Audrey Hepburn’s Humanitarian Legacy

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SEATTLE — Audrey Hepburn is known best for her work as an actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood. She excelled in the field of acting and is one of few stars to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award. Hepburn is remembered for her grace and beauty, especially the iconic look she presented in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, Hepburn was also a well-known advocate for humanitarian causes. She spent the later part of her life participating in different programs with UNICEF. Her help in countries such as Ethiopia and Sudan is an important part of Audrey Hepburn’s humanitarian legacy.

Hepburn’s Second Career Allowed Her to Give Back to Others

Towards the end of the 1980s, Hepburn was wrapping up her film career. Instead of spending the last years of her life at a comfortable estate, she became a Special Ambassador for UNICEF. She wanted to help UNICEF provide aid to those in need because, as a starving child in the Netherlands during World War II, she benefited from UNICEF’s aid when they brought much-needed food and medicine to her country. Another factor that pushed Hepburn to pursue a role with UNICEF was her love for children. She has been quoted as saying, “When I was little, I used to embarrass my mother by trying to pick babies out of prams at the market. The one thing I dreamed of in my life was to have children of my own. It always boils down to the same thing–of not only receiving love but wanting desperately to give it.”

Audrey Hepburn’s Humanitarian Legacy Made an Impact on the Impoverished

Shortly after becoming a Special Ambassador, Hepburn’s humanitarian legacy began with a trip to Ethiopia. During this time, Ethiopia was one of the poorest countries in the world, and its people were subject to a terrible famine due to a long-lasting drought. The purpose of the trip was to call attention to the horrible living conditions; Hepburn visited areas with no water, heating or sanitation. Hepburn wanted to use her name and status to show the world what was happening in Ethiopia, explaining, “My first big mission for UNICEF in Ethiopia was just to attract attention, before it was too late, to conditions which threatened the whole country. My role was to inform the world, to make sure that the people of Ethiopia were not forgotten.”

In an additional trip with UNICEF, Hepburn went to Sudan in April 1989. This time, the goal was to implement a new program called Operation Lifeline. The relief effort’s objective was to transport food and supplies to southern Sudan, which was cut off completely from aid because of the civil war. During her time in Sudan with UNICEF, Hepburn visited many refugee camps in the area that is now South Sudan. She was able to observe relief being provided to those who were sick, including vaccinations and distribution of food bags.

Audrey Hepburn’s humanitarian legacy should be acknowledged as often as her work as an actress. She is forever remembered for consistently encompassing a kind spirit and a giving heart. Even when her days of making movies were behind her, Hepburn continued to use her status to advocate for people in developing countries for many years.

– Alyssa Hannam
Photo: Wikimedia

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