by Sarah Grainger
|Ferry Salim on a trip to Aceh with UNICEF in 2012.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2012
JAKARTA, Indonesia, June 2014 - Actor, model and entrepreneur Ferry Salim is celebrating 10 years as UNICEF Indonesia’s National Ambassador.
It was June 2004, when UNICEF approached him and asked him if he would be prepared to work as an advocate for children’s rights.
A father of three children, he readily agreed.
Just six months later, the Indian Ocean tsunami struck northern Sumatra as well as Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and many other countries, leaving 230,000 people dead.
“I remember standing on the beach in Banda Aceh,” says Ferry. “I looked inland at the city, and everything was flattened.”
Ferry visited Banda Aceh two weeks after the tsunami had hit and saw first-hand the devastation as well as the work that UNICEF was doing to respond to the needs of children affected by the disaster.
“I didn’t promise anything to people there,” he says. “I was just there to show them that they had my support. We sang and played songs and tried to bring some hope to the survivors.”
From Sabang to Merauke
Ferry with children who were affected by a 2006 earthquake in Yogyakarta.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Estey
Ferry’s trip to Aceh was one of his first experiences with UNICEF. Since then he has travelled “from Sabang to Merauke”, from one end of Indonesia to the other, visiting UNICEF’s programmes.
In 2006, Ferry went to Yogyakarta in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that killed 5800 people and left tens of thousands injured.
“I remember gathering up some of my children’s toys and taking them with me to give to them children in Yogya who had lost so much,” he says.
He learned magic tricks – like pulling a bunch of flowers out of a hat – to help the children overcome their traumatic experience.
“The mothers all wanted to take a picture with me,” he says. “But the children wanted to be entertained, you have to make them laugh.”
Ferry’s work with UNICEF has not been limited to emergencies. He also experienced a vaccination drive to halt a polio epidemic. He has been an active supporter of UNICEF’s campaign to increase the number of babies being exclusively breastfed for 6 months. And he has helped UNICEF educate young people about HIV prevention.
Ferry with young people in Wamena, Papua in July 2013.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2013
Ferry’s dedication to the role has also involved personal sacrifice. While he was in Papua to visit UNICEF programmes to prevent violence last year his mother passed away.
“Before I left, she was already very weak,” he says. “I got the news she had died when I was in transit on the way home.”
Ferry is proud of his work with UNICEF that has helped to draw attention to issues around children’s rights in Indonesia.
“Now people really know about the good work that UNICEF does,” he says.