007 Travelers Interview: UNICEF Finland / Liisa Susiluoto

007 Travelers Interview: UNICEF Finland / Liisa Susiluoto

November 24, 2014 0 By 007 Travelers
Liisa Susiluoto

Who: Liisa Susiluoto, Fundraising Manager, UNICEF Finland

Where: UNICEF Finland, Helsinki, Finland

When: 11 September 2014

Would you tell us about yourself and the activities of UNICEF?
I am a fundraising manager, which means that I am a head of UNICEF Finland’s fundraising unit and we collect 18-19 million Euros / year for the children of the world. Assets will secure children’s rights all over the world, which has led e.g. to the fact that child mortality is not so big anymore. Children survive. UNICEF’s assistance goes to where children suffer most in the world.

UNICEF is in every country in the world. We help children everywhere they need help, also in Finland, but here help is not money, but more like global education. The assistance always goes where children need help the most, like in situations such as war. The worst situation at the moment is in Syria, and it is bad also in South Sudan and in other emergency sites. There are also huge countries like India, where they have made a Bond film also. I have been watching Delhi through the eyes of an aid worker and street children problem there is enormous.

One must give credit to Bond films, that the movies are made in real environments, in spite of the very crazy things. In that time when they made movies there, it was really exotic.

How Sir Roger Moore became a goodwill ambassador?
Sir Roger Moore was invited, he was named an ambassador on 9th of August 1991. The invitations are sent on the behalf of Executive Director of UNICEF, but there is a group of people that first checks backgrounds the persons. The criteria to become an UNICEF ambassador are very tight.

Roger Moore became a Goodwill Ambassador after Audrey Hepburn, and it was Audrey who inspired Roger Moore. She thought that Roger Moore could commit to UNICEF’s activities. Audrey Hepburn visited Finland shortly before she died. She was here with her loved one and they were family friends with Roger Moore and Kristina Tholstrup.

What are the tasks of the Goodwill Ambassadors?
One of the tasks is to be available when UNICEF needs them and of course they can choose some tasks and tell about UNICEF’s work to their connections. UNICEF makes an annual plan so they know what is coming up. If we for instance want Roger Moore to visit here and to work for UNICEF Finland, we write a letter to UNICEF in New York. There is a staff taking care of these things.

When these people are appointed to UNICEF ambassadors, we are looking for people who have a big place for children in their hearts, like Roger has. They visit the field and people take official photos of them, but those field trips have been so great experiences to all of them that they are talking time after time about of the encounters with those children who they are able to help. When they come to a country like Finland, people meet them and UNICEF gets fame, and donations goes to children of the world. Ambassadors receive one dollar pay check every year, given them by Executive Director of UNICEF, so they are in “paid work”. Ambassadors mission is constant, it can be life-long; once an ambassador, always an ambassador. Latest thing that I remember that Sir Roger has taken under his wings, is that he has particularly promoted bequests in favour of UNICEF.

How did the ambassador work get started?
Work began in the early 50’s, in 1954 became the first ambassador Danny Kaye. Then in the 80’s UNICEF started to invite ambassadors. Artists worked for UNICEF already earlier, like Marlon Brando, who visited Finland on behalf of UNICEF in 1967. He worked with organization, even though he was not officially a Goodwill Ambassador.

Originally, the idea was to invite Danny Kaye – who knew Executive Director of UNICEF – as a only Goodwill Ambassador, but later when the major actors expressed their willingness to act for the children of the world and when Jimmy Grant (James P. Grant) was UNICEF’s Executive Director, this became a standard way of working. The concept comes from America, where Goodwill Ambassadors organized large gala dinners after they had been on the field. Ticket prices were very high in these galas. This was the way to collect more money.

007 Travelers was in Stockholm, Sweden visiting UNICEF’s charity gala. At the same time we celebrated “From Sweden with Love” website’s 10-year anniversary. Gala Tickets cost 2000 SEK / each. The profit went to UNICEF Sweden.
So, it was then faithful to this same concept. Some time back we thought that we could arrange something like this in Finland also and today this would even be possible, but not 30 years ago. Then people would have thought that this would never work. But when the communication channels developed and grew, we noticed that there is a need to have more Goodwill Ambassadors and we started to invite more different kind of celebrities. Now, for example, we have Mia Farrow and David Beckham. The older ambassadors are the most popular. Lionel Messi is the most famous sportsman ambassador currently. We also have Finnish Goodwill Ambassadors such as Susanna Haavisto and Eija Ahvo. National activities started 20 years ago.

You have met Roger Moore several times. Would you tell us about him?
All of the world stars who have visited here have appreciated the homely atmosphere. They live a very intense public life. And when they have come to Finland, they have been able to walk here in peace. Last time when I met Roger Moore, which was on 4th of September 2009, he was here with his wife Kristina, and we had a really pleasant four-hour meeting, even though we had prepared to keep only two-hour meeting. The Moore couple enjoyed their time in our table. We had really fun time and Pertti Arajärvi was also there. He is our guardian and chairman. When Sir Roger Moore comes to visit Finland, we have always accommodated him to Hotel Torni. When he visited here for the first time, there was only a smaller room available, which Sir Roger described as “cleaning cupboard”. On later visits he has always used a Suite (Room number 431).

Roger Moore suite / Solo Sokos Hotel Torni

He has a phenomenal memory. I have met him three times on different occasions, and he always remembers to say “Oh, Liisa.” It is so confusing and American and charming. He has studied people’s names or then he remembers them.

Liisa Susiluoto and Sir Roger Moore.
This photo is from Liisa Susiluoto´s album.

When we met in May 2009, Roger Moore told what is the hardest thing while filming: to wear a smooth ironed shirt, hair in order, without sweating and not showing any kind of signs of strain, even though you are an action movie star. He said that it was hilarious to make terrible stunts and not sweat at all. He is also a smooth storyteller, and notices others personally.

It was an experience to Roger Moore to walk in Esplanadi Park with Kristina and me without any security man. It was a spring evening and a nice weather, we walked out there, and people didn’t pay any attention to us. Roger Moore is the latest ambassador, who has visited Finland. He had meetings with important people, and we have always tried to arrange an appointment with our office people. It happened also in 2009.

He also opened the UNICEF walk during his visit in 2005 and he had different kinds of roles on behalf of UNICEF. When he visited in 2009, he had his own business at the same time, which was his own book tour. Roger Moore has not visited this building in Kalasatama, but in our previous premises in Lauttasaari he has. That office was located at Perttulantie 6.

 So, Roger Moore has opened the UNICEF walk in Finland. Would you tell us about the idea of walking?

The UNICEF walk concept comes from The Netherlands and first one took place in 1999. Then at that time it was not usual to travel abroad to study. I was able to go to Hague for a day and I got some material from there, which included school walking. It was not a fundraising related, but more like activating students. I’m a trained interpreter and I translated material from Dutch to Finnish and I got one principal and his school to try it. Aim of course is the help to children of the world. The most important thing is an experience to the child. That he or she can decide how much money they can earn by walking. It empowers the child. This is still the idea of the UNICEF walk, that child gets an experience and he or she is important. Each year, more than 180 000 children attend the UNICEF walk.

Roger Moore dedicated his book “My Word Is My Bond” to Liisa Susiluoto
Has Roger Moore done any “face-to-face fundraising”?
We have the UNICEF Committee in Iceland. There are more than 200 000 people in Iceland and a lot UNICEF monthly donors. A huge number in a small island. When they started a monthly donation program, the Head of secretary came here and asked how our “face-to-face fundraising” works. We told him and taught all about “face-to-face fundraising”. He invited Roger Moore to do “face-to-face fundraising” for one day on the streets of Reykjavik, and we found him to be one of the best “face-to-face” fundraisers. Everyone did not even recognize him. And that way UNICEF has taken Roger Moore to the places where he has not done films. Those places have included much tighter and real situations than in his films.

Who is your favourite Bond actor?
Roger Moore is my favourite of Bond actors.

The best Bond movie?
For Your Eyes Only” (1981)

Your favourite travel destination?

India and Kerala region, their way of living in general and particularly India’s dance- and temple celebration traditions are extremely interesting. The trips are heavy, since we are doing them as independent travelers with my husband. We don’t have our own car, but instead we walk with backpacks and waiting for buses. Best destination when it comes to work is Nepal and especially its more unknown western corner. There is something special when you are looking at Mount Everest.

Liisa Susiluoto taking a photo of children of village school in Nepal in 2009.
UNICEF has supported school renovation and teaching equipment with a support of monthly donors.
This photo is from Liisa Susiluoto´s album.

Where would you want to travel?
I have been in so many nations with a lower standard of living, that my dream would be to visit museums in Europe. Also North Africa´s museums interest me, but the circumstances in those countries are really difficult. When you travel on behalf of UNICEF, you don’t have much time to watch attractions, days are so full. One week’s journey might include only one hour spare time. However, it is amazing, for instance in Sahara when your driver uses only stars to navigate in the desert. I have traveled with Katri Helena in Nepal. She became a Goodwill Ambassador later after Eija Ahvo and Susanna Haavisto.

My latest journey was with Pirkko Mannola, because she dances with the stars (Tanssii tähtien kanssa). Last show of the season is an UNICEF show. This year´s show will be aired on 30th of November 2014. (“Dancing with the Stars, UNICEF”). The goal is to get more monthly donors.

UNICEF works everywhere in the world and the easiest way is a monthly donation.

If you want to help world’s children in need, start monthly giving – direct debit programme for monthly donations to UNICEF.

In Finland, you can find more information from www.unicef.fi

International website: www.unicef.org