As well as being one of the world’s most recognizable faces, Helena has also carved out a respected and distinguished international career in photography. Since 2015, Helena has been using her creativity to work with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency to communicate refugee stories and amplify the voices of the displaced, travelling across the world to countries including Rwanda, Ukraine and Colombia.
On being announced as a Goodwill Ambassador today, Helena said, “Over 68.5 million people are displaced around the world and the number is rising. There has never been a greater urgency to show support for refugees. I hope to continue to advocate for refugees and humanize their stories. Those like Maribeth, who I met and photographed in Colombia, Marcelline in Rwanda and Olena in Ukraine. I was so moved getting to know these remarkable women and to play a part in sharing their incredible stories.”
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said, “Helena will be a wonderful Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR. She has real passion for and commitment to refugees as well as an ability to capture and tell stories of refugees through her photography. This is precisely the role of the Goodwill Ambassador – to raise awareness and share the stories of those that have been forced to leave their homes. I look forward to working with Helena in the years ahead.”
Over the past five years Helena has championed the plight of some of the most vulnerable refugees around the world. Witnessing UNHCR’s work first hand while in Colombia in 2015, she documented internally displaced women living in rural and urban environments. During this trip she met and photographed Maribeth (see photos), who lives in the slums outside of Bogota, Colombia. She used her photography to show that Maribeth, although displaced, is not defined by her displacement – she is a mother, a cook and a dancer.
In Rwanda last year, Helena spent time meeting refugees who recently fled violence and persecution in Burundi and supported UNHCR’s call for further funds to deliver shelter, food, and daily needs for one of the world’s most forgotten and underfunded refugee crises. During this trip Helena took part in a fashion show with those living in the Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda. The clothes shown in the fashion show were made by a UNHCR supported project, the Tailors Co-operative which supports women by teaching them how to use a sewing machine and giving them an opportunity at a livelihood as well as social support.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization that leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. It delivers lifesaving assistance including shelter, food and water, helps safeguard fundamental human rights, and develops solutions that ensure people have a safe space to call home where they can build a better future.
This announcement comes in the run up to World Refugee Day on 20th June 2019 when, around the world, communities, schools, businesses, faith groups and people from all walks of life are encouraged to take big and small steps in solidarity with refugees. For more information see refugeeday.org.
Helena Christensen visits Burundian refugees in Rwanda. She captures a basketball match in Mahama refugee camp where both boys and girls are playing together. ©UNHCR/Hector Perez
This is one of a series of portraits Helena captured of the individuals Helena Christensen met in Mahama refugee camp. ©UNHCR/Helena Christensen
High profile supporter Helena Christensen has travelled out to Colombia to document and photograph internally displaced women in both a rural and an urban environment. ©UNHCR/Hector Perez
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Helena Christensen visited and photographed Burundian refugees in Mahama camp, Rwanda. ©UNHCR/Helena Christensen