Meet our Ambassador – Vivianne Miedema
Vivianne Miedema is a Dutch professional footballer and War Child’s newest ambassador. Used to letting her goals do the talking, now she wants them to serve a greater purpose too. Vivianne believes in the power of sport and play to strengthen children’s resilience and make them stronger than war. And - from leading a soccer school for children in South Africa to becoming the face of the War Child Sponsor Run - she’s just getting started…
We know you as a top striker for Arsenal and the Netherlands women’s national football team. When did your interest in our mission come about?
“Actually, when I was very young. I would watch the news on the school TV every Friday morning with classmates. Whenever I saw a report about a war in Africa, I absolutely wanted to know more about it. I was very aware in that sense and would go home to my mother with a bunch of questions. ‘What’s up with that? Why is there war? Do these children really have no clean water?’ I was touched by what I saw and wanted to help.”
So you had a strong world view from an early age. Why do you think that was?
“My mother played a big role. I distinctly remember her face when I shouted at her: ‘When I get rich later, I will give my money to those children!’. She was taken aback by the conviction in my voice. My younger brother Lars followed in my footsteps. But my mum shouldn’t have been so surprised…she drilled it into us from an early age. We were always encouraged to give some of our savings to charity. And if something was organised for charity at school - a charity run or whatever - she was always involved.”
And were you aware of War Child in all of this?
“My first memory of War Child was also around that time. That song by Marco Borsato and Ali B - ‘What Would You Do’. I was immediately fascinated. I felt a strong connection to the power of music and sport in your work. And to the children you work with. Every child - no matter who they are or where they grow up – has the right to play and express themselves. It helps them figure out who they are and who they want to become. I associated with the message of War Child - it was clear and direct. It had a real impact on me.”
We first crossed paths in Lebanon at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Where did things go from there?
“Lebanon was a realisation moment for me. My team reached the finals and we had so much support from the local community. I met a lot of refugee children who were following the games - and cheering ‘the Orange Lionesses’ on. You stand on the pitch and see how proud and happy they are - and it makes you think. The same thing happened when I visited South Africa with the women’s team in January. I had a lump in my throat. These children are afraid to walk home, because they don’t know if it is safe. Yet I have never seen children smile like they did. You don’t forget an experience like that.”
You have young fans in Sri Lanka, Africa, China and beyond. What do you hope to achieve as a War Child ambassador?
“I think it’s wonderful that it’s not just boys in war zones that can see that sport can be a way out of misery, but that girls now believe that anything is possible too. I am extremely proud that as a female football player I now have such an exemplary role. Even on social media! The other week I was tagged on Instagram by a girl from Sri Lanka who wore my shirt. I don’t even like Instagram that much, but it made me realise that I’m definitely going to use it. You can make children happy with a like or reaction. You can remind them that while their dreams might seem unachievable - they can come true! I’m certainly living my dream and it’s my responsibility to help them live their's too.”