UNHCR Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks smiles as the children at SOS Villagewhen they tell her about their plans to become historians, architects and rock stars once they grow up. UNHCR / Paul Wu
© UNHCR/P. Wu

About Barbara

US-born world renowned classical singer Barbara Hendricks was appointed to the role of Goodwill Ambassador in 1987 and is UNHCR’s longest-serving Ambassador. In 2002, in recognition of her outstanding commitment to refugees, Barbara was named Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador.

Barbara supports our fundraising and awareness-raising work and advocates for refugees at the highest diplomatic and governmental levels. Over the past 25 years, Barbara has travelled extensively with UNHCR, meeting refugees and policy-makers in Africa, Asia and Europe.  

In 1989, Barbara travelled to Mozambique and Zambia to meet refugees preparing to return to Namibia. In 1990, she visited Vietnamese refugees in Pulau Bidong camp in Malaysia. In 1992, she travelled to several Cambodian refugee sites in Thailand and a year later she returned to greet some of those same refugees as they returned home with UNHCR's help. Additionally, Barbara has undertaken missions to Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire.

Barbara has also been an active supporter of World Refugee Day activities and has performed at the UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award on several occasions, in addition to performing at many other concerts in celebration and support of UNHCR and refugees. On 31 December 1991, Barbara gave a concert for peace in Dubrovnik, Croatia, which was then a city under fire. She returned to the Balkans in 1997 to witness developments in post-conflict projects in Sarajevo.

Recent support and field visits

In the past year, Barbara has travelled to Cote D’Ivoire to speak at the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Conference in support of UNHCR’s work to end statelessness and our iBelong campaign.  

In October 2015, Barbara performed alongside friend and fellow humanitarian Angelique Kidjo at UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Awards in celebration of Afghan refugee teacher Aqeela Asifi. She also spoke and performed at a fundraising event in Dubai organised by one of UNHCR’s corporate partners.

Barbara has continued to build empathy and understanding for refugees by helping to launch Bienvenue!, a book of essays about refugees by renowned French authors. She has also featured in a film with fellow UNHCR ambassadors and high profile supporters called Words Matter.

In photos: Barbara Hendricks visits Cote d'Ivoire to highlight the problems caused by Statelessness

Stateless people may have difficulty accessing basic rights.

News and StoriesPhoto Galleries

In photos: Barbara Hendricks visits Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

In 2012, UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks met with Malian refugees in Damba Camp, northern Burkina Faso.

News and StoriesStories

25 years of service

Soprano Barbara Hendricks marks 25 years of service to UNHCR

High Commissioner and staff pay tribute to Barbara Hendricks for her quarter-of-a-century of service to UNHCR and the cause of refugees worldwide.

News and StoriesMaking a Difference

Barbara Hendricks tells Jennie Tourel's Story

Barbara Hendricks, classical singer and UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador, shares the story of her mentor, Jennie Tourel.