Raye Mocioiu. All photos © Harold Julian
“In the last few years, I met with Syrian refugees at the Za’atari camp in Jordan,” said Kat Graham. “I travelled along the Guatemala-Mexico border where I met women, children, and families forced to flee their own countries to escape extreme gang violence.
“In all the time I was there, the resolute, resourceful, graceful and smart people I met never asked me for anything. Their hope was only to give. All they wanted was the chance to stand on their own feet and show the world they had the strength to survive and thrive.”
Since becoming a high profile supporter in 2014, and her subsequent 2020 appointment as Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the Swiss-born American actress, singer, and humanitarian has visited displaced people in several spots worldwide, including Jordan, Central America, and Ethiopia, witnessing the courage and strength of the refugees she has encountered.
For Graham, it’s personal—her grandfather was a UN ambassador, and her 2020 appointment as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR feels like an opportunity to continue the legacy of giving that permeates her family’s history.
The half-Liberian and half-Jewish star is also the grandchild of refugees, making her work with the UNHCR that much more important and meaningful.
“During the Liberian Civil War, my grandfather was lined up on the beach to be shot by the Charles Taylor regime. My mother is Russian, Polish—her family fled Europe and the Holocaust,” Graham shared.
Graham shared that her family history, both as refugees and as advocates for other refugees, inspired her to follow the work of the UNHCR since she was 14 years old. It’s for that reason that she’s aware of how much impact she has as a Goodwill Ambassador—a role that has been a long-time dream of hers.
“It’s not lost on me that if my grandfather had been killed while fleeing for his life, or my grandmother was taken to a concentration camp during the Holocaust, I would not be here today. They were refugees, and I walk with their legacy,” Graham said in a 2020 statement announcing her new position. “During my grandparents’ time, refugees often didn’t have anyone to speak up for them. As a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, I pledge to speak up for the refugees of today.”
And speak up she has. Before becoming a Goodwill Ambassador, Graham supported key UNHCR events and campaigns, including World Refugee Day, the Ramadan Campaign, the iBelong Campaign to End Statelessness and the Nansen Refugee Award.
“My work with refugees is part of who I am and what I want my legacy in the world to be,” the star said. “Overall, I care about our common humanity and advance overall human rights however I can.”
With over 12 million followers on social media, Graham shared that her mission is to “not take the fact that I exist for granted, to not take the fact that I’m a celebrity for granted.” She continues to bring awareness to the plight of refugees across her platforms.
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