Goodwill Ambassador Ben Stiller: five years with UNHCR
Around the world, Ben Stiller is recognized for starring roles in films like Zoolander, Dodgeball and Meet the Parents – but to refugees like Razan, he also represents a caring community seeking to bring attention to the global refugee crisis.
Ben met young Razan and her family at their home in an informal settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, in 2019. Razan’s parents fled Syria at the beginning of the conflict and spent years struggling to make ends meet, moving around Lebanon. Her twin brother Yazan, 8 years old at the time, helped provide for the family by selling vegetables on the street.
Remarking on his meeting with the family, Ben said, “When I look in Yazan’s eyes, I still see a kid, but I wonder how long that will be. The war has lasted his whole life. It’s all he knows.”
It was the hope of connecting with people who have been forced to flee and giving them a platform to share their stories that inspired Ben’s first trip with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, five years ago this month, in December 2016. Since that trip to Jordan, Ben was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and continues his passionate advocacy for refugees today.
Recognizing five years of Ben’s commitment to the UN Refugee Agency and the people it serves, we are shouting out the top five ways he has stepped up in solidarity with refugees:
- Caring about the humans behind the statistics. Over the course of his service to UNHCR, Ben has met with refugees and asylum-seekers in Germany, Jordan, Guatemala and Lebanon. After his first meeting with refugees in Germany, Ben remarked, “Just meeting these families immediately put a human face on this issue. These people have a lot in common with all of us. They are hard-working and educated and really just want the best for their kids’ futures.”
- Making the refugee issue more relatable. In a BuzzFeed Tasty video released on World Refugee Day in June 2018, Ben joined writer and former Iraqi refugee Ahmed Badr to make chicken shawarma, a traditional dish from Ahmed’s home country. Connecting over their shared love of shawarma as they prepared it together, Ben and Ahmed reinforced the reality that refugees are everyday people who have hopes, dreams and favorite foods that remind them of special times and places in their lives.
- Advocating for refugees at the highest levels. Ben’s extraordinary capacity to amplify refugee voices and talk about the complicated issue of displacement in a manner that is clear, passionate and convincing led him to the U.S. Capitol in May 2019 to testify before Congress regarding the Syria crisis. At the hearing, he said, “Over the years, the term ‘refugee’ has unfortunately become politicized despite the fact that refugees are real people with real stories – stories that are the most traumatic I’ve heard, especially as a father.”
- Using his platform to raise awareness. Ben’s support for refugees has been shared with millions worldwide through profiles in a variety of outlets like Reuters, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, TIME, El Mundo and Al Jazeera.
- Inspiring thousands of Americans to generously donate to protect and empower refugees. Ben’s support of fundraising campaigns in the United States – in particular his annual Giving Tuesday and winter campaigns – has resulted in more than 20,000 gifts that have generated more than $1.7 million for refugees.