UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador from 1988 to 1993
"I can testify to what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief after World War II. I have a long-lasting gratitude and trust for what UNICEF does."
Internationally renowned actress Audrey Hepburn was a tireless advocate for children’s rights.
Soon after becoming a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1988, she went on a mission to Ethiopia, where years of drought and civil strife had caused terrible famine. After visiting UNICEF emergency operations, Audrey talked about the projects to media in the United States, Canada and Europe over several weeks, giving as many as 15 interviews a day. It set a precedent for her commitment to the organization.
In the years that followed, Audrey made a series of UNICEF field trips, visiting a polio vaccine project in Turkey, training programmes for women in Venezuela, initiatives for children living and working on the street in Ecuador, projects to provide drinking water in Guatemala and Honduras, and radio literacy programmes in El Salvador. She saw schools in Bangladesh, services for impoverished children in Thailand, nutrition initiatives in Viet Nam and camps for displaced children in Sudan.
Audrey worked fervently for UNICEF. She testified before the US Congress, took part in the World Summit for Children, launched UNICEF's State of the World's Children reports, hosted Danny Kaye International Children's Award ceremonies, designed fundraising cards, participated in benefit concert tours and gave many speeches and interviews promoting UNICEF's work.
She received the United States' highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1992. That year, though ill with cancer, Audrey continued her work for UNICEF, travelling to France, Kenya, Somalia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Audrey was born on 4 May 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. Her father was an English banker and her mother a Dutch baroness. She studied ballet, but a small part in a French film led the French writer Colette to ask her to play the title role in Gigi, which Colette had adapted for Broadway. The same year, Audrey landed the lead role in the film Roman Holiday, with Gregory Peck, the first of a long list of American movie classics in which she starred.
Towards the end of the 1960s, she retired from acting to dedicate herself to family life, emerging only for a handful of films in the 1970s and 1980s. She devoted the final years of her life to UNICEF.
Audrey Hepburn died at her home in Switzerland on 20 January 1993.