SEATTLE, Washington — Lena Headey is a well-known actress from England. She has played a number of roles but is perhaps best known for playing Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones. When she is not acting, Lena Headey helps refugees get back on their feet.
The International Rescue Committee
Lena Headey is one of many celebrities working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping refugees around the world rebuild their lives. It operates in 40 different countries and 26 cities in the U.S. In 2018, the IRC supported more than 19,000 refugee-run businesses and helped 1.6 million children pursue their education. IRC has also trained more than 23,000 people on how to protect refugee women and children.
Lena Headey’s Trip to Lesbos
In June 2016, Lena Headey went on an IRC-funded trip to the Greek island of Lesbos. Along with co-stars Liam Cunningham and Maisie Williams, she went to refugee camps to hear the refugees’ stories. She learned that the camps were severely under-equipped to take care of the large number of refugees. The refugees were often victims of violence and sexual assault.
While on Lesbos, Lena Headey helped produce a series of portraits and videos showcasing a fraction of the tens of thousands of refugees who are stuck there. She and her co-stars asked the refugees about their dreams. They found that, despite the horrors of war, the refugees never gave up on their dreams. Tariq Najim from Damascus, Syria has long dreamt of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately, he could not continue his studies due to the uprising and had to leave Syria. His ultimate goal is to go to Germany to continue his studies and achieve his dream of flying.
Other refugees dream of being able to live peaceful lives. Ismael Aziz Muhideen is one such refugee. He was born in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, and grew up surrounded by constant conflict between the Sunni, Shia, Yazidis and Kurds. The 73-year-old dreams of settling down in Europe to live out the rest of his days in peace.
Lena Headey’s Return Trip
When Lena Headey returned to Lesbos in March 2019, she found the refugee crisis had not improved much. The conditions remain appalling. At least 8,500 people were crammed into a space that is not equipped to house even half that many. Around half of the refugees have experienced some form of sexual assault. This has taken a visible toll on the refugees’ mental health. Approximately 60 percent of refugees in Lesbos have considered suicide, and almost 30 percent have attempted it at some point.
Lena Headey continues to help refugees. The IRC has mental health stations set up in refugee camps all over Lesbos. The one that Headey visited is in a camp called Moria. During her visit, Headey met with psychologists and patients alike and learned that the mental support given by the IRC is a lifeline to many.
The life of a refugee is far from an easy one. Once they leave their turbulent countries of origin, they often live in overcrowded, under-equipped camps where they face new challenges. However, through the IRC, Lena Headey helps refugees to regain control of their lives and gives them hope for the future.
– Cassie Parvaz