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Internationally acclaimed British author Neil Gaiman has been supporting UNHCR since 2013 and was announced as a global Goodwill Ambassador in February 2017.
Neil has played a central role in supporting UNHCR’s fundraising, advocacy, and awareness-raising efforts. He has continuously utilized his writing talents to highlight the refugee issue, generate empathy, and mobilize support.
What You Need to Be Warm
Neil’s book What You Need to be Warm was released in October 2023 to critical acclaim and made it into the New York Times top ten for children’s illustrated books.
The poem – accompanied by artwork from 13 incredible illustrators - was originally inspired by over 25,000 crowdsourced words shared by his Twitter followers, inspired by Neil asking them to share their memories of warmth.
It explores the reality of displacement amidst conflict and advocates for the right to safety and belonging, no matter the circumstances. Proceeds from each copy of the book will help support UNHCR’s efforts.
Written in 2019, Neil re-released the poem again in 2020, inviting fans to share illustrations for inclusion in an animated film. The film version of Neil’s poem won the Webby People’s Voice award in the category of Social, Public Service and Activism, which Neil accepted on behalf of UNHCR. The 2023 publication of What You Need to Be Warm reinvents the work yet again. Already published in the UK, Australia and the US (via Bloomsbury and Harper Collins, respectively), the book will be rolled out in non-English language markets in 2024.
Advocacy and campaign support
In addition to the creation of his powerful poem, Neil has taken part in several UNHCR campaigns and awareness initiatives.
In 2019, Neil helped to launch the first-ever Refugee Week in Greece through a digital interview in which he discussed the power of storytelling in amplifying refugee voices. As a British national, Neil has also been involved in UNHCR efforts closer to home.
In 2018, Neil signed an open letter calling for MPs to attend the Refugees Family Reunion Bill and advocate for its implementation to allow child refugees a route to reunite with their parents.
In amongst the horror and the nightmares, there are many small and glorious stories of survival and hope, resilience and dignity. If you could have the conversations that we had, if only you could sit and speak to refugees, face to face, you would see that we really are the same, that we really are part of one family. And, at its best, a family does all it can to support each other.
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In 2016, Neil joined fellow UNHCR supporters in performing Jenifer Toksvig’s rhythmic poem What They Took With Them, inspired by the firsthand testimonies from refugees for an online video campaign. Neil has appeared in several other UNHCR advocacy films, including ‘Words Matter’, ‘We Stand With #WithRefugees’, and Everyone Counts.
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Field visit to Jordan
In 2014, Neil travelled to Jordan with UNHCR to build support, empathy and understanding of the Syrian refugee crisis. He visited Azraq and Za’atari refugee camps where he heard the harrowing stories of those forced to flee their homes.
Neil shared his experience of the trip by writing an article for The Guardian and several other media outlets.
Neil's work as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador
News and highlights
Find the latest news and key highlights about Neil's work as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
What does a solidarity scarf look like?— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) December 11, 2019
Like this epic (and pretty stylish) piece of art. Our words of warmth knitted into it. I’ve loved working on this project with you all and raising funds for @refugees.
Please keep donating https://t.co/gu2Q7GS0Sh pic.twitter.com/dVnS2KVMzX
How has art been healing for Neil Gaiman?— UNHCR Greece (@UNHCRGreece) June 28, 2022
What is the power of storytelling?
The City of Athens invited acclaimed writer & UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador @neilhimself to a digital interview for the launch of the first-ever #RefugeeWeekGreece.
Watch it here: https://t.co/iwguBlhtTE pic.twitter.com/AZtTfJtmbG