Sean Hepburn Ferrer
2008 Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award
Kul Chandra Gautam was born in 1949 in the small village of Amarpur in the Gulmi district of western Nepal. Amarpur had no school, no health post, no running water, and no roads. It took seven days’ hike to reach it. Even to this day, the village has no electricity and no telephone service.
So how did this UNICEF poster child get from there to Dartmouth and then Princeton Universities even though he was originally refused a visa?
How did he end up working for the UN in war torn Cambodia and then for UNICEF in Indonesia, Laos and Haiti during the turbulent 80s? And then as chief for Latin America and the Caribbean, and subsequently as director of planning and coordination — master minding Jim Grant’s world summit for children in 1990 – the largest gathering of world leaders – ever? The Declaration and Plan of Action of the Summit which Kul had a hand in crafting has become one of the best known and most effective instruments of international advocacy and action for the well-being of the world’s children today. Kul has also served as UNICEF’s Director of Programs overseeing the policy-making and priority-setting of this billion dollars a year international organization working in over 160 countries.
Kul has just retired as the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF as well as holding the rank of Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. Kul has traveled all over the world, met many leaders and has spent a passionate life advocating for the cause of child rights and human development.
As you may well imagine, I spent much time over the last few weeks searching for that sign, that turning point that might indicate what drove this most extraordinary man from point A to point B. How and when did he know this is what he would do with his life? Did he actually plan this?
But the more I looked, the more I searched, the more I found the same theme: A humble man just trying to be useful – to make the most of it for others — there was no ‘drive’ – just the desire to learn… and there was no ‘master’ plan – just the natural next step to go where he was needed, to where he could be useful.
Like that mythical tree that forever guards the tenderest part of our youth…
while we built our lives, our careers, made our plans and grew our families, Kul has stood sentinel to our humanity and held those of us who were growing up less fortunate – simply because of the circumstances in which they were born. It is my deepest honor to present the 2008 Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award to Kul Chandra Gautam.