In an exclusive interview just released, actor Cate Blanchett discusses details of her experiences meeting refugees all over the world and how being a mother has informed and inspired her work with refugees.
Blanchett reveals what keeps her awake at night: the knowledge that parents choosing to make dangerous journeys to seek safety for their children are not doing so lightly, but doing so because they are thinking profoundly about their children’s future. And that it is many of those people are the people who are being washed up on the beaches. She says, “Think. Just think about that, as you’re drifting off to sleep.”
The interview features in the final episode of this season’s award winning ‘Awake at Night’ Podcast hosted by the UN Refugee Agency. The podcast features remarkable humanitarians and individuals who provide unique and intimate insights into their work with refugees. They disclose what drives them, what they have learned from the people they serve, and the challenges and hopes that keep them awake at night.
Blanchett, who has dedicated herself to the refugee cause since 2014 as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency, engages in an emotional conversation with Melissa Fleming, UNHCR's Head of Global Communications as the last in the second series of the podcast, talking about many of her experiences meeting refugees across the world.
Blanchett recalls her time in Jordan accompanied by her son Iggy, where she met Syrian refugees. She tells Fleming how Iggy – keen to play football with all the boys in the family – was curious to know why one cheery boy didn’t join them: “I explained that he had a wound in his foot; that he had shrapnel in his ankle as he was shot on their journey there. The color just drained from Iggy’s face and you could see him trying to put those pieces together.”
There, in the barren, hot, Jordanian desert her son Iggy understood what it meant to be a refugee: “I think, if you told him in abstract or he’d read it in a newspaper article, he would have thought about the boy being in a hospital bed, being incredibly depressed, but you could see that this boy was still full of hope.”
When asked how being a mother has helped her with her role as a Goodwill Ambassador, Blanchett says: “By being a mother you form an empathetic, immediate connection to the experience of refugee mothers and what they will do, the lengths they will go to try and normalize their experience as fragile as it is for their children.”
As a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, Blanchett helps raise awareness and humanise the issue of forced displacement and statelessness. She has travelled with UNHCR to meet refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Bangladesh, learning first-hand about peoples’ experiences of flight from conflict and persecution, or the challenges of statelessness and then turning this experience into powerful advocacy and human story-telling. She has turned this witness into film and drama, and also into powerful testimony at fundraising events as well as high level meetings such as at the UN Security Council and Davos.
Awake at Night is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Acast. For more information, visit the webpage unhcr.org/awakeatnight.