UNICEF National Committees, as well as donating part of the proceeds of concerts royalties from guitar sales.
Voice of silver
The New York Times once described as Judy Collins as "a national treasure, with a voice of liquid silver." Collins began studying classical piano at the age of five and by age 10, was studying with the orchestral conductor Antonia Brico. But in her adolescence she was captivated by the folk songs of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. As a result she began playing the guitar and singing in the folk clubs of Denver, Chicago and New York. In 1961 she signed a long-term contract with Elektra Records, which has resulted in 30 best-selling albums. Collins has also found time for successful ventures as an actress, producer and author.
Judy Collins’ husband, Louis Nelson, is also an active supporter of UNICEF.