More than 40 high profile UNHCR supporters rallied over the past week to spread awareness around the globe about World Refugee Day and the plight of the forcibly displaced.
They shared stories of particular refugees they know, have met, have read about, and have been inspired by; some, close friends and family, others, refugees encountered whilst travelling with UNHCR. All were ordinary people living through extraordinary times.
In the week that UNHCR reported that almost 60 million people have been forcibly displaced globally – the largest number in UNHCR history – celebrities shone a spotlight on the individual stories behind the statistics, using traditional and social media to spread the World Refugee Day message.
To show solidarity and support for displaced families across the globe several Goodwill Ambassadors (GWA) and high profile supporters contributed films, photographs and writing about refugees they had spent time with whilst in the field with UNHCR.
Goodwill Ambassador (GWA) for South Korea, Jung Woo-sung, introduced Samson in South Sudan, singer/producer Maher Zain met young Syrian Mahmoud in Lebanon, actor Douglas Booth filed from Greece where he met refugees who had recently crossed the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, author Neil Gaiman, actors David Morrissey, Frederike Kempter and Alessandro Gassman shared stories from Jordan, musician Octopizzo was in Kenya.
Public Service Announcements calling on people to get to know a particular refugee, and encourage their networks to do the same, were recorded from the field by actor Cate Blanchett in Lebanon, actor Kristin Davis in Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, supermodel and photographer Helena Christensen in Colombia, and GWA Khaled Hosseini in Jordan. Italian actor Claudio Amendola also recorded a PSA.
On World Refugee Day itself (20 June), UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, accompanied by her daughter Shiloh, visited Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey.
Sudanese actor, model and refugee, Ger Duany, was appointed a Regional Goodwill Ambassador while on mission to Kenya. US actor Kat Graham and Indian actor John Abraham spent time with refugees in Mexico/Guatemala and India respectively. Italian actors Francesco Pannofino and Nicole Grimaudo also supported World Refugee Day at concerts and dinners in Florence, Italy.
Social media buzz was driven by UNHCR high profile supporters through their own social media platforms as well as reaching out to their friends and celebrity networks with tweets, facebook and instagram posts from the likes of Emma Watson, Russell Crowe, Logan Lerman, Forest Whitaker, Osvaldo Laport, Patrick Stewart, Dido, Richard Branson, Craig Ferguson, Suki Waterhouse, Taron Egerton, Tina Daheley, Greg James, Kevin McHale, Luke Evans, Luke Pasqualino, Darren Aronofsky, Tanya Burr, Livia Firth, Kirsten Vansgness, Mia Farrow, Luol Deng, Juanes, Yuna and Roberto Cavalli. And British actress Emma Thompson and her adopted son Tindy Agaba, a former refugee from Rwanda, filmed a two part ‘in-conversation’ for the internet.
“High profile supporters enabled us to engage audiences right across the world on this most important day,” said Alison Tilbe, who heads UNHCR’s goodwill ambassador programme. “Celebrities play a key role in helping keep refugees in public hearts and minds, engaging their fans to become new supporters of UNHCR, and for that we are deeply grateful,” she added.
To meet refugees introduced by UNHCR GWAs and high profile supporters, click here.