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Harry Belafonte, Humanitarian

It's been two and a half years since Harry Belafonte, 78, serenaded an audience with "Day-O," but you could hardly say he has retired. In fact, these days he's busier than ever, speaking out against civil injustice and traveling as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. "There's no question that of all the agencies within the UN, UNICEF is the most compelling, the most successful, and the most dynamic," he says. Belafonte speaks with some authority, having been associated with the organization since 1987, not long after he spearheaded the classic concert and recording of "We Are the World," which raised more than $100 million for famine relief worldwide. Since then he has made more than 20 trips to Africa, the Caribbean, and South and Central America to help children in crisis. As a result of his 2004 visit to Kenya, where he supported the government's decision to permanently eliminate school fees, more than 1.3 million children have entered school for the first time. Last year, during a visit to Dakar, he spotlighted the problem of unregistered births in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 17 million children go uncounted. "With no birth certificate or source of origin, these children are literally considered nonexistent," he says. The idea that a single child could so easily be forgotten is unimaginable to Belafonte, who believes his role as an artist is to give voice to the voiceless. "Harry is much more than a big name," says UNICEF's Maria Zanca. "His loyalty and longevity have made him the face that people associate with the cause of children."


*The name of this award was originally the Impact Award. In 2008, the awards were renamed as the Inspire Awards.