30 Jan Rick Borman speaks with Mia Farrow about her Campaign against Human Suffering
In the 30 years since the inception of the Naples Town Hall Distinguished Speaker Series, our presenters have become like members of an elite family. While some have returned to speak with us again, we’ve kept up with others who continue to shape the world around them.
In 2009, Mia Farrow spoke to our audience about the outcry of human suffering around the world and also about her life as an actress and star of more than 40 films (“The Great Gatsby,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Hannah and Her Sisters” among them) and the television classic, “Peyton Place.” The actress and humanitarian has seen the worst the world has to offer and has witnessed what human beings can do to one another, something that could break a lesser person.
Ms. Farrow has had her share of peaks and valleys along the way. But she’ll be the first to tell you she feels like the luckiest person on earth. Much has changed since she came from Western Ireland to the Hollywood Hills, married Frank Sinatra and eventually become a voice for the less fortunate. Today she’s at home in her New England farmhouse, surrounded by loved ones, and yet she yearns for peace and an end to distress in places like Darfur.
I caught up with Ms. Farrow last week and asked her about her ongoing work on behalf of Africa’s forsaken citizens, the possibility of a new book and life on the farm. Here’s what she had to say.
Q: As a result of your good work, a light has been focused on the children and villages in Africa who desperately seek life, liberty and freedom from oppression. What other nations and areas of the globe still go unnoticed as they struggle for these basic human rights?
A: The ongoing atrocities in Syria are well documented and an outrage. But across the globe, we are seeing people struggle for basic human rights. However appalling the circumstances, wherever I go, I am struck by the children —and how each child’s face is full of hope. In the face of their courage, resilience and hope, we can all find our own ways to reach out to those who are suffering and in need.
Q: How has the situation in Darfur improved or worsened since you last visited us in Naples in early 2009?
A: Darfur is a word that became synonymous with human suffering and, in time, with its millions of tormented people, has been largely forgotten. Thank you for remembering them. Tragically, the situation there remains deplorable, still convulsed by violence.
Q: With all the abject suffering and poverty that you witness in the world, what advice can you give each of us on how to become part of the solution?
A: We don’t have to look far to find people in need within our communities or for community services we can support with our time. Beyond our own communities, there is a world of suffering. Even a dollar can save a life in Africa. I love UNICEF, and there are many wonderful humanitarian organizations including Save the Children, The World Food Programme and the UN Refugee Agency. Check out my website, www.miafarrow.org, for photos and information on my latest project, archiving the cultural traditions of the Darfur tribes targeted for extermination, documenting what is lost as a result of genocide. To watch a little eight-minute film I made about the project on YouTube, just look up Darfur Archives, Mia Farrow. And in a very recent example of citizen power, Sudan’s President Al-Bashir was actually bidding for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. I helped to launch a legal, diplomatic and online campaign to stop them. Thousands signed our petition on www.change.org (thank you, Twitter) and just a few weeks ago, Al-Bashir withdrew his bid.
Q: When you are not travelling to the ends of the earth, you live a relatively sedate, family-centered life in a storybook New England town. What simple joys do you find in your life outside the limelight?
A: I live in a very rural part of New England, in a rambling old farmhouse with chickens and a vegetable garden. The children have grown up and moved on with their lives. My two youngest are in college, and one of my sons and his family live next door. His wife has become one of my closest friends, and their children are a huge joy for me. In short, I love my chores, my life and the people in it. I am the luckiest person on earth.
Photo “MiaFarrow UNICEF” by UNICEF – http://www.flickr.com/photos/unicef/5782894311/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MiaFarrow_UNICEF.JPG#/media/File:MiaFarrow_UNICEF.JPG