In the moment they flee, refugees cast a last desperate look around their homes and grab a few vital possessions to take into exile. Highlighting their harrowing choices, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett today launched a powerful video, supporting UNHCR’s #WithRefugees campaign and petition exclusively on the Facebook platform.
The video is based on a rhythmic poem entitled ‘What They Took With Them’ by Jenifer Toksvig, inspired by first person testimony from refugees of items they took with them when they were forced to flee.
“As soon as I read Jenifer Toksvig’s poem, and even more so after I took part in an early performance of it, I was struck by its immense power,” said Blanchett.
“The rhythm and words of the poem echo the frenzy and chaos and terror of suddenly being forced to leave your home, grabbing what little you can carry with you, and fleeing for safety,” she added.
Blanchett performs the poem alongside fellow actors Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Capaldi, Stanley Tucci, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kit Harington, Douglas Booth, Jesse Eisenberg and Neil Gaiman.
“Over 65 million people across the world have been forced to leave everything behind them – everything – and start their lives again from scratch,” Blanchett said. “As a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, I believe the very least each of us can do is work together to ensure refugees have the basics with which to build back their lives – an education, somewhere safe to live, the ability to work. I hope this film will urge people to go to withrefugees.org and sign the petition.”
The video is exclusively released on the Facebook platform. The centre-piece of the UN Refugee Agency’s #WithRefugees campaign is a petition asking governments to ensure all refugee children can go to school, all refugees have a safe place to live and that all refugees can work and contribute to their local community.
It already has nearly 900,000 signatures and will be delivered to the UN Secretary General and the President of the UN General Assembly on Friday September 16 ahead of the historic UN Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants on September 19.
The film of ‘What They Took With Them’ is also being released on UNHCR’s Facebook page at 09.00 BST on September 12 as part of a ‘Facebook live’ from Australia with Cate Blanchett.
During the broadcast, Blanchett talks about her personal experience of meeting refugees in Lebanon and Jordan with the UN Refugee Agency, and why the #WithRefugees campaign is so critical in the run up to the Summit on Refugees and Migrants. She will also be answering questions related to her work as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador submitted by viewers.
This broadcast will be the first in series of Facebook live events with UNHCR high profile supporters that will sweep across the world encouraging people in every region to sign the #WithRefugees petition, building momentum and support for the campaign in the lead up to the hand-in moment on September 16.
One of the sources for the poem was Brian Sokol’s photography project, ‘The Most Important Thing,’ made in collaboration with UNHCR. Many of Brian’s photos, along with firsthand accounts from the refugees he photographed, are featured in the film.
Sign the #WithRefugees petition here.