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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Mama Mia -- actress's motherly love for poor

Grainne Cunningham

Published 17/03/2012 | 05:00

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AS a mother 14 times over, no one could doubt Mia Farrow's passion for children.

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But, on the eve of Mother's Day, it is her compassion for children, most of whom she has never met, which is driving her.

The actress was in Dublin yesterday to draw the attention of Irish people to the plight of one million children in Africa's Sahel belt, who are at risk of dying from hunger.

For more than a decade, Ms Farrow (67) has travelled several times a year to the darkest, most troubled areas of the African continent as UNICEF'S goodwill ambassador.

Having just returned from another trip to Chad, she flew into Dublin to speak at the organisation's Mother's Day Fundraising Lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel.

The diminutive actress seemed a little out of place among the glamourous ladies at lunch. Dressed in a suit a little too big for her tiny frame, and wearing her signature gold-rimmed glasses, Ms Farrow was certainly the only one in the room wearing large comfortable black clogs, in a forest of high heels.

But her focus was clearly on the message rather than the event as she spoke with conviction of the need to do more to help people who, after four seasons of drought, are facing the worst.

"After visiting skeletal babies in an emergency feeding centre, it felt good to see the warehouse where UNICEF has stocked three months' worth of life-saving therapeutic foods," Ms Farrow said.

A keen photographer herself, she scrolled through her mobile phone, showing pictures she had taken of babies on the edge of survival. In between were images of some of her own nine grandchildren.

And despite travelling to war-torn and famine-ravaged zones several times every year, Ms Farrow is determined to continue her humanitarian campaign.

Giving up to despair would, she said, "be a personal indulgence that I just would not permit myself . . . I am not the one suffering or starving".

Ms Farrow said she thought it was "awesome" that UNICEF Ireland was taking the initiative to raise funds for the people of the Sahel belt in Africa.

On a lighter note, with just days to go before becoming a grandmother for the 10th time, she said she would spend Mother's Day "living it up in Ireland".

She has strong Irish connections and is the daughter of Roscommon-born actress Maureen O'Sullivan, Ireland's first movie star.

Ms Farrow has been married twice, to composer Andre Previn, with whom she had six children, and then to singer Frank Sinatra.

She also had a long-term relationship with director Woody Allen, who had an affair with -- and later married -- her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi.

In her early acting career she starred on the hit television series 'Peyton Place', however she hit the big time in the horror film 'Rosemary's Baby,' directed by Roman Polanski.

A long-time advocate for the people of Darfur, she appealed to Steven Spielberg to stand down from his role directing the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics because of China's support for the Sudanese government.

To make a donation to UNICEF, visit unicef.ie

Irish Independent

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