Audrey Hepburn actress & humanitarian


Audrey Hepburn was born in Brussels, Belgium on May 4, 1929. At the age of 5, Hepburn was sent to boarding school in England where she would live alone. In 1939, England declared war on Germany and Hepburn's mother, Ella, sent for her to return home to Holland. Holland was a neutral country at this time and her mother thought it would be safe to stay here. Little did they know, Germany would soon invade and turn their life upside down.

With the German invasion, came violence and a poor political climate. Along with this, living conditions became terrible for those in Holland. Food imports were cut off and a "Hunger Winter" began. Luckily, Hepburn was one of the many children living in Holland who survived with the help of UNICEF. UNICEF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting children and mothers all over the world who are in need of humanitarian or developmental assistance. The assistance she, and many other children living in Holland, received included food, supplies, and medical aid.

During this time, Hepburn pushed through her problems and used her passion of dancing to perform recitals and raise money for the Nazi Resistance.

Hepburn survived World War 2 but was left with anemia, malnutrition, and asthma. This only motivated her to continue to follow her passion for dancing which lead her to move to England with her mother. Here, Hepburn focused on becoming a prima ballerina but eventually went on to working in Broadway shows and then small roles in films.

Hollywood Golden Age Era

In one of these films, called Monte Carlo Baby, Hepburn was scouted for a starring role in a play written by a famous writer named Colette. This led to her acting career in Hollywood films. Some of her most famous films include Roman Holiday, Sabrina, and Breakfast at Tiffany's.

After Hollywood

After a long and successful career, Hepburn decided to use her fame in a different way. In 1988, Hepburn reached out to UNICEF, the organization that once saved her as a child, and asked if there was a way she could help their organization. Hepburn always had a love for children and wanted to help children worldwide. Another motivating factor was that she knew that she was very successful as an actress and decided to use this fame to help others. At once, Hepburn was given the title and duty of Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

As Goodwill Ambassador, Hepburn had an easy job but she went above and beyond the expectations. Hepburn visited around 20 countries in the span of 5 years. These countries include Ethiopia, Turkey, Sudan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Somalia, Mexico, several countries in Central and South America, and more. Here, Hepburn worked first hand with the children and families that were affected by the impacts of environmental changes, bad political climate, and poor economic standings. Here is a list of some of the issues children worldwide faced for each of the categories mentioned above:

Environmental Issues: Drought: this meant there was no drinking water available and agriculture was impossible. Weather: children are too weak to withstand very high and very low temperatures.

Political Issues: War: War can bring harmful side effects like food cut off, what Hepburn had once experienced, and it can create an unsafe living environment. Anarchy: Without a government present, countries did not have effective health care and financial control.

Living Conditions: Poor or no sanitation: This allows for the easy spread of bacteria that leads to illnesses and in many cases, death. No heating: Some children in countries do not have a warm shelter to sleep in at nights which can bring sickness and contribute to high death rates in children.

Role as UNICEF Ambassador

Audrey Hepburn's job as UNICEF ambassador carried the duty of speaking on behalf of the organization. Hepburn knew how important this organization was for children around the world and it needed the support of powerful groups and people. Hepburn attended many important events as a representative of UNICEF and spoke out on the issues current at the time and solutions to these issues. She hosted auctions, appeared in broadcasts for UNICEF, and designed fundraising cards. She even spoke to the U.S. Congress and asked for their support. Audrey Hepburn believed that those who could give, needed to give struggling countries the help in order for them to help themselves. Here is a clip from one of Audrey Hepburn's speeches.

Audrey Hepburn was successful in promoting the organization but she felt that she needed to do more. In the countries that she visited, she spoke to women of famine stricken children about the benefits of breastfeeding and how to treat dehydration. She also worked like any other UNICEF worker and assisted in the immunization of children, helped distribute medicine, visited dam construction sites, and overall, made the children happy.

Down below is a video with some more information about the work she did to promote UNICEF and some of the work she did in the countries that she visited. Start video at 30 seconds and stop video at 3:00.

Effects of Hepburn's Work

Overall, Hepburn's efforts to promote UNICEF and help children in need were successful. Hepburn helped push toward the resolution of issues faced by children and contributed to the steady decline in global child mortality rate. Having somebody like Audrey Hepburn to speak on these issues was a smart decision for UNICEF because of the bravery she had to speak to others and they way she didn't limit herself when interacting with children and families around the world. This gave many of those struggling, hope and many of those longing to help, inspiration. Below is a graph of the child mortality rate of children under 5 living in Ethiopia, one of the countries that Hepburn visited and felt most effected by. This shows the rate from the years 1990 to 2013, showing 3 years before the end of Hepburn's work in 1993. Part of that decline was made possible by all the work of nonprofit organizations, like UNICEF, and the messages they were able to get out through with representatives, like Audrey Hepburn.

UNICEF remembers her as one of the most hard working ambassadors they have ever had. Throughout the time she was volunteering at UNICEF, she was struggling with colon cancer and was becoming weaker and weaker as the days passed. During this hard time, Hepburn was awarded the highest award anybody could receive, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This was given to Hepburn on behalf of the time and work she put into UNICEF and the difference she made in the organization. Hepburn continued to pushed through her illness and put in countless of hours up until her death on January 20, 1993. The efforts she made as UNICEF ambassador not only gathered the support the organization needed, but she did more than she was asked and changed the lives of children worldwide.

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