THOSE who give up time to volunteer for good and charitable causes have my admiration. Whether it’s to volunteer in the running of a local charity shop, support a community activity or project, help people who are homeless or contribute to their local foodbank.

The act of giving up your time freely to help someone else affirms our sense of community; being part of a bigger, common purpose in life. The common weal. It helps bind us together. Not everyone has the time or means to volunteer, but where there is an opportunity to help, I believe there is a duty to act.

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Last week the UK got smaller. Leaving the European Union on Friday was a damp squib with a fanfare of emptiness for me. It has emboldened those with intolerant, shrill, insular views about people they perceive to be different. We must always call out racism whenever and where ever we find it. The folly is people aren’t all that different. Differences are only skin deep.

I am reminded of the approach of one of my great heroes, Audrey Hepburn. Her wonderful inspiration and leadership can provide hope on any rainy day. Audrey spent the last years of her life working her socks off for Unicef, the United Nations Children Fund. She retired from a dazzling and glittering movie career to work as a volunteer special goodwill ambassador for Unicef travelling war-torn countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Born in Belgium, she was the daughter of a Dutch baroness and English father who brought her up in Holland and the UK.

Audrey’s awareness of Unicef came about when she was a child in Nazi-occupied Holland during the Second World War. Post-war Europe and much of the planet was in chaos at the end of the war and malnutrition, sickness, discrimination and abuse was rife.

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The United Nations set up Unicef in 1946 – originally as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund – to protect children’s rights to survival, education, health care, shelter, good nutrition, safe water and protection from war and disaster. And it was in Holland as a teenager that Audrey was helped by Unicef. She never forgot that.

The mission of safeguarding those children’s rights in 1946 are now protected in the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UK ratified in 1991. It’s the most widely-ratified international human rights treaty in history. Some 194 countries have ratified it.

Sadly, the only countries who have failed to do so are the United States of America, South Sudan and Somalia.

The Scottish Government is committed to incorporate the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law before the end of the current Parliament. This will enable direct reliance on the Convention before a Scottish court or tribunal, in the same way the 1998 Human Rights Act is directly enforceable.

Launching the State of the World’s Children Report in 1991, Audrey said: “In the last decade, more than 1.5 million children have been killed in wars. More than four million have been physically disabled – limbs amputated, brains damaged, eyesight and hearing lost - through bombing, landmines, firearms, torture. Five million children are in refugee camps, because of war; a further 12 million have lost their homes”.

“The time has now come for a worldwide public to cry out against this war on children, against those who use the weapons and those who supply them. If wars must be fought, then, at the very least, children should be protected from their worst effects”.

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Those same terrors face children around the world today. In Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Yemen, Libya, and many more countries. We can’t live in ignorance and indifference to suffering around us, whether at home or abroad. That was certainly Audrey Hepburn’s consistent message throughout her life.

We need to work together. There needs to be international co-operation. Mass movements by people. The current climate change movement is a shining example of the need to unite around common causes for the good of everyone.

Some people in the UK want us to retract internationally. History teaches us that is precisely the wrong thing to do. Common goodness starts with people volunteering their time or support for something other than themselves. The Latin phrase “per aspera ad astra” seems apt for Audrey Hepburn’s approach to life, and for where we are now. Through hardships to the stars.