Friday, July 22, 2011

Audrey Hepburn

Today’s Awesome Woman is Audrey Hepburn.  (1929-1993) She was most famous for her long and celebrated movie career, and her elegant beauty, but she was also a great humanitarian.

She was born of a Belgian mother and English Father, And spent her early years between the two countries.  Her father was a Nazi sympathizer and deserted the family when the war broke out. She was devastated by this and said it traumatized her for life.

 Her mother then moved the family to the Netherlands, thinking they would be safer there.  In fact the Nazis did invade, and Belgium was under German control for the remainder of the war.

Audrey’s family endured poverty and near starvation, sometimes eating dog food and tulip bulbs.  She remembers staying in bed reading to  from feeling hungry.  Several members of her family were taken to concentration camps and two were killed.  She credits memories of their privation and suffering under the Nazis for her later humanitarian work.

In the late sixties she began making fewer movies and spent more time with family (she had two sons).  This was when she became actively involved with UNICEF, the United Nation’s children’s branch.  She visited South America and Africa bringing notice to the plight of children in those areas.  She didn’t just give money, she gave her voice and star power to bring attention to these.

In 1988 she visited Ethiopia at a camp for children on seeing the poverty and starvation she remarked:

"I have a broken heart. I feel desperate. I can't stand the idea that two million people are in imminent danger of starving to death, many of them children, not because there isn't tons of food sitting in the northern port of Shoa. “

She also visited street children in South America and was appalled to see children living in such conditions. She later reported to Congress how UNICEF had been able to make a difference

"I saw tiny mountain communities, slums, and shantytowns receive water systems for the first time by some miracle-and the miracle is UNICEF. "I watched boys build their own schoolhouse with bricks and cement provided by UNICEF."

She worked actively until her death to give what help she could to children in poverty and war zones all over the world.  It is rare, I think for someone famous for external beauty to be even more so internally.

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