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Barbara Hendricks - Goodwill Ambassador Fact Sheet

Barbara Hendricks - Goodwill Ambassador Fact Sheet

28 August 2004

World renowned soprano Barbara Hendricks has worked and travelled tirelessly on behalf of refugees across the world since she was named UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 1987. She is the longest serving UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and, as such, was recognised in 2002 with an honorary lifetime appointment.

In 1989, she went on a field mission to Zambia, where she visited a group of refugees preparing to return to Namibia, and another from Mozambique. In 1990, she visited Vietnamese refugees in Pulau Bidong camp in Malaysia.

In 1992, she travelled to several Cambodian refugee sites in Thailand. One year later, she returned to greet some of those same refugees returning home to Cambodia to prepare for the first democratic elections in Cambodian history. She later arranged funding for a period of three years for a collaborative project between UNHCR and Handicap International for the rehabilitation of victims of anti-personnel mines in the country.

She then undertook a mission to the Great Lakes Region of Africa (Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi), which had been struck by mass displacements. On December 31, 1991, she gave a benevolent concert for peace in Croatia's Dubrovnik, which then was a city under fire. She returned to the Balkans in 1997 to witness developments in post-conflict projects in Sarajevo.

While in East Timor in May 2002 for the celebration of the territory's independence, she discussed the refugee situation and the prospect of return for the refugees still in Indonesian West Timor at a meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, and his staff. She was invited to perform as the new flag of East Timor was raised for the first time.

In addition to her many field visits, Hendricks has met with heads of state and other government officials responsible for refugee matters. She has made many appearances on television and is often invited to address civic groups and students on her activities as Goodwill Ambassador.

She has also been an active participant of World Refugee Day: In June 2002, she opened a photo exhibition in commemoration of World Refugee Day in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2003, she participated in the Nansen Refugee Award ceremony in Geneva.

In 2004, she participated in a film tribute to former UNHCR staff member Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in Baghdad in August 2003. The film, "En Route to Baghdad", was written and directed by Simone Duarte, with its first screening in New York City on September 9, 2004. In December 2004, she participated in a UNHCR concert - "Voices for Darfur" - at London's Royal Albert Hall.

Hendricks uses every possible media occasion to express her concerns for protection of refugees and is a particularly impassioned speaker on the rights of refugee women. Since 2001, she has also been an active board member of the Refugee Education Trust.