Arlo Parks

UNICEF UK Ambassador

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With the journeys these young girls have been through, there’s a level of suffering that’s difficult for me to even wrap my head around. But in finding community, finding friendship, dismantling the shame, there was a lot of love today, a lot of weight, and a lot of hope”

Arlo Parks visited Sierra Leone in 2024, and met with five UNICEF Sierra Leone Youth Advocates who showed her how they are leading change in their communities. Through the eyes of Ruth, Samesther, Suliaman, Yeanoh and Michael, Arlo learned about the issues facing youth in Sierra Leone.

Ruth, 20, runs a support group for teen mothers – a service she used herself when she became a mother at 15. UNICEF has helped her with skills to run the service and help other girls in her situation. Ruth introduced Arlo to mothers at the session, who told Arlo their stories.

Ruth told Arlo her own story too. Ruth said: “If I could make three wishes, I would ask to have grown up with a mother. Maybe I would always be guided and even if it got bad, maybe I could cry to her for help. I would ask to embrace my son so tight and shower him tears of love. Lastly, I would ask that I find peace in my head. Do you know how many of us are going through the same?”

The opportunity to collaborate with Elena, Lauren, and Sam – to learn from them, to pool experiences and create together has been amazing. With UNICEF, I hope to continue to shine a light on voices of young people because they are the future – we must hear them, we must nurture their imagination, we must advocate for their rights.

Arlo Parks, 2022

Arlo became an Ambassador for UNICEF UK in June 2024 following her visit to Sierra Leone. Her work with UNICEF has always been focussed on youth voice and mental health.

In 2023, Arlo spent time with three members of the UNICEF UK Youth Advisory Board – Elena, Lauren and Sam. Together they wrote, laughed and got to know each other. They worked together to write a poem on a subject which meant a lot to them all – Healing within mental health.

Elena, Lauren and Sam voiced a recording of the poem, and this very special piece was released in GUAP Magazine on World Mental Health Day 2023. Arlo also spoke to GUAP about her own journey, her recently released poetry book The Magic Border, and the importance of UNICEF’s work around mental health.

Samesther introduces Arlo to girls at the safe space she runs in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Yeanoh speaks to Arlo about her work at the Youth and Child Advocacy Network in Sierra Leone.
Arlo and Suliaman watch a girls basketball game between two teams who he coaches at a school in Freetown.
Arlo meets Elena, Lauren and Sam from the UNICEF UK Youth Advisory Board
UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors in conversation with UNICEF UK High Profile Supporter and musician Arlo Parks. ©UNICEF Australia/2022/Labade.
Arlo Parks visits a UNICEF Rights Respecting school in London.
Arlo Parks performs at UNICEF's Blue Moon Gala in 2021. The Blue Moon Gala was held at the Outernet London on Wednesday the 8th of December 2021 to mark 75 years of UNICEF helping millions of children around the world to live, learn and grow. The money raised from tonight’s event at Outernet London (a major new immersive media, music and culture district in the heart of London’s West End), will go towards helping UNICEF continue its work for children around the world for the next 75 years, responding to emergencies whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
Arlo Parks performs. The Blue Moon Gala was held at the Outernet London on Wednesday the 8th of December 2021 to mark 75 years of UNICEF helping millions of children around the world to live, learn and grow.

Whilst she was touring in Australia in 2022, Arlo got the chance to visit the UNICEF Australia office and meet with some of the Australian Young Ambassadors. They spoke about mental health, making an impact and having your voice heard.

Just a few days after performing at Glastonbury Festival in June 2022, Arlo visited Chestnut Grove Academy in London, a school which had recently achieved Gold status in the UNICEF UK Rights Respecting Schools Award programme. Arlo spoke with groups of students about their rights and how they feel supported and listened to at school. The students were delighted to meet Arlo and showcase drama and music performances. 

I have lost friends to mental illness and watched them drown in an inky pit of darkness. I have also seen friends blossom and navigate their way towards the light with professional help and a loving, attentive support system. A mind filled with shame cannot grow and that is why I believe that deconstructing stigma, making mental health support accessible and building structures to support people, in particular vulnerable and marginalized groups, is essential. Queerness in particular should not mean guilt, it should not mean other. We must check up on each other, stand up for each other and banish shame from our vocabulary.  
Arlo Parks for ON MY MIND: State of the World’s Children Report, 2021 

Writing for the 2021 State of the World’s Children report, Arlo expressed her passion for mental health, and UNICEF’s work on children’s mental health and psychosocial programmes all over the world. Much of Arlo’s songwriting and poetry draws on these themes.

About Arlo

Arlo Parks is a BRIT Award and Mercury Award winning singer, songwriter and poet from London. In her world, words are as useful as photographs. Luscious, expressive vignettes pepper the poetic lyrics in her sweet, ruminative indie pop songs. She’s inspired by an eclectic mix of artists from Radiohead to Portishead, and Sufjan Stevens to Solange. 

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