George Dalaras and UNHCR
George Dalaras's association with the UN refugee agency stretches back over more than a decade. The Greek singing star, who was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in October 2006, first donated his services to the agency during its 50th anniversary celebrations in 2001 when he helped to organize a spectacular World Refugee Day (June 20) concert in the ancient Greek stadium at Delphi. Dalaras and American jazz singer Jocelyn B. Smith, accompanied by the Ossipov Russian Orchestra, performed the songs of acclaimed Greek composer, Mikis Theodorakis.
Later that year, Dalaras organized two more 50th anniversary concerts in the Herod Atticus Theatre at the foot of the Acropolis. More than 9,000 people packed into the beautiful Athens venue to hear Dalaras and French soprano Emma Shapplin, accompanied by an orchestra and choir. The concerts raised valuable funds for UNHCR programmes around the world.
In 2003, Dalaras took part in a UNHCR awareness and fund-raising campaign. He was one of an impressive group of musicians who sang on a complimentary CD released with Ta Nea newspaper's weekend magazine, Tahydromos. The CD and accompanying article directed readers to a bank account opened by UNHCR to receive donations aimed at helping refugee children. Read the web story here.
Dalaras, whose mother was a Greek refugee from Turkey, implored the Greek public to donate, saying that refugees "live with a pain, which as Euripides said is the greatest on earth: the loss of one's homeland." The campaign raised more than 30,000 euros.
In 2004, Dalaras performed at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Athens. With a global audience, he sang four songs, including one about the plight of the world's refugees. The following year, Dalaras again supported World Refugee Day by recording radio and television spots on that year's theme, "Courage."
In 2006, the relationship between UNHCR and Dalaras grew even closer when he was named a Goodwill Ambassador at a high-profile ceremony on October 5 in Greece's Old Parliament Building in Athens. Read the web story here.
In February 2007, Dalaras made his first overseas trip as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Accompanied by his wife Anna, Dalaras visited refugee camps and UNHCR staff in Sierra Leone before travelling overland to Liberia with a group of returnees. He met top government officials and aid workers in both countries and visited a UNHCR-funded computer training school for returnees in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.
Later in the same year, Dalaras promoted UNHCR's work and his role as Goodwill Ambassador in the official programme for his "Inspired by Rembetiko" tour of 11 European capitals. The UNHCR video, "What a Difference a Year Makes," was shown at the beginning of each concert.
Dalaras has also supported UNHCR in its efforts to help improve the situation of asylum-seekers in Greece. He has visited reception centres and facilities for unaccompanied children and discussed the issues with the media and government officials. In September 2009, he organized a benefit concert for vulnerable refugees in Greece. It was broadcast live by state radio from the open-air Petra Theatre in Athens.
Since becoming a Goodwill Ambassador, Dalaras has donated use of his name, voice and time each year on World Refugee Day. He has given press conferences, attended awareness events, recorded TV messages and supported UNHCR fund-raising initiatives.