War Child UK CEO Rob Williams on Global Ambassador Carey Mulligan: ‘She Has Helped Us to Bring Life-Saving Help to Over 1.6 million Children’

Rob Williams is the CEO of War Child UK, an organization that protects children in conflict zones. Variety’s Power of Women honoree Carey Mulligan has been working with War Child since 2014.

It’s incredibly rare for an organisation to have a relationship with an ambassador that is genuinely transformational. But in the case of War Child and Carey Mulligan, this is absolutely the case.

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Importantly, we didn’t ask Carey for help. She heard about us from her brother, and came into our office almost exactly 10 years ago to the day, with a very friendly dog. She simply asked whether there was anything she could do. At the time, we had no idea the kind of difference that she could make.

War Child was a small organisation back then. We had big goals, and in the year we met Carey we were feeling good about having provided life-saving help to 25,000 children and carers in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s a fair measure of Carey’s impact to say that last year we reached over 260,000 children and carers — more than 10 times the number before she joined us.

We call Carey a Global Ambassador, but the truth is that she is a co-creator of what War Child is today.  We were already doing amazing work in conflict countries, but our fundraising needed a lot of work.  Carey gathered her friends and family around us, and personally built the foundations of much of what you see today. She persuaded us that she could raise money through an annual dinner, called the Wassail, that she now hosts every year with her husband Marcus Mumford. In its first year, the dinner increased our general funds by 25%. She and Marcus went on to help us found Children in Conflict, our partner in the United States, which hugely increased our ability to raise money and reach more children in war zones. A year after we met Carey, Marcus became an ambassador in his own right, and Carey has continued to introduce us to many key supporters, some of whom have also become ambassadors.

At times of crisis for the organisation, Carey has always been there for us. During COVID-19 when we were set to lose a third of our annual income because of canceled events, Carey rallied her friends and colleagues in a remarkable effort to make our “Coronavirus crowdfunder campaign” work, and raise over £500k. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Carey was one of the first people I called. Within two weeks, she had helped us to raise over $1 million to fund our initial response. A few months later, she was with us in Ukraine — pictured above — helping us to figure out how to do more to help Ukrainian children. When the needs of Yazidi women and children, persecuted by Isis, far outstripped our resources, she came out to Iraq and worked with us to raise the money to keep our centres open. In the 10 years since we met Carey, she has helped us to bring life-saving help to over 1.6 million children. That’s at least one million more than we would have reached, had we stayed the same as we were before Carey joined.

War Child and Children in Conflict aim to reach the children who suffer most in a conflict. Girls and boys who have lost parents, have been raped or abused, have been recruited as children into armed groups. The first trip we suggested to Carey was to a set of projects we were running in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in a district which had changed hands several times in the past year, after fierce fighting between government and rebel forces. We explained that it was risky, but Carey was not put off by the dangers. At least, she did not let us see any doubts she might have had, and she engaged enthusiastically in security training. Carey has the skills to guide you out of a fire fight, negotiate through a rebel checkpoint and deal with a gunshot wound.

I saw in DRC that Carey has a natural affinity with children. And children respond to her. She always attracts a crowd of children in places where I’m sure there is no chance they are aware that she is an A-lister from England. Children beam with delight when Carey joins in a game or a group therapy session.  She is also a powerful advocate. Officials are surprised when Carey asks them questions they are not prepared for, and presses them for commitments to do more to help children who need support. Carey has marched on Downing Street to stop the bombing in Yemen, has called out the U.K. for canceling aid budgets, she has campaigned with us to get children released from illegal detention. She has taken some big risks, physical and political, to get help to children who need it, and to stand as witness to the cruelty and suffering that war inflicts on innocent children.

We are deeply grateful for Carey’s amazing commitment to our shared mission, and beyond proud to see her work with us recognised through this prestigious award.

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